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Osaka hotel-temple combo to target foreign visitors

OSAKA -- Booming inbound Japan tourism is set to produce an unconventional architectural combination: a Western-style hotel and a Buddhist temple.

Detached house-builder Sekisui House and railway and real estate company Tokyu jointly plan to build a hotel fused with a centuries-old temple in central Osaka -- the Shinshu-otani-ha Namba Betsuin, located on the famous Midosuji boulevard.

The two companies hope the hotel, to be completed as early as 2019, will appeal to foreign visitors seeking a taste of Buddhism, a key part of the Japanese culture.

The facility, built right on the temple grounds, will allow visitors to enjoy looking down on the traditional buildings from their rooms, take a walk on the temple grounds and have ready access to temple facilities, where they can participate in prayer sessions by monks, the companies said.

Under the plans, Sekisui House will construct a 17-story building inside the temple grounds that incorporates the new front gate to the temple. Tokyu will operate a hotel in this building.

The approximately 400-year-old temple is located close to the city's Minami downtown district, which attracts many foreign tourists. Key Kansai tourist destinations such as Kyoto and Osaka are attracting a growing number of foreign visitors as more low-cost carriers open direct foreign routes to Kansai Airport.

The focus of foreign visitors is shifting from shopping to simply experiencing foreign countries, and this is sparking moves to set up accommodation facilities near tourist spots, experts say.

Sekiwa Real Estate Kansai, a Sekisui House subsidiary based in Osaka, has leased the 2,600-sq.-meter tract inside the temple in a 60-year contract for the new building. Total construction costs are expected to amount to 5 billion yen to 10 billion yen ($47.9 million to $95.9 million).

The hotel, to be operated under the Excel Hotel Tokyu brand, will have about 350 guest rooms on upper floors. Overnight rates will be between 20,000 yen and 30,000 yen per room.

A four-story atrium, which includes the front lobby, will also form the temple's new front gate, through which visitors approaching from Midosuji will enter.

The building will also have rooms where believers can assemble, as well as commercial tenants.

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