This month, Tokyo-based developer, Global Agents, will open a boutique hotel in a historic 1930s building in Otaru, Hokkaido. The UNWIND HOTEL & BAR Otaru will have hotel rooms ranging from 15 ~ 40 sqm (161 ~ 430 sq.ft), along with a banquet / dining hall. This is the company’s second UNWIND-branded hotel, with the first located nearby in Sapporo.
The building was constructed in 1931 by Etchuya Ryokan – a traditional inn founded in the 1870s that is still in operation today at the rear of this hotel. The older Ryokan had been featured in British travel guides in the Meiji era and was attracting a growing number of foreign guests. In response, they built a modern hotel in the 1930s to cater to foreign travelers, making it the first hotel in Hokkaido specifically designed for overseas visitors. It was only in operation for 10 years before being confiscated by the army in WWII and used as a military club. In 1945 it was confiscated by the US forces, who returned it to Etchuya Ryokan in 1950. An inheritance tax obligation saw partial ownership of the property go to the former Ministry of Finance in 1952. In 1986 a company acquired it and refurbished it into a guest house. It was renamed the Otaru Grand Hotel Classic. It closed in 2009.
The four-story reinforced concrete building has a brick tile facade, bay windows, stained glass windows and art deco details.
Otaru is a port city located 34 minutes by train from Sapporo and 1hr 15 minutes by train from New Chitose Airport. It was designated as an open port for trading with the US and UK in 1899. It quickly flourished as Hokkaido’s business and financial hub, with Japan’s major banks opening up branches along Otaru’s main street, including the Bank of Japan, earning it the nickname of the Wall Street of the North.
The town has benefitted from the recent growth in foreign tourists, with as many as 30% of foreign visitors spending a night or more in Otaru. In 2018, foreign hotel guests increased by 20% from the previous year. The Hokkaido Railway Company is planning to construct the Shin-Otaru Railway Station along the Hokkaido Shinkansen high-speed rail line by 2031. The station will be a mid-way point between Sapporo and Kutchan (near Niseko).
Source: Global Agents Press Release, January 30, 2019.
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