As a home away from home, Suimontei can be your home to return to in Nara.
Takabatake is home to traditional temples such as Shin-Yakushiji and Byakugoji, which dot the calm neighborhood. At the same time, if you walk eastwards from the residence, minutes away, you may explore the contrasting layout of Nara-machi, where traditional houses line narrow alleys criss-crossing the neighborhood, where many of them are converted now into gastro bars and restaurants.
In the Edo period, Takabatake had prospered as a residential area called Shaké-machi, as families that had long served the prominent shrines resided due to its location as being adjacent to the shrine of Kasuga Taisha. And through the Taisho and Showa periods, many writers and artists moved in to call the neighborhood their home, such as Naoya Shiga and Genichiro Adachi of the Shirakaba school.
The earthen walls that represent the ambience of the traditional Shaké-machi, coexist with the modern Japanese architecture built by the cultural intellectuals to form its unique landscape. A short stroll around the neighborhood will make you feel in sync with the historical sense of time in Nara, as you allow yourself to contemplate how things had shifted through the times.
In the neighborhood was a residence built in the traditional Sukiya style, unique to Japan, by a carpenter invited from Kyoto by the name Matsunosuke Shimojima who specialized in Sukiya buildings.
It was the former home of the Seki family that had contributed to the cultural development of Nara as multiple generations of entrepreneurs from the Meiji period. The family also had close ties and contributed to the building of Isui-en, a Japanese garden marveled for its beauty, with the mountains of Mount Kasuga and Mount Wakakusa in the background, read in many a poetry by the ancient Manyo poets.
Having been originally built in 1923, the house has been around for almost 100 years. And having experienced its fair share of rain and wind, it was already on the decline towards decay and ruin. Yet the structure was there, beautiful as ever, and one could still see the amazing work of craftsmanship performed in the architecture.
While restoring the unique features of the main house, we became inspired that the house could use some new interpretation to bring out its charm. We brought in furniture and works of art, both local and international, from modern/contemporary creatives such as designers Kunio Maekawa, Isamu Kenmochi and Isamu Noguchi, as well as selected contemporary artists such as Jonathan Monk, Takashi Homma, Mika Tajima and Liam Gillick, to complete the new features of Suimontei, where one could experience the old and new, by feeling and living in the architecture that best represents the lifestyle of a renewed and contemporary Takabatake.
Hence, we took the privilege and named the new residence Suimon, as it was never called this before, taken from Tojiro Seki, as Suimon was his pseudonym for performing tea ceremonies and poetry.
The hotel residence is available for a single group of guests per night. Although the space comes with complete privacy, adjacent to the private quarters (with a separate entrance) is a salon (restaurant) opening to a sizable garden. And outside is an annex converted from an old stone storage building which fluctuates freely from a collectible art book shop to a gallery space/shop curated by/for artists.
Dreaming of how a home born 100 years can be envisioned 100 years from now.
Suimontei can be your home in Nara that connects your present to the past, while allowing you a special experience of slipping back and forth between your daily and extraordinary scenes. We hope you will enjoy your time here.
Top-page Photography Takashi Homma