Top 5 traditional stays in Setouchi

Kominka, a type of traditional Japanese house, are currently being turned into accommodation across the country with the Setouchi Tourism Authority aiming to restore 100 of them in the region by 2020. Here are five of the best in Setouchi…Monday, 7 January 2019

By Setouchi Tourism Authority

Chiiori Mountain Lodge, Tokushima

Dating back 300 years to the Genroku Period, the Chiiori Mountain Lodge, set in an enclave of the Iya Valley, is one of the most famous examples of a restored kominka. Hundreds of years ago, this style of thatched roof farmhouse would have been a common sight in the area, but has become rare in recent times.

In 1973, American author Alex Kerr set about preserving this vestige of historical architecture, and began to lovingly restore the Chiiori. The house boasts traditional shoji sliding doors and two irori fireplaces, all alongside mod-cons such as air-conditioning and underfloor heating.

Barbizon, Okayama

Originally a traditional merchant's house, Barbizon was painstakingly renovated and reopened in 2015. There are screened sliding doors, tatami floors and a choice of futons or beds to sleep on. Just a three-minute walk to the picturesque Kurashiki Aichi district and five minutes to Ohara Art Museum, local art and culture are at the forefront here and guests can experience local crafts such as 'Daruma' doll painting, as well as the art of hand-weaving coasters from traditional materials. 

Sasayama

The castle town of Sasayama is home to a unique hotel set in a series of renovated traditional Japanese houses dotted throughout the town. Guests can also use the restaurant located in the main building, the former home of a banker. The restoration of each of the seven buildings has been careful to maintain the sense and atmosphere of the era in which it was built but with modern amenities to make guests comfortable – although you won't find a TV or a clock but WiFi is available!

Old Town House, Kagawa, Utazu

Constructed in the Meiji period, the Rinsui building was bought by the town government in 2014 and delicately restored under the supervision of Alex Kerr, who developed the Chiiori.

Rinsui is a fine example of the architectural style of old Utazu, with black plaster walls and weighty black beams that spear through the house. A tatami room surrounded by glass looks out into beautifully lit traditional Japanese gardens, and forms a quiet, chic retreat from modern life.   

Uchiko Inn, Ehime

In the Uchiko Inn there are four different buildings to experience, showcasing the best in historical Japanese architecture. The styles range from Ori, a restored wooden townhouse, to Hisa – an inn set in a warehouse-style building, featuring a sunken kotatsu (a table with a heat-source underneath).

Kura, a former warehouse that dates back to the Meiji period, has also been carefully renovated into an inn, as has Cocoro, which houses a cafe. The latter dates from the late Taishō period, and features a Japanese garden and a traditional wooden bath. 

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