A seedbed germinating innate life
A new lodge and restaurant μ (myu) have been developed by Hitomi Kitayama and her daughter Miyu in the Yokozawa area at the foot of the Nasu mountains. The facility, surrounded by murmuring streams and deciduous forests of jolcham oak, hornbeam, beech and maple, is enveloped by the cry of cicadas during summer evenings. Hitomi Kitayama, the originator of Niki Club, which operated here until 2017, says that this area is like a second home to her. Located almost in the center of the Japanese archipelago, it is a peaceful and serene area, home to the Imperial Villa. Nearby are Mt. Chausu, an active volcano, and an ancient onsen resort town in which hot springs abound.
In the lodge pamphlet it says, “Silence and solitude are the best gifts here. Everything is meant to be shared among all living things.” Hitomi Kitayama has always been oriented toward literary and poetic sentiments through the lodging facilities she has created. Architecture is not an expression of design talent, but is constructed in order to express the inherent value of nature in a given place. Hospitality is not pandering to guests, but rather allowing them to sense the life that fills their inner selves in the time they spend with the nature of this place. This seems to be her ultimate goal.
After the completion of Water Garden in 2018, the Suite Villa, with 14 buildings (15 rooms total) was opened in 2020. The already open Residence with its glassworks and ceramics studios continues as before, thus completing the art biotop that integrates all three. Just as more and stronger shoots grow from the stump, a vibrant lodge has been born, inheriting the culture of the former Niki Club but imbued with new will: a small seedbed for future art.
Architect Shigeru Ban designed the SUITE VILLA to calmly meet the natural environment of Nasu, connecting the deck and living space by a large aperture, ingeniously placing plants and stones to deflect rain and sunlight, and opening the sky wide through eaves that continue upward through the roof, a structure that seems to send one’s spirit soaring into the open air. As you relax in a deck chair, your mind slowly relaxes, eventually reaching a state of introspection.
On this site, bordered by two streams, the structures are built side by side on a lot sloping down to the water. The entry floor leads to the bedroom, and the living room and deck spread out a few steps below. The wide wooden sashes (5.6m--more than 18’--wide) slide smoothly, and when open, erase the boundary between the outdoors and the living room. While still in a private space, you feel as if you have been released into the outdoors. The bathing area, fitted with an unfinished wooden tub, features windows and walls that boldly extend the space to the deck and garden.
There are professional studios for glass and pottery making, which are open to guests of both the SUITE VILLA and Residence. There are quite a few guests who book long-term stays at the Residence with the purpose of creating work. Time spent working with glass or ceramics, leaving behind one’s usual work and one’s usual self, is precious. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to spend in the studio, but I thought it wasn’t a bad idea to remember that this is one way to use our hands.
The owner’s imagination permeates the selection of books and works of art and craft arranged in both the lounge and guest rooms. Bookshelves are provided in the guest rooms, intended to allow for casual encounters with books, but this is a welcome imposition. With the Water Garden, the studios and the guest rooms designed to engage the very self, this facility is telling its guests that recreation or recuperation is not just about relaxation for the physical body or liberation from daily activities, but also about encounters with new expressions and ideas and experiencing anew the vitality of life inherent in ourselves.