Imagine this: a hotel with all its facilities in different buildings. In a world where the usual idea for a hotel is to have as many facilities as possible in the comfort of one building, the concept of a dispersed hotel may seem counterproductive. Yet that’s what Japan’s first dispersed hotel is aiming to challenge.
Enso Ango recently opened in Kyoto — or to be precise, around the centre of Kyoto. Five separate building makes up this dispersed hotel, all within a few minutes’ walks from each other. Seven more buildings are apparently in the works to continue expanding this dispersed hotel. The reasoning behind this concept was not because there was a lack of space, but rather to allow guests to experience for themselves firsthand the local culture. By getting them to walk around the neighbourhood, they’ll be able to be fully immersed in the daily ongoings of Kyoto. The hotel also plans to include guest activities such as Zen meditation sessions with Buddhist priests from the neighbouring Ryosokuin and Kenninji temples, obanzai (home-style) cooking classes, guided night runs along the Kamogawa River and Shinto shrines, yoga, and talks by local artists.
The concept of dispersed hotels, however, is not a new one. It was first developed in Italy and called alberghi diffusi, created to bring new life to semi-abandoned villages. Other countries in Europe also adopted a similar concept, including Slovenia, Portugal, Croatia, and Switzerland.
Fuya I is where guests check in. The building has a front desk and a corridor doubling as an art gallery with works by Masanobu Ando. As you get towards the end of the corridor, the art gallery opens into a lounge with a tsuboniwa — a small garden that’s common to Kyoto houses. Fuya II is the largest of the five buildings and houses a Japanese tea room designed by Shigeru Uchida. There is also a tatami straw mat room, which is a multi-purpose space for events that the hotel usually holds — including zen classes, mindfulness, and more. If all the walking around hasn’t taken up your exercise quota, the gym for this hotel can be found in this building.
For independent mealtimes, head over to Tomi I. The building has a guest kitchen with a dining table and island counter, perfect for groups and families who wish to make their own meals. There is also a professional kitchen in the lounge area where cooking classes are held, as well as private dinners with professional chefs. Separately, Tomi II houses the restaurant where hotel guests can head to for breakfast and dinner. The design of Tomi II is done by Swiss design firm Oï, and it features Japanese umbrella-inspired light shades with Kiyomizu pottery on the shelves as part of the deco.
The final building, Yamato I is the closest to the main activity area of Gion in Kyoto. The first floor houses a bar that is open to outside guests too, which creates an opportunity for hotel guests to interact with the locals. The bar is adorned with art by Naoki Terada, whose acclaimed work has graced the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. On the upper floors of the Yamato I are bunk beds for more hotel guests. Scroll through the next few images to see for yourself Japan’s first dispersed hotel in the flesh.