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Travel & Leisure

Historic 'samurai inns' give guests glimpse of a distant past

Classic storehouses transformed into lodgings decorated with katana swords

East Japan Railway transformed this inn from a samurai-era storehouse. (Photo by Jun Hayakawa)

AKITA, Japan -- Inns located in a former samurai stronghold in northwestern Japan opened their gates on Monday, allowing lodgers to feel as if they were transported back to the era of the daimyo, or feudal warlords

The inns are fashioned from three vintage storehouses in the town of Kakunodate, known among tourists for housing dozens of samurai clans. Rail operator East Japan Railway, known as JR East, developed the property.

Two storehouses, built in 1919, are located on an estate owned by direct descendants of vassals. The other storehouse, acquired from a restaurant, dates back to the end of the Edo period, which lasted 265 years through 1868.

The rooms at the Wanoi Kakunodate hotel are decorated with replica katana swords, as well as rolls of kimono fabric. The bathtubs are fashioned like barrels used to store pickled vegetables -- items the storehouses originally contained.

Each inn contains between 101 to 186 sq. meters of floor space, enough to accommodate four to six people. The lodgings do not provide dinners, so guests will be directed to area restaurants instead. Nightly bookings start at around 20,000 yen ($185) per person.

 The interior of the inns are furnished with object typical of the era. (Photo by Jun Hayakawa)

Demand for tourism in Japan has declined steeply in the face of the novel coronavirus epidemic, Hideaki Kimura, president of JR East's Akita office, pointed out during Monday's opening ceremony.

"I hope the launch of Wanoi Kakunodate will be the spark that will transform Kakunodate from a day trip to a tourist spot for extended stays," said Kimura.

"The entirety of Kakunodate is a valuable historical legacy," said Mitsuhiro Kadowaki, the mayor of Semboku City, which administers Kakunodate. "The town with several attractions has received even more."

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