The Grand Room of Shishi-Iwa House that opens up to the spacious terrace and garden. Inside, a sofa space surrounding the fireplace becomes a cozy get-together corner for guests.

A sensory retreat where “less is more” is the true luxury―2

[Continuing from Part 1]

“It all began when I first planned to build a getaway villa for my family here in Karuizawa,” Hoang recalls. “As I spent more time here, I wished that more people could enjoy the charms of this area, and thought, ‘Why not open a hotel?’ Because the project started out as a plan for a family home, you can say that that essence remained and was reflected in the final scheme, into a ‘hotel unlike a hotel’. Did you notice that the guestrooms have no room numbers on the doors? We felt it would create a warmer, cozy home-like atmosphere that way.”

A first-floor guestroom with a private terrace. All guestrooms accommodate for a party of two, with double-size beds.

And the ultimate philosophy here is to achieve a sustainable hotel stay where “less is more.” Guests will notice that the Shishi-Iwa House provides minimal amenities in the guest rooms; only towels, bathrobes, a dryer, soaps and toothbrushes are available. Shampoo, conditioner and body soap are provided in refillable pump-bottles instead of the conventional mini-size containers. Guestrooms do not have refrigerators stocked with bottled drinks, and instead drinking water is provided in a glass carafe. Nor are there TV sets, or other non-essential electrical appliances that consume extra energy.

Perhaps it is because of this minimalistic, understated hotel setting that your senses seem to unwind, making a stay all the more fulfilling and restorative―truly a retreat away from the bustle and stress of everyday life. And true refinement dwells in the details, as can be seen in the finest quality brands that have been selected for the towels, bed linens and mattresses; and soap items are all 100% organic and biodegradable products. The selection of modern art that, almost unassumingly, adorn the guestrooms and public spaces, are from Hoang’s exquisite personal collection.

The balcony of a second-floor guestroom. These furniture are also Ban’s design that utilizes recycled plastic.

“Travelling and staying in many accommodations around the world, I have come to realize that what is truly necessary for the times is not lavish services or facilities. Instead we really need to be aware of the effects that our actions have on the earth’s environment, which is destined to be passed on to the next generation,” Hoang says. It was the encounter and collaboration with Shigeru Ban that made it possible, from the initial construction stages, to create a hotel with minimal impact on the environment. The structural frames that lend the unique curvilinear form of Shishi-Iwa House were created with timber frames sandwiched between pre-fabricated plywood panels, which were transported to the site and assembled. With this new building approach that has never been used in hotel construction, efficiency as well as reduction of CO2 emission were achieved. While the timber chosen for the structure were mainly cedar and fir of types easily obtained in Japan, because of the curved structure of the building, trees that needed to be cut down on the construction site were kept to a minimum. Moreover, 300 trees were newly planted around the site, to offset the carbon footprint of the hotel operations after opening.

In the hotel that connects with the surrounding nature of Karuizawa, spontaneous human connection is born, giving opportunities for guests to reflect and restore―spurring thoughts for a better and sustainable environment. A stay experience at Shishi-Iwa House then may very well be a bridge for people to reconnect with nature.  Planning is underway for the Shishi-Iwa project to have new additions in store in the coming years, no doubt making it one sought-after Karuizawa destination.

Shishi-Iwa House

2147-646 Nagakura, Karuizawa-machi, Nagano

Tel. 080-7691-6020

From 35,640 per room for double occupancy with breakfast, excluding tax and service charges.


2021 Spring / Summer

Inside Japan’s West