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Friday, Nov. 19, 2010

Atami's Kiun-kaku compound
East and West: One of the buildings in Atami's Kiun-kaku compound, built in 1932, is seen from the garden. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTOS


Kiun-kaku, a touch of elegance in Atami

Staff writers

About 40 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train, the city of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, has long been a popular hot spa spot, attracting some 3 million visitors a year.

Inside the Western-style building of Kiun-kaku
Inside the Western-style building, the luxurious dining room features a ceiling with Japanese designs from the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600).

A roughly 10,000-sq.-meter compound with stately mansions and a garden, built and expanded by three tycoons, is also a popular tourist draw.

The Kiun-kaku structures, an elegant mix of Asian and Western styles, were once used as a hotel loved by a number of intellectuals, including novelists Naoya Shiga, Junichiro Tanizaki and Yukio Mishima.

It was here that Osamu Dazai finished "Ningen Shikkaku" ("No Longer Human"), a masterpiece of the modern Japanese novel, shortly before his 1948 suicide in Tokyo.

Nobuya Uchida (1880-1971), who made a fortune during World War I in the shipping business, built the first house, a Japanese-style structure, for his mother in 1919.

Next, Tobu Railway Co. founder Kaichiro Nezu (1860-1940) added two splendid Western-style houses and the garden. One of these houses, finished in 1932, has a guest room, dining room and sun lounge with interiors combining Japanese, Chinese and Western designs.

For example, the luxurious Western-style dining room features patterns from the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568-1600).

News photo
The Roman-style bathing room is decorated with stained glass windows.

The guest room is English Tudor, and the interior of the sun lounge, adorned with stained glass and tiles, is based on French art deco.

In 1947, Hyogoro Sakurai (1880-1951), a politician who ran a hotel in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, acquired the compound and converted it into the Kiun-kaku hotel.

The hotel was eventually closed and the compound is now owned by the city, which opened it to the public in 1999.

Kiun-kaku is about 20 minutes on foot from the center of Atami. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Wednesdays. The entrance fee is ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for junior high and high school students. Elementary school children and younger get in free.

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