On the old streets of the city of Takayama, known as ‘Little Kyoto’ for its resemblance to the ancient capital, Hotel Wood’s unique design paradoxically stands out yet at the same time feels perfectly in place amongst the dark wooden façades of the traditional Edo period merchant homes.

Although most modern buildings in Takayama are found on the edge of the city so as to preserve the charm of the old township, Hotel Wood Takayama seamlessly sits within. Built in 2019, Hotel Wood emphasises on the old and new - merging the philosophy of zen with a prominent nod to its regional culture encompassed by a relaxing, contemporary space. The hotel’s incorporation of wooden slats and latticework are a few of its impressive features that pay homage to traditional Japanese Hida architecture that the area is renowned for.

Upon my arrival, a deep blue noren (curtains hung at the door of a business) beckons me inside. In the reception, I’m met by a timber wall which was designed and plastered by Hasado Syuhei, a local craftsman with a worldwide reputation. It leads me to the large, welcoming lounge space, created around a central design idea inspired by irori –Japan’s traditional sunken fireplaces. The lounge radiates warmth as the floor-to-ceiling shoji (screened doors made of paper) shade the space from the majority of the strong summer sun’s almost unbearable heat. Shadows dance on the stone floors.

The space is filled with Hida wooden furniture from Kashiwa Mokkou, their tables and chairs being unique to the local area. Intricate lattice work stretches across the entirety of the ceiling, showcasing the complexity and artistry of the very tradition the town is famed for producing. Here, guests can indulge in a breakfast filled with local seasonal ingredients, like Takayama's famous pickled red beets, komodofu (a type of tofu), and grated Japanese yam, or later in the evening, enjoy taste-testing local sake from breweries within the hotel’s vicinity. More notably in the spring, guests can watch the famed floats of the Takayama Spring Festival amidst an open café style from this very lounge.

Each room in Hotel Wood strives to achieve a clean and minimalistic look, whilst also being replete with luxury amenities. Their large public bath is dark and sophisticated, brimming with woody aromas, allowing guests to relax the mind and body after a day of travel or exploration of the town. Bedrooms, like the lounge, are detailed with pieces from Kashiwa Mokkou and feature a raised tatami area for sleeping. Thick wooden plates inscribed with words associated with Zen teachings hang on walls, illuminated by the soft light infiltrating through the inner shoji, imparting a feeling of being truly removed from reality, transported into a realm of calm and tranquility.

Subtle yet profound, Hotel Wood does an incredible job of blending old and new, whilst doing everything possible to preserve the cultural traditions and history of the area. Local staff hand-pick and arrange tours, working to build experiences centred around various themes of nature, culture, or dining. Occasionally, Hotel Wood hosts solo exhibitions of the works of local writers and artists.

Contemporary, cool, and dedicated to craftsmanship – Hotel Wood is, quite simply, a treasure in Takayama.

Amy Tang
Amy Tang