113-yr old ryokan in Sendai closes its doors

The 113-year old Chitoseya Ryokan in Sendai City closed its doors on May 31. It was originally scheduled to close in 2021 as the current operators, now in their 70s, have no successor. But, the recent decimation of the tourism industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic hastened the closure.

Chitoseya was founded in 1907 by the grandfather of the current operator. The 13-room, two-story wooden ryokan has been remodeled over the past century but still retains its original structure. It managed to survive the 1978 Miyagi Earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake without suffering any serious damage and has welcomed around 5,000 guests per year.

The husband and wife operators were anticipating an increase in tourist demand before and after the now-delayed 2020 Summer Olympics, and had planned to keep the ryokan open for another year before retiring. As the pandemic took hold, cancellations began flooding in between March and May, leaving revenues at just 20% of their normal level.

The ryokan is located in the Odawara district. This neighborhood developed as a popular red-light district during the Meiji era, before transforming into a ryokan district after WWII. The majority of these ryokans have since closed down. 

Source: The Kahoku Shimbun, May 30, 2020.

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