Hotel district in Chiba town brings Edo period to life

NARITA, Japan (The Japan News/ANN) – Visitors to Katori, Chiba Prefecture, can experience the ambiance of the Edo period (1603-1867) amid traditional Japanese-style buildings and storehouses that have been reborn as a hotel.

The Sawara Merchant Town Hotel Nipponia opened late last month in Katori’s Sawarai district, as part of a project to preserve the old townscape and promote tourism by helping visitors stay overnight in the district.

The project was implemented through a fund set up by Keiyo Bank, Sawara Shinkin Bank and the Regional Economy Vitalization Corporation of Japan.

Nipponia regards the district, which is composed of three compounds – Geisho, Yata and Aoi – as one big hotel.

In addition to the three entities that set up the fund and the Katori municipal government, NOTE inc and Value Management Co also signed a partnership agreement to revitalise old buildings in the district in February last year.

Since then, they’ve been working to convert the buildings into accommodations.

The Geisho compound houses the hotel’s reception area, where visitors receive their room keys. There is also a French restaurant on the second floor, which serves cuisine using local ingredients.

The building was erected at the end of the Edo period as the Nakamuraya Shoten merchant shop. Located by the Onogawa river, it has been designated a cultural property by the Chiba prefectural government.

A guest room in the Yata accommodation compound in Katori, Chiba Prefecture. – THE JAPAN NEWS/ANN

It deteriorated over time and tilted six centimetres due to the ground sinking after the Great East Japan Earthquake, but its original exterior was restored after a reinforcing agent was injected into the foundation.

“If we don’t do anything, the old buildings in this district will be deserted sooner or later,” said Junichiro Namiki, 71, the fifth owner of the shop.

For the project, Namiki lent the merchant shop’s main building to be used as part of the hotel. He now runs the business in a traditional warehouse next to the main building.

“If more tourists stay here overnight, it will benefit the whole district,” he said. “If I can help revitalise the local economy, I’ll be happy.”

At the Yata compound, which was originally used as a place to process cotton, the main building, warehouse and godown were renovated into three rooms that can accommodate up to four people each. The other accommodation compound, Aoi, was formerly a Japanese-style restaurant that has now been made into a room for up to six people.

Room charges in the Nipponia hotel range from ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 per person per night, including two meals. Currently, four rooms for up to 18 guests can be reserved. The hotel is set to increase the number of rooms to about 10 by the end of this fiscal year.

“We want to create more fans of this city by conveying its charms, history and culture to guests of the hotel,” said Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, 39, president of Nipponia Sawara Corp, which was set up to work on the renovation of the facility for the opening of the hotel.

“We want to contribute to the revitalisation of the regional economy by working to create a system in which visitors can purchase products of the city after spending time here,” Sugiyama added.