Photo/IllutrationThe main building of Yakageya Inn and Suites in the Yakage district of Yakage, Okayama Prefecture, whose entire facilities and surrounding area are certified as Asia’s first “albergo diffuso” (Kunio Ozawa)

  • Photo/Illustraion

YAKAGE, Okayama Prefecture--The Italian concept of converting a neighborhood’s old houses and empty homes to create an “albergo diffuso,” or “scattered hotel,” has arrived at the Yakageya Inn and Suites here, which has been certified as Asia’s first.

The resort and its neighborhood gained the certification because it makes the best use of the townscape that has retained the ambience of a post station from the feudal Edo Period (1603-1867) and benefits local areas, among other things, officials said.

The certification came from Italian civic group Alberghi Diffusi National Association, whose chairman, Giancarlo Dall’Ara, came up with the concept in the 1980s.

The idea is to make use as much as possible of empty homes and shops in small villages at risk of being abandoned and use them to attract tourists and revitalize local communities. The effort has spread across Europe, with about 150 facilities in 92 spots in Italy and elsewhere recognized as alberghi diffusi.

The town office renovated old houses built between the Edo Period and Meiji Era (1868-1912) to open the Yakageya resort together with the main building’s six rooms and the annex’s nine rooms and an outdoor spa in 2015. The resort is managed by town-based hotel operator Chanter Corp.

A traditional “hatago” lodging, which is available by reservation, and an Italian and French restaurant that also serves as a gallery have also opened nearby after the two facilities were renovated from old houses.

During a ceremony held on June 12, Dall’Ara presented a certificate to Yakageya Inn President Seiji Adachi and Yakage Mayor Michihiko Yamano.

Dall’Ara said the area surrounding Yakageya Inn has the same ambience as small villages in Italy, adding that he hopes the operator and the town government gain cooperation from the townsfolk and create a local community together.