With roughly 24 million foreign visitors in 2016 and almost 20 million the year before, Japan is currently enjoying a massive boom in tourism. Although this is great for the Japanese tourism industry, this influx of tourists has led to many people having a hard time finding affordable lodging during their trips to Japan. And with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the horizon, this shortage of hotel rooms is likely to get even worse unless something is done about it. Thankfully, companies, both foreign and domestic, have seen this problem as a major business opportunity and already begun to make efforts to resolve it. The latest of these efforts is perhaps one of the most interesting and, if all goes according to plan, will result in Japan’s first ever ‘prison hotel.’
Announced on May 26 by the Japanese Ministry of Justice, this new hotel is set to open in 2020 and will be located in the city of Nara in Nara Prefecture. It will use the remodeled facilities of the no longer operational Nara Juvenile Prison (奈良少年刑務所, nara shonen keimusho).
Opened in 1908 this Meiji era prison remained in operation for over a century, before finally shutting down in March of this year. The prison, with its red brick walls and gothic inspired architecture, housed not just underage males as its name would imply, but also males in their 20s. Likely due to its long history and notable architecture, the prison was designated as an important cultural site by the Japanese government this past February.
In order to determine a viable mid to long term way of maintaining this former prison, Japan’s Ministry of Justice began hearing proposals from three different private company groups in January and in the end selected the hotel proposal put forth by a consortium composed of eight different companies, including the representative of the group, hotel management company Solare Hotels and Resorts.
From Prison to Hotel
Although extensive plans regarding the exact changes that will be made to the former prison facilities have yet to be revealed, a few interesting details have.
First, it was announced that some of the cell corridors will be turned into common areas, which will feature handcrafted tables and chairs. Below you’ll find a pre-renovation picture and a picture showing what one of these common areas could look like.
Each room will be made of three of the prison’s single occupancy jail cells, each of which measure approximately 3.3 square meters (2 tatami), thus resulting in rooms measuring roughly 9.9 square meters (6 tatami). The picture below shows what a single cell looks like and what a room post-renovation could look like.
Currently, the hotel is set to have three different types of rooms, the exact differences of which, have yet to be made completely clear.
Aside from a general date of 2020, the hotel management company has yet to reveal an exact date for when this new hotel will be opening its doors. However, it seems likely that they will be shooting for the first half of 2020 in order to be ready for the large number of people that will be visiting Japan for the Tokyo Olympics that summer.
If you’d like to check out a video that shows footage of the Nara Juvenile Prison, check out the ANN News report below.