TagsDestinations, Hospitality & Travel, Industry Trends, Japan, tourism, travel, travel trends, Virginia Ngai
Compared to places like Tokyo, Osaka, and Niseko, Karuizawa has maintained a low profile as far as tourism is concerned. But that’s set to change in the coming year, with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics sure to attract scores of travelers to Japan anew. Only an hour from Tokyo by train, the idyllic mountain resort destination in Nagano Prefecture is poised to be christened Japan’s next ‘it’ locale, although those in the know might already be well acquainted with its charms.
One such draw is Shishi-Iwa House, a 10-room boutique resort opened in 2019. Conceived by HDHP GK, a social enterprise by HDH Capital Management, Shishi-Iwa House is a restorative retreat that reinforces the relationship between nature, architecture, and human connection. “The genesis of Shishi-Iwa House began with an interest to use architecture as a means to provide a peaceful sanctuary and a place for intellectual creativity,” explains Huy Hoang, CEO of HDH Capital Management.
To bring his vision for Shishi-Iwa House to life, Hoang tapped Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, who responded with an exuberant ode to the property’s unique site.
“I was interested in developing a distinct design language befitting its beautiful location,” Ban says. To minimize impact on the environment, he developed a building approach never before used in hotel construction. Striving to conserve as many existing trees on the property as possible, timber frames were sandwiched between pre-fabricated plywood panels to create a series of modular structural frames. “Blending the interior and exterior spaces, we created unique openings in the guest rooms and social areas to allow the best views of the outdoors,” continues Ban. “Timber was our material of choice, which we used to heighten the sense of warmth throughout Shishi-Iwa House.”
Interior items are carefully curated to convey the two-storey resort as a sophisticated and intellectual sanctuary. All tableware is by Miyama, one of the oldest traditional ceramic makers in Japan, while all furniture pieces are designed or selected by Ban. Alongside his own designs are modernist furniture by celebrated Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.
Complementing the interiors is an exquisite art collection, including original works from Japanese masters of the Gutai period in the 1960s, such as Jiro Yoshihara, Toshimitsu Imai, Yasuo Sumi, Sadamasa Motonaga, and Masaaki Yamada, as well as prominent international artists Zao Wu Ki, Seundja Rhee, Günther Förg, and Bernar Venet.
“The retreat aims to be a place to reflect and restore energy, and in turn spark new ways of thinking for our guests,” Hoang concludes. “Shishi-Iwa House will also serve as a meeting place for corporations and communities to exchange ideas and discuss today’s most pressing issues and trends. Our goal is to build similar self-supported and sustainable social projects globally.”
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