The NEOLD experience begins with the architecture. The main building is a house which is over 100 years old. It comes complete with the many secrets that such an old house should harbour, and uncovering them is part of the fun of staying there.
The first thing that hits you as you enter the property is a Noh Stage. The construction of a Noh theatre requires skilled craftsmen, which are dwindling in number. Adding this stage to this old house has been an incremental step in keeping such traditions alive. The construction of the Noh theatre was supervised by Taichiro Nomura of the Izumi school, and the inaugural production included performances by some designated Living National Treasures.
Noh and Kyogen are traditional performance arts, which have been popular since the Muromachi period (1336-1573). They were initially performed only for the nobility, but during the Edo period, Noh gained popularity and Noh stages became a common sight within the personal gardens of elite society. The NEOLD Noh Theatre and the main building are positioned in the same way as in the Tokugawa Shogun's Palace in Edo (the present Imperial Palace). Most of the rooms offer a view of the Noh stage, giving guests a taste of Japan’s former highlife.
Privacy is incredibly important for NEOLD. The 2100 square meter grounds essentially belong to the guests during their stay. Inside the main building, the design and geometry continue to impress. Several features from the original 100-year-old house have been preserved, including the tatami-covered living area, and the traditional irori sunken hearth which is next to a water feature made of local stone.
Upstairs is a tatami bedroom, complete with futons custom-made for NEOLD, as well as a door out to the roof deck. A secret, second set of stairs will lead you to a hidden bedroom.
"Another secret door allows you to make a spectacular entrance to dinner."
The detached master bedroom, a generous 41 metres square, is fitted with two semi-double luxury beds with mattresses from Serta. This bed is one of the most comfortable I have ever slept on. The walls are decorated with a spectacular wedding kimono. A set of stone steps lead down to the basement bar.
Another secret door allows you to make a spectacular entrance to dinner. I considered sliding down the pole before deciding on a more regular entrance to sit at the counter for dinner.
Dinner is overseen by Head Chef and General Manager Kimihiro "Oggy" Ogino. Not only does his preparation for dinner involve a 70-kilometre round trip to the Nara market every morning for selecting that day’s ingredients, but he also grows some of the seasonal organic produce served at NEOLD.
The attention to detail can be found in everything, even the soy sauce. Clear water from the Yoshino mountains is pumped into a lovingly maintained old soy sauce brewery near NEOLD Private House to produce a soy sauce that, once aged in local Japanese cedar in the Nara climate, results in a fittingly complex accompaniment to Oggy’s cuisine.
Keeping with the local theme, there is sake on offer from Nara Prefecture, often some brewery-exclusive bottles. One example is the stunning Junmai Daiginjo Mimorosugi from Imanishi Shuzo, founded in 1660. There are sake pairing recommendations according to the season and the dishes served, bringing out the best in both food and drink.
"The Shogun packages allow you to spend two days in the shoes of a feudal ruling warlord."
All the desserts at NEOLD are made from scratch--like this triangle strawberry daifuku, made to make them more convenient to eat compared to their usual round shape, with cute Sakura decoration.
As you can imagine, dinner is absolutely delicious and I guarantee you will not be feeling peckish after you experience it!
The experience options on offer at NEOLD are varied and quite remarkable.
The Shogun packages allow you to spend two days in the shoes of a feudal ruling warlord, wearing a suit of armour, practising martial arts, and fighting valiantly against the enemy alongside your retainers, trained by professional stunt actors!.
"I have visited over 100 countries, and staying at NEOLD was one of the most unique accommodation experiences of my life."
For the ultimate reenactment, you can experience the Warring States era in Japan and (I’m not making this up) arrange a battle, with armies of 10 vs 10 or 20 vs 20 led by the Shogun. The ultimate time-travel experience.
You'll get the full experience of a retainer tasting your food for poison, but having your own personal royal taster doesn't come cheap.
The Shogun package starts at ¥1,100,000 for one person, plus ¥110,000 for each additional person.
Quieter pursuits, including Noh, Kyogen,Tea Ceremony and more are also available, and fishing and barbeque equipment is provided in the summer.
I have visited over 100 countries, and staying at NEOLD was one of the most unique accommodation experiences of my life.
A regular stay costs around ¥100,000 before tax; experiences are extra.
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