Photo/IllutrationThe Saiho Kan main building of the newly opened Waqoo Horyuji hotel in the Horyuji district of Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture (Makoto Ito)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

IKARUGA, Nara Prefecture--Horyuji temple, long protected from encroaching modern development, has a new neighbor.

The first hotel has opened along the approach to the World Heritage site thought to have been founded in the early seventh century, since restrictions on construction were eased in the 25-hectare area surrounding the temple.

Waqoo Horyuji, which caters primarily to domestic tourists who come to the area to visit its temples and shrines, opened on Sept. 8.

Sekisui House Ltd. designed and built the hotel, which has 60 guest rooms and a maximum capacity of 141, counting on Horyuji temple's name recognition to make it a success.

In a large room floored with 100 “tatami” straw mats, guests can try their hand at Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy and incense for a fee, in sessions guided by experts.

Sekisui House could proceed with the hotel after the city government revised its ordinance on construction of buildings in the area in 2014.

The hotel is run by Waqoo Project Co., a consulting firm based in Osaka’s Kita Ward specializing in developing “shukubo” temple lodging services and offering assistance to temples and shrines.

Waqoo Horyuji consists of two two-story lightweight steel-framed buildings standing on a 4,400-square-meter premises: the Saiho Kan main building (with a floor space of about 1,440 square meters) and the Toho Kan annex building (about 1,500 square meters).

In compliance with the city's construction ordinance, the floor space of each building is limited to a maximum of 1,500 square meters, with a 10-meter height limit.

To help the structures blend in with the surrounding historic townscape, the exterior of the buildings were given a modern Japanese design with walls painted a calm beige and “kawara” tiles for the roofs.

A one-night stay starts at 18,500 yen ($172.75), excluding tax, per person, including two meals.

At an event on Sept. 3 to preview the hotel to the media, Waqoo Project President Katsumi Kumazawa said the company hopes Waqoo Horyuji will "be a base to promote the charms of our hometown Ikaruga and the ancient capital Nara at home and abroad.”

Ahead of the 1,400th anniversary of the death of Prince Shotoku, who is said to have ordered the construction of Horyuji temple, in 2021, Ikaruga city officials intend to go all-out to promote tourism to the area.

“Previously, tourists just passed through the town, so we're using the occasion to strive to develop it more,” said Mayor Kazuo Nakanishi.

For more information, visit the hotel’s official website at (https://waqoo-horyuji.com

/index_en.html).