Design for a Simple Retreat

Walk through any major Japanese city and you stumble across some pretty interesting, diverse and sometimes conflicting architectural styles. Not blessed with infinite space to build, they’ve found ways to put completely modern structures right next to thousand year old temples and have them harmoniously coexist. Their ability to focus on one thing and zone-out another is one mechanism that makes this society function well in an extremely crowded and land-challenged place. One particular type of modern structure that most try to look past is introduced in this post.

Lack of land translates into crowding that affects every day activities from riding jam packed trains to sleeping in jam packed apartments. With houses beyond the reach of most, many Japanese find apartment living to be the most affordable solution. But for many renters, they must also share the tatami with both older and younger generations within the same household. Paper thin walls and rooms that function as both bedroom and living room offer little in the way of privacy and sound proofing.

Hotel Broccoli on your left for Vegetarians and on the right, what started the craze in 1968: Hotel Love

Resourcefulness is a defining characteristic of the Japanese. They’ve found a way to make certain humble hotels secluded retreats from the busy life at home, if only for a few hours here and there. This particular hotel is nicknamed “Love Hotel”. Dating back to the Edo period, the concept of a temporary rest stop has substantially evolved over the ages with a few characteristics still in play today. There are many to select from, each with its own discrete entrance, minimal staff interaction and a range of pricing options from short stay to overnight for those who find themselves wearier.

Although highly convenient for the couple on the go, guests probably won’t appreciate the great deal of design that goes into such establishments. The most predominant characteristic is that each has its own theme and sometimes each room within does as well. Not unlike a Vegas hotel in the shape of a castle or pyramid, the love hotel focuses on fantasy.

Left: Convenient display of pricing for Hotel Love, Right: For pasta lovers, the Hotel Farfalle

There are also the sharp contrasts of bold and bright decorations to attract visitors from afar, yet discretion and privacy become the concern once near the doorstep. Most clientele appreciate the ability to enter and check in without much fuss and fanfare. And to speed along the transaction, signage announcing the cost per hour or night is clearly displayed for easy comparison shopping. Since these businesses are usually clustered in certain areas of town, competition can be fierce. When so many alternatives abound, differentiation and amenities become the keys to success. Fortunately this yields some very eccentric designs and hotel names which add to the excitement and color of the cities.

But whatever your desire, a short stay or an overnight repose, there is sure to be a design that satisfies your needs. And if you’re in need of a more Zen-like experience, the humble capsule hotel is always a stone’s throw away.

Santa’s getaway on the left: Chapel Christmas and on the right: Hotel Celine for those fans of Ms. Dion

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