REFRESHING THE PAST FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS IN YOSHINO, JAPAN

3 -min. read

Last week I visited Yoshino Cedar House guesthouse in Yoshino, Japan. A co-creation between Airbnb’s design and innovation studio, Samara, and Tokyo-based studio, Go Hasegawa, the guesthouse was first introduced at House Vision 2016, an exhibition in Tokyo designed to bring together leading minds in design and architecture to envision the homes of the future.

However, it wasn’t only the name of the famous architecture practice behind its design that has brought this wooden house, located in a rural village in Japan, so much attention. Instead, it’s the idea of bridging the distance between old and new, traditional and modern, via architecture, that’s getting people talking.

Since the beginning, hotels have served as a ‘home away from home’ for travellers. And in the 1990s, with the establishment of ‘lifestyle’ hotels, hoteliers realised that hotels could also reshape the daily lives of local people by shifting their public spaces into social hubs for the community.

Yoshino Cedar House takes this idea one step further, rejuvenating a remote town and its traditional craftsmanship. Every detail of the house is relevant to the village of Yoshino, from the local wood guardian who selected the wood used, to the local wood mill that got involved in processing the materials – even the lighting design is by a local artist. Just by standing along the river, the location of the house is significant: the river divides the town into working and residential sectors, which people cross each day. The house has therefore become a connection stop, welcoming local people to hang out or rest there.

When you step into the house, the aroma of cedar and well-designed communal dining table inspire the people of Yoshiko to reflect upon what their town has to be proud of. More importantly, Go Hasegawa’s design delivers the traditional in a contemporary way, making it attractive to younger generations.

As we all know, aging populations and urbanisation are diminishing rural areas around the world. Yoshino Cedar House may be a new solution to stimulate underlying traditions – and as a guesthouse open to travellers around the world, it may also be a starting point for regenerating a remote, sleepy town and attracting younger generations back to its charms.

Similarly to the Yoshino Cedar House, in China there is a platform called Kaistart that helps people to fundraise their dreams, focusing on lifestyle aspects such as accommodation, agriculture and urban creative hubs. Some of the projects are about renovating old buildings and promoting new relationships between people and cultures; as a result, the platform is inspiring a lot of people to review what their hometowns and past generations have to offer. In an era of over-production, injecting new life into old things or even abandoned traditions may well be the future.

[Photos: Airbnb / Samara]

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Nancy Huang
Nancy Huang is Senior Features Editor for Condé Nast Traveler China.

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