All About Japan

House of Light is an Absolute Delight

Art Accommodation Design Niigata Chubu Hokuriku Koshinetsu

From capsule hotels to atmospheric inns and private island stays, visitors to Japan can choose from a number of unique accommodation options around the country. One of the most unusual and beautiful places to stay, however, is at an architectural masterpiece called “House of Light,” located in the peaceful countryside of Niigata Prefecture.

Designed by Los Angeles-born artist James Turrell, the building was initially created for the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, which draws tourists to the region with an intriguing collection of outdoor artworks and cultural programs.

The main stipulation Turrell faced when designing the building was that it had to be elevated over 2.7 meters (8.9 ft) off the ground in order to account for the area’s heavy winter snowfall. This became one of the inspirations behind the building’s design, as Turrell decided to create a house that showcased the world of shadows and light, resulting in a unique building filled with interesting design features.

The interiors include sliding paper doors, tatami mat floors and exterior walkways that take their design cues from traditional housing.

The "outside-in" room also features Japanese design elements, but what makes this room particularly special is its unique ceiling. The square cavity in the roof opens up to allow light into the room, essentially bringing the outside in, as visitors get to enjoy a view of the sky while lying on the traditional-style flooring.

The type of light that enters the room differs depending on the weather conditions and the time of day.

While the building is open to visitors during the daytime, guests who stay overnight get to enjoy a light display in the "outside-in" room, which mimics outside light conditions like sunset and sunrise, along with some other special fluorescent features.

Another highlight of the evening is the chance for guests to bathe in a “light bath.” While it looks like an ordinary bath during the day, at night, it gives off an eerie glow.

The wood interiors and the beautiful lighting scheme throughout creates a relaxing atmosphere, making guests feel like they’re at one with nature.

At night, the building becomes even more beautiful, with its elevated position and unusual front staircase making it look like a holy shrine.

According to the House of Light official website, Turrell designed the building to accommodate three families overnight, to allow them to discuss their thoughts as they enjoy the world of light and shadow together, which means guests may be required to share the building with other people during their stay. Prices start at ¥4,000 (US$34.18) per person, plus a facilities charge of ¥20,000 (US$174.27) for the building, which is divided evenly between guests. With a fully equipped kitchen, guests are free to bring and make their own meals, or opt for a catering service that starts at roughly ¥2,000 each. For full details, including information and prices for day visits, be sure to swing by their website.

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