Original Kanaya Hotel re-opened to public viewing

Kanaya Cottage Inn 1

After a careful restoration, the historic Kanaya Samurai House in Nikko was re-opened to the public from March 29th. The property forms a very significant part of Japan’s hotel industry as it was the very first western-style hotel in Japan.

The 2-storey wooden house was built in the 1640s as a samurai residence. In the late 1800s it was the residence of Zenichiro Kanaya. Mr. Kanaya was inspired to open up his home to foreign guests after hosting a foreign friend, James Curtis Hepburn, a Christian missionary who created the Hepburn romanisation system for Japanese. Mr. Hepburn saw the appeal of the Nikko area and the potential for foreign visitors, and suggested that Mr. Kanaya create accommodation catering to foreign tourists.

Mr. Kanaya made some alterations to the home and opened it up to guests as the Kanaya Cottage Inn in 1873. British traveler, writer and historian, Isabella Bird, wrote about her stay at the inn in 1878 in her book ‘Unbeaten Tracks in Japan’, which further helped to promote the area and the hotel.

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Original Nikko Kanaya Hotel and Samurai House Foreclosed

*Update: The property sold to a private buyer for 33,000,000 Yen. They were the only bidder. It was then carefully restored, and registered as a Tangible Cultural Property in 2014. From 2015 onwards it has been open to the public.

The original 350+ year old Nikko Kanaya Hotel has been foreclosed on and is up for auction with a minimum bid set at 25 million Yen (320,000 USD). The house was originally built as a samurai residence in the Kan’ei era (1624-1644).  At the beginning of the Meiji era, James Curtis Hepburn, a Christian missionary who created the Hepburn romanization system for Japanese, stayed at the home, which was then the residence of Zenichiro Kanaya. Mr. Hepburn  suggested that the owner use his home as an inn for foreigners. The house soon became a popular spot for foreign guests and became known as “Kanaya Cottage Inn” and was later re-named “Kanaya Hotel.”

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