Yusuhara: Kochi's Quaint Art Town
Yusuhara is a small town in Kochi located in between mountains and holds a population of less than 4,000 people. It touts itself as the town above the clouds, and is also known for its eco-friendliness. What this amounts to is a friendly town where everyone seems to know and greet each other everywhere, a town that retires home before it gets dark, and a quiet and peaceful town, all in all providing for a quaint Japanese town experience that would likely surprise you.
While Yusuhara might be described as quaint or quiet, the architecture in the town is almost futuristic, and a large reason why Yusuhara has become more well-known in recent years. Much of the renowned wooden architecture in Yusuhara has been designed by famous architect Kuma Kengo. One of his works include the Hotel Above the Clouds (雲の上ホテル). The hotel itself has received a Good Design Award, and has a total of 16 rooms available for reservation.
This Wooden Bridge Museum stands in between the Hotel Above the Cloud’s main building and the onsen section of the hotel. It was built with the intention to connect the two buildings but plays around with the idea of using a cantilever structure found in traditional Japanese houses. What this gives is an amazing piece of architecture, shaped like an ark when viewed from the outside, and shows beautiful interlaced pieces of wood when viewed from the inside. Stepping into the building, I could smell the strong scent of wood, and it was amazing how such a building stands so sturdily and magnificently.
Apart from the main building, the annex to the hotel, located a slight distance away, was similarly architecturally stunning. Covered by a grass roof, and similarly featuring the wooden architecture, the building is a merchandise store on the first floor and a hotel on the upper floors. A shuttle bus taking visitors in between this building (which is located in the city center) and the hotel main building is available for hotel guests who want to take an onsen bath before they sleep.
Last but not least, there is the Yusuhara Town Hall, the largest building in the town that similarly uses the motif of wooden architecture. Yusuhara is known as a forestry manufacturing town, thus it’s unsurprising that they have incorporated so much of wood-centered architecture into the town itself.
My visit to Yusuhara coincided with the Yusuhara Gourmet Festival happening over the weekend. Food from all parts of Shikoku were brought to the space in front of the Yusuhara Town Hall. Stalls selling yakisoba, ramen stewed in a pot, warabi mochi, as well as milk pudding could be found. It felt like the entire town was at the event, creating a very lively atmosphere.
You can visit Yusuhara’s official tourism website to find out more about events being held as well as recommended accommodations, food and places. The Hotel Above the Clouds can be found at 梼原町太郎川３７９９－３.