Before the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed the first Shishi-Iwa House — an 11-room hotel located in Karuizawa, a town in the leafy foothills of Mount Asama two hours northwest of Tokyo — which opened in 2018, he commissioned a map of the trees on the property. The elegant two-storey building he came up with winds around them like a river. The idea was to create an escape where architecture disrupts the natural world as little as possible.
This May, a new property, Shishi-Iwa House No. 2, will open nearby; it will include a 30-seat restaurant whose seasonal menu will feature local ingredients, as well as a wine and whiskey bar on the second floor, where views from the monumental windows will make you feel as if you’re floating in the forest canopy.
Both retreats have impressive art collections: House No. 1 has paintings by artists from the Japanese avant-garde Gutai movement; House No. 2 will be hung with old masters and works by contemporary photographers. A third Shishi-Iwa House — a modern take on a traditional sukiya teahouse designed by the architect Ryue Nishizawa — will open in Karuizawa next spring, and a fourth, designed by the architect Kazuyo Sejima, is forthcoming in 2024 in Hakone, a hot springs town near Tokyo with views of Mount Fuji.