1. Natural inspiration
The creation of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, Shishi-iwa House’s architecture and furniture both embody his signature emphasis on natural materials, a continuity of space and harmony with nature. The result is a sinuous wood-centric design that winds under the boughs of the existing forest and flows from one room to the next. Vaulted ceilings alongside retractable walls and windows erase the borders between interior and exterior, creating bright and airy spaces that allow gentle breezes and birdsong to flow freely through the structure.
2. Space to connect
Ban also envisaged a place for intellectual stimulation and creativity, eschewing hotel standards such as in-room TVs and mini-fridges in favour of communal amenities. Kitchenettes and living spaces are shared among several rooms with a central relaxation area housing a 10-seater cherry dining table and fireplace. The southfacing deck is also perfect for groups to practise early morning yoga or chat in the sun over a bottle of craft beer or sake. Ideal for large groups or solo travellers hoping to connect with others, the low-key atmosphere is a retreat without reclusion.
3. A weekend getaway
The hotel is located in the upscale mountain resort of Karuizawa, which has long been favoured by Tokyoites as a cool summer escape. Accessible in just over an hour by bullet train, it’s also close enough to Mount Asama to serve up stunning views from the west-facing rooms. There is easy access to a range of hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls, including the famous Shiraito Falls, which features a ring of three-metre-high falls gushing out of the rock into a crystal-clear pool.
4. Forest bathing
Most rooms feature large baths surrounded by windows that open up to the nature beyond the structure. Guests can simultaneously enjoy soaking their tired muscles while taking in the positive psychological effects of shinrin-yoku, or bathing in the calm of the forest. Also located a mere 10-minute walk away is Tonbo no Yu, a hot spring with sprawling stone pools showered in cherry petals, scarlet maple leaves or snow flurries depending on the season.
5. A locavore ethos
Anticipate a healthy breakfast served in the sunny grand room, with the menu changing by the season to include mainly local produce such as farm-fresh milk and yoghurt; homemade fruit jams; bread from 75-year-old Boulangerie Asanoya and coffee from local third-wave roaster Maruyama.
SEE ALSO: The Setouchi Triennale and the power of art and nature in Japan
This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine