A Japanese Guesthouse in Naoshima
Searching for overnight accommodations in rural Japan can be daunting. Hotel website information in English is sparse, and if it exists, oftentimes rarely makes much sense. And unlike back home in the U.S., a simple Google search of a town name will not turn up an easy-to-peruse list of cool crash pads in the area. So, you can imagine my relief when we first stepped foot inside the "guesthouse" we'd reserved as our home-away-from-home in Naoshima, and found it outfitted with stunning antique painted paper screen doors and our own Japanese garden.
For those who haven't yet heard of Japan's trendiest island, Naoshima is a lush, mystical enclave in the Seto Inland Sea that has been transformed into a high-end art destination. I'll be going into more detail on the island itself very soon, but I wanted to share our accommodations separately as they were, for me, a big part of the experience.
Naoshima is quite small, and unless you've got the budget for the Benesse House, your overnight options are limited to Japanese guesthouses or no-frills dormitories. We decided to book one of the guesthouses, Oomiyake, which promised traditional-style Japanese rooms in a 400-year-old mansion. Photos of the guesthouse online were a bit blurry, but I held out hope that we'd be stepping back in time to that bygone era of Japanese architecture that makes my heart sing: the warm wood construction, the shadow-casting lattice doors and the thin paper screen walls - oh, how I love shoji.
Our room at Oomiyake was in fact three rooms, separated by sliding screen doors that were ornately painted with ceiling-tall kanji symbols and sprawling village motifs. Their timeworn corners made me feel as if I was sleeping inside of a museum (should I even touch them?!). The guesthouse was surrounded by manicured Japanese gardens, which made drawing the curtains each morning to reveal misty rainfall all the more exciting. I would have been content just camping out there all day, padding around in my bare feet on the tatami floors and downing cup after cup of green tea while perched on emerald silk pillows at the chabudai (dining table).
If you go
A few things to keep in mind:
- Restaurants in the area are few and far between. Oomiyake does offer meal options, and although we did not take advantage during our stay, I wish we had (particularly for breakfast). Don't expect anything to open before 10AM, including the local grocery store.
- There is no ensuite bathroom or shower - these are shared. However, we did not encounter anyone else using the facilities when we visited them.
- No housekeeping service was provided, so if you make a mess, know that it will still be there when you return to the room at night!
- There are Western-style apartments also on site - be sure when booking that you request the Japanese-style room if you like character (and sleeping on the floor).