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Shuttered Japanese inn reopens as modern art masterpiece

Sleepy Maebashi wakes up to renewal efforts centered on historic site

The organic curves of Green Tower at the Shiroiya Hotel pleasantly contrast with the sharp urban outlines of Heritage Tower in the background.   © Shinya Kigure

MAEBASHI, Japan -- This small prefectural capital will likely be absent from most itineraries once Japan reopens its borders to tourists, except for a few who won't mind a short jaunt from Tokyo to experience the curious Shiroiya Hotel, a striking example of the country's brutally ugly 1970s architecture turned into art.

Once a prosperous world-class silk city, Maebashi, with its population of 335,000 in Gunma Prefecture, has devolved into a notch or two above a sleepy town. Even so, for anyone with a keen eye for modern architecture and art, the hotel -- which reopened in December 2020 -- is well worth the visit.

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