April 26, 2024

Cultural properties you can stay at are a select few



Ozu Castle’s tower was demolished in 1888 and rebuilt in 2004. All four of the castle’s turrets, which date from the Edo Period (1603–1868), still stand, including the one visible here to the left of the tower. All four turrets are designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Next time you take a trip, why not make it one that goes back in time, by staying at a designated cultural property? There are several types of cultural properties, so let’s start by briefly reviewing Japan’s cultural property system.

For buildings, the most important criterion is that they need to be at least 50 years old. Top cultural properties are designated as Important Cultural Properties, and the best of the best are designated as National Treasures. By designating a building as a cultural property, the government takes on responsibility for its preservation, repair and improvement — particularly for strengthening it against disasters.

However, Japan’s period of high economic growth after World War II saw rapid urbanization that led to the demolition of many important buildings from the post-Edo modern era across the country. The designation process, which was time-consuming and stringently governed at the national level, simply could not keep up with the speed at which buildings were being lost. Something needed to be done.

And so in 1996 the Cultural Properties Protection Law was revised, adding a registration system in addition to the designation system. The system focuses on providing valuable buildings broader protection under looser regulations. A building’s owner can submit a notification to the Agency for Cultural Affairs for it to be recognized as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property following an examination. Loose protection measures must then be taken based on government guidance and advice. This system complements the more rigorous designation system, which gives important items stronger and more generous protections.

Currently 13,000 buildings are Registered Tangible Cultural Properties, and visitors can stay at about 100 of them. Providing opportunities to step back in time, they are worth seeking out.






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