You may have stayed in a ryokan, futuristic capsule hotel or even a love hotel. But a miso factory? Explore rural Japan and you will be one of few travellers to do so
Forget Kyoto – for an insight into the real Japan, try sleeping in a wax merchant house, farmhouse or a renovated miso factory in Setouchi, the region around the Seto Inland Sea.
UNESCO recently added the traditional Japanese techniques required to preserve such buildings to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Setouchi Cominca Stays has restored five kominkas (old houses) using these techniques, which include thatching, lacquer painting and tatami mat weaving.
Three of the properties are in Uchiko town in Ehime prefecture (county) on Shikoku, Japan’s fourth largest island.
The local architect Katsumi Yamashita restored the factory and wooden merchant house in Uchiko. The buildings feature sunken seating, sliding doors and handmade washi wallpaper, while the garden features stone works.
Meanwhile, over in Shōbara, a hamlet inland from Hiroshima, you can stay in one of three farmhouses which are 100 to 250 years old.
The Japanese architect Shiro Miura has restored them using natural materials such as stone and wood. In addition to thatched roofs, they feature earthen floor entrances and wood-burning outdoor baths, while one has a firepit which is part indoors, part outdoors.
As well as preserving traditional skills and abandoned buildings, the initiative is helping to revitalise local economies through tourism.
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