Koichi Yano, founder and CEO of SEKAI HOTEL, has opened SEKAI HOTEL Fuse, in a shopping street district that fronts Fuse Station, a local community roughly ten minutes by train from the center of Osaka, Japan’s second largest city.
Japan is increasingly becoming a tourist destination for visitors from overseas, in part because of the popularity of anime television programs and films, and of manga comic books. As different locations throughout Japan work to create content that will appeal to tourists, we see urban development replacing local coffee shops, where residents have gathered for decades, with large coffee shop chains, and we see small restaurants that have offered a taste of Japanese homestyle cooking over the course of many long years needing to close because there is no one left to carry on that business.
SEKAI HOTEL believes that there is value in experiencing culture through tourism, particularly found within the ordinary lives of Japanese people. There is an excitement in an experience that comes from attempts to communicate with local people, be it with imperfect language skills, or even with gestures. We are both working to create new tourism values that could be termed ordinary and are also trying to entice values from locations that are either further away from Japan’s urban centers or otherwise not known to tourists.
Our method has been to reject the amassing of regular hotel features, such as a front desk, guest rooms, gift shops, and activities, into a single gigantic building, and to instead redevelop entire communities as a hotel, reviving the now empty homes that you find, here and there, in those communities. Local empty homes are renovated and converted to guest rooms. Features you would normally find within the walls of a hotel, like spas, restaurants, and activities, are provided in conjunction with local businesses, developing a community-based hotel where guests can enjoy wandering about the community.
The hotel site is located in a shopping district that has been a part of this community for more than fifty years, and that straddles the station to both the north and south. Such districts comprise streets that are lined with a wide variety of shops. They grew in number throughout Japan in the late 1960s and early 1970s, becoming the face of each region as the best places to shop. They played vital roles in energizing their communities, hosting festivals and contributing to the community at large as hubs of activity. For Fuse in particular, there were rows of greengrocers, fruit sellers, Takoyaki (octopus dumplings) shops, stalls with freshly fried croquettes, and butchers, some of which have histories that extend back more than a century.
The location is convenient, with a direct bus service from Kansai International Airport, and direct train lines to Universal Studios Japan, Dotonbori, and Nara.