Photo/Illutration Solitary cells line corridors at the former Nara Prison in Nara. The photo was taken on May 31. (Makoto Ito)

NARA--Hoshino Resorts Inc. wants those entering a century-old prison here not to entertain any thoughts of escape, but to enjoy their stay.

The company has pledged to rehabilitate the former Nara Prison into a “top-class” luxury accommodation facility, unveiling the outline of Japan’s first “prison hotel.”

Yoshiharu Hoshino, CEO of Hoshino Resorts, said at a news conference at the former prison on May 31 that the company plans to start renovation work in autumn and open the hotel in the summer of 2024.

A corridor is lined with solitary cells at the former Nara Prison. (Makoto Ito)

Nine solitary confinement cells will be converted into one guest room. A total of 48 guest rooms will be created on the first and second floors.

The five detention buildings that housed inmates are arranged in a fan-shaped layout that spreads out from the center. One of the buildings will be left as is to become a museum, which will be open to guests as well as visitors.

Nara Prison, built in 1908, is designated as an important cultural property by the central government. It was used until 2017 to accommodate juvenile delinquents. The aging facility has been undergoing earthquake-resistance upgrades since it was shut down.

“We expect that the cultural property will not only be preserved but utilized to lure visitors and create a range of ripple effects on the area,” said Nara Mayor Gen Nakagawa.

The plans are part of a project to redevelop an area encompassing the former prison and the neighboring Konoike sports park into a tourist hub under a comprehensive agreement between the Justice Ministry, Nara Prefecture and Nara city.

The front gate of the former Nara Prison is seen on May 31. (Makoto Ito)

Nakagawa said the collaboration of cultural and sports facilities will help entice sightseers to stay longer in Nara.

The sports park will feature a dedicated skate park for skateboarding as the sport drew public attention during the Tokyo Olympics last year. It will also be furnished with a running course.

The project will call for about 520 million yen ($4 million). Up to half the total amount will be covered by Hoshino Resorts and another company through the corporate version of the “furusato nozei” hometown donation system.