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Design Travel: “The Dedication to Making Things Well” at Shiguchi in Japan

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Design Travel: “The Dedication to Making Things Well” at Shiguchi in Japan

January 26, 2023

Shiguchi, new lodgings in Hokkaido, Japan, just opened a scant nine months ago, but its roots are much older.

The name comes from the word for traditional joinery, according to the retreat’s website. “Shiguchi, or traditional timber joints, are deceptively simple but can take decades to perfect, and carpenters must not only master many differently shaped wooden joints and specialist tools but also develop an understanding of the vagaries of the wood, climate, and environment. At the heart of their expertise lies the Japanese concept of monozukuri, the dedication to making things well.”

That spirit runs through the five renovated guest houses and the restaurant as well. According to its founder and owner, the artist Shouya Grigg: “Shiguchi is not a conventional hotel, nor is it a traditional ryokan. I wanted to create a place that combines impeccable art, crafts and centuries-old architecture with Niseko’s extraordinary nature to inspire and reconnect us at a meaningful, personal level.”

Join us for a look inside.

Photography by Shouya Grigg.

Somoza Restaurant

the retreat&#8\2\17;s restaurant, somoza, is housed in a \150 year old komi 17
Above: The retreat’s restaurant, Somoza, is housed in a 150-year-old kominka, which means “old house,” which also displays works of Japanese craft.
the gallery and restaurant space. 18
Above: The gallery and restaurant space.

Fu

the first of the guest houses, fu (&#8\2\20;wind&#8\2\2\1;), sleeps fiv 19
Above: The first of the guest houses, Fu (“Wind”), sleeps five and features rough-hewn exposed beams and glass.

“The villas are named after the five universal elemental symbols: chi (earth), sui (water), ka (fire), fu (wind) and ku (void or spirit),” according to the Shiguchi site. “All five elements should be in harmony and are often reflected in architecture through, for example, a five-story pagoda or a stone stupa with a combination—composed from bottom to top—of a cube, a sphere, a pyramid, a crescent, and a flower, which together symbolize the universe.”

the passageway leading to the sleeping quarters upstairs. as in each of the gue 20
Above: The passageway leading to the sleeping quarters upstairs. As in each of the guest houses, there’s also a tatami room “that can also be used for yoga, meditation, relaxing,” or in-room spa treatments, according to the retreat website.
the primary bedroom on the ground floor is done in a mix of organic and industr 21
Above: The primary bedroom on the ground floor is done in a mix of organic and industrial materials; just beside it is en-suite bathroom with a hinoki wood bath.

Each of the guesthouses is a restored kominka. “‘Kominka’ means old house and generally refers to a distinctive style of house built of local natural materials such as wood, clay, and straw often found in rural Japan,” according to Grigg. “The enormous frames are supported by thick beams and posts of oak or cypress, which fit together like a puzzle. The largely open-plan interiors are flexible, and rooms are sectioned off by sliding ‘shoji’ partitions. An ‘engawa,’ or corridor, encircles the kominka.”

Ka

ka (&#8\2\20;fire&#8\2\2\1;) sleeps 8; here, a bedroom has views &# 22
Above: Ka (“fire”) sleeps 8; here, a bedroom has views “across the valley to the Hanazono Bokujo grazing pastures and beyond to the distant mountain range.”
the guest house also features a private onsen. 23
Above: The guest house also features a private onsen.

Sui

the open plan kitchen and living area of sui (&#8\2\20;water&#8\2\2\1;). 24
Above: The open-plan kitchen and living area of Sui (“water”).
the house has a private bath, carved from a stone basin. 25
Above: The house has a private bath, carved from a stone basin.
bathing with a view. the guest house has a king size bed on the first floor and 26
Above: Bathing with a view. The guest house has a king-size bed on the first floor and an eight-mat tatami room on the second.

Chi

the open living area in the chi (earth) guesthouse, with stone floors, a wood s 27
Above: The open living area in the Chi (earth) guesthouse, with stone floors, a wood stove, and sweeping views.
&#8\2\20;villa interiors are decorated with a seasonal selection of antique 28
Above: “Villa interiors are decorated with a seasonal selection of antique and modern ceramics, contemporary paintings, and sculptures from the private collection of Shouya Grigg,” the artist and owner of Shiguchi.
the sleeping area is set apart by exposed timbers, which also form an open clos 29
Above: The sleeping area is set apart by exposed timbers, which also form an open closet.
every guesthouse has a private onsen, this one with a dramatic arched faucet. 30
Above: Every guesthouse has a private onsen, this one with a dramatic arched faucet.

Ku

finally, ku (&#8\2\20;void&#8\2\2\1;), with a wood stove and a supply o 31
Above: Finally, Ku (“void”), with a wood stove and a supply of firewood at the ready.
one of ku&#8\2\17;s two tatami rooms. 32
Above: One of Ku’s two tatami rooms.

For more on the property and to book, head to Shiguchi. And for much more in Japan, see:

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