Master builder’s painstaking feat places vernacular architecture at heart of luxury resort, opening 2024

20 July 2022: The Pavilions Niseko Resort, Hokkaido has announced the completion of several major development milestones ahead of its launch in 2024 – including the remarkable relocation and painstaking reconstruction of a c. 125-year-old traditional kominka. Formerly a family home in Takayama, the two-storey timber building has been given a new lease of life as the upcoming resort’s Clubhouse, continuing Japan’s burgeoning kominka movement and placing vernacular architecture at the heart of The Pavilions Niseko experience. The Pavilions Niseko also confirmed completion of four of 19 planned resort villas, and the official registration of the Pavilions Ginto Onsen by the Ministry of Environment in accordance with Japan’s “Hot Springs Act”.

A regenerative travel initiative that began in the mid-Noughties, the kominka movement aims to preserve and breathe new life into traditional wooden homes by transforming them into commercially viable guesthouses, hotels, cafes and flexible workspaces. The Pavilions Niseko’s recently completed Clubhouse kominka was first built around 120 – 130 years ago in Takayama city, Gifu prefecture – famed for its master craftsmen and carpenters – using the same construction methods as the 1,300-year-old Heijo castle. After being purchased by The Pavilions Niseko, the building was meticulously dismantled by a local traditional master builder. The 40 tonnes of individually tagged bicentennial timbers were then transported over 800 miles to the resort site in Hokkaido, before being reconstructed with sympathetic extension and additions designed by ALT-254. A second historic kominka, dating back to 1859, is also in the process of being dismantled and relocated, in preparation for its new life as the resort’s Spa building.

In keeping with Japanese custom, reconstruction of the Clubhouse kominka began with a traditional Jichinsai (地鎮祭) ground-breaking ritual. Literally meaning “pacification of the grounds”, the Jichinsai serves to sanctify the ground, calm its energy and bless the new building. Performed in this instance by a Buddhist monk – although more usually done in the Shinto style – the ceremony included the presentation of offerings such as sake, rice and salt to the spirit of the land. “Mochi” rice cakes were also scattered from the top of the kominka to bring abundance and good business.

Scheduled to open in 2024, The Pavilions Niseko is a villa resort concept built in the sukiya architectural style, where natural materials and Japanese architectural elements work in harmony with the outdoor scenery. Nestled in the Ginto Hirafu forest, close to the white powder slopes of Mt Yotei and two hours’ drive from Chitose International Airport, the finished resort will comprise 19 hotel villas; 24 private ‘Ginto Residences’, which owners can choose to purchase as an already-completed residence or build their own; the Clubhouse with restaurant, bar, lounge and reception; a Spa offering a selection of wellness facilities; and an Onsen house which will welcome guests with a traditional bathing experience.

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