About Us


Our Story


Our newly renovated building with 200 years of history is in the heart of Samegai-juku, a former lodging village of the hisoric Nakasendo trail. Now famous for the rare aquatic buttercups called baikamo which decorate the clear stream water, we welcome vistors here to Izamean guesthouse.

I first came to this town as a complete outsider.

Attracted to the deep historic atmosphere, I enjoyed exploring the historic Nakasendo route. There are many shukuba-machi, or old lodging towns, along such trails but I was most drawn to this one called Samegai-juku. Alongside the street is a stream of clear spring water, where I found the green baikamo water plants. I had discovered my perfect landscape here.

Izamean Guesthouse

On a return visit in 2016, I spotted a “for sale” sign outside of an old-looking buildings here. It felt like destiny, so I dialed the number immediately and learned that the building would be torn down soon if no buyer was found; an all-too-common fate for many such old buildings in Japan. I feared that the town I had grown to love wouldn’t be the same without this building.

After several discussions, I acquired the building for renovation, and construction went well thanks to much help from the community. In January of 2020, we were finally able to open our guesthouse here in Samegai.


Meet the Staff!

Fred Johnson

Arahito Usui, manager

I live here at Izamean Guesthouse and serve as the manager. Friends say I still look and act the same as when I was a kid in love with fishing. The Jizo River in front of our guesthouse is always tempting me to fish, but no! I can’t as there are endangered species like hariyo (smallhead stickleback), believed to be living there. But simply living so close to the river is enough to keep me happy! I also have 20 years experience as a chef, so I’m happy to cook for our guests! I prefer cooking with fresh, self-caught fish and vegetables from our garden, and I hope you’ll like it too. I’d like to try cooking with wild game and raising my own freshwater fishes some day. Imamura san, the owner, is a character with his own vision, so I leave the big picture dreams to him and focus on my own work running the day to day operations.


Sarah Sawada, assistant manager

I was born in Brazil, grew up in Japan and went to college in the US. Yes, I’m a globetrotter! I can help you in English, Portuguese or Japanese, and I look forward to meeting people from all over the world! While I speak Japanese, it’s not my first language so please bear with me and I’ll try to make up for it with friendiness. Together the guesthouse owner and manager, I’m waiting to welcome you on your arrival! I have a dream to open a café or bar of my own some day, so I greatly value the management experience here at Izamean. I’m also doing local tour guiding, so please ask for more info! I can share the best spots around Samegai as well as other parts of Maibara City. I’m very much looking forward to meeting you all!


Masato Imamura, owner

Taking it upon myself to pursue the mission of preserving the historical landscape of Samegai-juku, I’ve put all of my money and loans into buying, fixing, and reviving this building as a guesthouse. Looking back, I wonder how I ended up here. As a backpack traveler in college, I was a regular at cheap hotels, which led me to a dream of opening my own affordable hotel someday. Yet I ended up running a company that makes and sells sandals. Traveling between Shiga and Gifu, I have a lot of time to think about sandals and Izamean! As an obsessive type, my interests soon lead in many directions, giving me new things to obsess over. I even appeared on the popular Japanese TV show, “The World Unknown To Matsuko”, as a sandal fanatic. I may not be available all the time at Izamean, please don’t hesitate to chat if you see me! I’ll probably start talking to you first though!