Nagano Pref. Town to Let Donors Stay at Historic Capsule Building

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza, Tokyo, is seen in September 2021.

Accommodation coupons for stays at a landmark of 20th-century architecture designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007) will soon be on the list of return gift items for people making donations to the town of Miyota, Nagano Prefecture, through the furusato nozei tax donation system.

Capsule House K was built in the town in 1973. Considered an exemplar of the metabolism movement in architecture, it is a historically significant building that directly inherits features of the Nakagin Capsule Tower condominium, one of the most famous structures designed by Kurokawa. That building in Ginza, Tokyo, was pulled down last year.

The metabolism movement, which originated in Japan, is based on the idea that cities and architecture evolve through repeated expansions and exchanges in response to changes in the times and society.

Capsule House K, which was completed in Miyota, Nagano Prefecture, in 1973.

Capsule House K stands in a resort cottage area near Mt. Asama. It was built a year after the 1972 completion of the Nakagin Capsule Tower, using the same type of capsules as the Tokyo condominium.

The one-story house with a basement is a reinforced concrete structure with 103.32 square meters of floor space. The house consists of a central trunk part, which includes the living room, plus four capsules that are used as the kitchen, a tea ceremony room and two bedrooms. Also notable are circular windows about 2 meters in diameter. The rooms contain some of Kurokawa’s personal belongings, as well.

After Kurokawa’s death, ownership of the house passed to a third party, but in 2019 it was purchased by Kurokawa’s son, Mikio Kurokawa, now 58. He repaired the house using crowd-funding and other resources. Now the house accepts visitors who wish to look around, and it is used for private lodging. It is also a location for film and fashion magazine shoots.

Peter Slade, 55, a self-employed man living in Tokyo, visited the house in June.

“It’s like a second coming of the Nakagin building. I hope this precious work will be preserved for posterity,” he said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mikio Kurokawa, second from left, shows the house to visitors in June.

The house is rented out for private lodging for up to seven people at ¥200,000 per night. With the cooperation of the younger Kurokawa, the town has decided to add stays at the house to the list of return gifts for the donation system. The town is planning to ask for donations of at least ¥660,000 from those wishing to receive a return gift of an accommodation coupon to stay at the house.

Compared to the neighboring town of Karuizawa, Miyota lacks notable tourist resources.

“We hope [the house] will attract people from outside the prefecture and encourage them to look around the town,” said an official of the town’s planning and financial section.

The elder Kurokawa had intended for the detachable capsules making up the Nakagin tower to be swapped out for new ones over time, but the plan did not materialize.

His son, who hopes many people will use the house in Miyota, said, “I’d also like to take on the challenge of exchanging the capsules for new ones, which has never been done before, to demonstrate metabolism and to preserve the house.”