This small-scale ryokan with a modern twist will double as a platform for emerging Japanese artists.
When the next edition of the Setouchi Triennale kicks off in April on the art-centric Japanese island of Naoshima, festivalgoers will have a brand-new place to stay: Rokasumi (doubles from US$380). An upscale ryokan with just 11 tatami-matted suites (each with an open-air soaking bath), the inn puts an emphasis on visual arts, with every room exhibiting works by contemporary Japanese artists.
Rokasumi was the brainchild of Shintaro Sasaki, the fourth-generation owner of a ryokan in Okayama Prefecture’s hot-spring town of Yugo Onsen. He branched out to Naoshima after meeting a carpenter from the island who lamented the absence of a local inn that would have given foreign travelers a taste of wa, or traditional Japanese hospitality. The idea of creating a modern ryokan dovetailed with his own mission to shine a light on young people who have few opportunities to present their artistic work, bringing them to the attention of a global audience. Thus, an integral part of the property is its gallery-cum-lounge, which encourages visitors to connect with art in a more personal way.
Sasaki also drew on his own memories of an epic round-the-world trip he took after graduating from university, when he visited 33 countries on a two-year odyssey from Southeast Asia to South America. Rokasumi is intended to become a place where people from all over the world can gather and swap stories about their history and culture; the inn features a communal outdoor hearth for sharing conversations. Also on the grounds is a restaurant serving sushi and kaiseki meals that champion freshly caught seafood from the surrounding Seto Inland Sea.