Former school turned into glamping site

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Glamping & Port Yui, built on the site of a former elementary school, is seen in Shimada, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Sept. 4. This photo was taken by drone.

SHIZUOKA — A shuttered elementary school in Shizuoka Prefecture has been reborn as a glamping facility and is attracting numerous visitors to the area, both from within and outside the prefecture.

Shimada City Yui Elementary School, in Shimada in the prefecture, closed its gates in March 2021 due to such reasons as Japan’s declining birthrate. However, after undergoing extensive renovations, it reopened this March as Glamping & Port Yui, offering visitors the chance to enjoy high-class camping in modern facilities.

Located roughly between Tokyo and Nagoya, Glamping & Port Yui sits close to the Makinohara Plateau — one of the country’s largest tea-producing areas — and Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport.

The revamped site has 21 air-conditioned tents employing one of five designs. Each tent can accommodate up to six people, and features an all-weather dining space and a relaxation area equipped with sofas and beds.

The former school building has been decked out with shower booths and restrooms. The principal’s office is now a bathroom, while the home economics classroom has been turned into a popcorn-making space.

The school gym remains a designated emergency evacuation center for local residents, but glampers are allowed to use it to play ball games.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A transparent tent in the center of the site serves as a self-service drink area at night.

The site also has an area set aside for local residents to sell agricultural products and hold exhibitions.

The school opened as a branch school in 1873, using a temple building to hold classes. During its 148-year history, more than 3,000 students graduated from the educational facility. However, in the year prior to its closure, it only had about 30 students.

A 38-year-old company employee visiting from Nishio, Aichi Prefecture, who stayed overnight with his wife and 3-year-old son, said: “We arrived late last night and I played with my son in the gym. It’s not possible to play with my kid at school, even in my hometown, so it was a very new experience for me.”

Kazuhiro Fukazawa, the president of Aiwa Connect, which operates the site, said: “I’ve heard that it’s quite difficult for foreign tourists to look around regular Japanese schools, but it’s possible here at our glamping facility. Since the site is very close to Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport, I expect demand from overseas tourists to increase when the coronavirus pandemic ends.”

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Visitors to Glamping & Port Yui enjoy swimming in the renovated former school pool. The pool was open until Sept. 30 this year.
By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Glampers play basketball in the former school’s gym.
By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Visitors play a piano that used to belong to the school.
By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
A father and his child make popcorn in a former home economics classroom.

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