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A Village with 700 Citizens Turns into One Hotel

Updated: May 14

Miyu Iwamoto

April 20, 2022

There is one unique activity in Japan called “a village with 700 citizens turns into one hotel.” In Kosuge village in Yamanashi Prefecture, the woodland accounts for around 95% of whole village area.

The villagers have been carrying out activities to protect the natural environment for over 100 years. The reason why the mountain village started such an innovative service is because of the depopulation. They wanted to save beautiful natures, wild animals, and inherited cultures for the future generations.


In Japan, one of the social issues is regional population draining. Depopulation is briefly defined as the population has been decreasing 30% within 45 years. According to the National Federation of Depopulated Areas, 278 cities and 542 towns and villages out of 1,718 local entities are counted as depopulated areas in 2021. Depopulation leads to roughly three problems. First one is an inconvenient life because of decreasing stores, medical service facilities and other infrastructures. Second one is an inactive community such as a lack of cooperation in agriculture and no inheritance of traditional cultures. Third one is the negative impact on the scenery and environment due to unoccupied houses and unmanaged forests.



How to Manage the Hotel by Villagers?


Located in the high altitude, Kosuge has the headwaters of Tama River which is an important water-supply resource for Tokyo. About 700 people live there. It takes about two hours from Tokyo, and the altitude is almost the same as the Tokyo Skytree (634 meter), a landmark of Tokyo. In 2018, Kosuge started a hotel project under the concept that one hotel produced by villagers to revitalize the region.


Ohya                        Konagaya


The villagers portray their town as one big hotel, they make village paths as corridors, a hot spring facility as a hotel spa and citizens play the role of hotel staffs. Dwellings in villages turn to guest rooms. Currently, there are two guest villas; a 150-year-old residence called Ohya and cliff side villa called Konagaya. As a first action, they renovated a 150-years-old unoccupied mansion to be used for a deluxe suite. It is planned to renovate another 100 unoccupied-houses henceforth to form one hotel. Also, as hotel staff, villagers serve tourists to make them satisfied to visit this place. For example, guests would be guided from the hotel to hot springs by local villagers so that guests could feel as if becoming one of the members of this village through the conversation with village guides.


How is Kosuge a Sustainable Village?

Foods

The restaurants provide delicious meals using local ingredients. In addition to vegetables grown by farmers, river fish, mushrooms, and edible wild plants harvested in the local area are cooked. In addition, they choose seasonal food every two weeks and offer the 24 different course meals in a year. Thus the villagers aim the local production for local consumption.


Rooms

Decreasing population leads to deterioration of houses because no one uses or manages them and eventually vacant houses would corrupt. Dismantling of livable homes would be ineffective waste. However, if the houses are used as guest, they would not be dismantled or broken. Moreover, it will keep being repaired for the future. Tourists staying in renovated vacant houses are effective in taking over these traditional Japanese houses for the future.



Regional Revitalization to Protect Hometown for the Future


It is a way of regional revitalization that would provide the regions with same situation like as depopulation opportunities to proceed. The villagers founded a company Nipponia Co. and this company runs a business to assist the hotel administration. Kosuge village hotel is one of their support business. “To make nostalgic Japanese a new life” is their vision. They aim to solve the depopulated issues by attracting visitors to old Japanese traditional houses.

This business model can be applied for other regions, even for the villages in other countries. If a number of depopulating areas run such business utilizing their specific areal strength, they could maintain and revitalize their beautiful hometowns.



References

Nipponia:

https://nipponia-kosuge.jp/ohya/

Kosuge village official home page :

http://www.vill.kosuge.yamanashi.jp/

Depopulation data:

http://www.kaso-net.or.jp/publics/index/19/


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