Designed by Pritzker Prizewinning architect Shigeru Ban, this boutique hotel is a peaceful haven in Japan.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Located 150km northwest of Tokyo, in the mountain resort city of Karuizawa, Shishi-Iwa House opened its doors in February. Developed by HDHP GK, a social enterprise sponsored by HDH Capital Management, the 10-room boutique hotel is a dream place to restore one’s energy and which inspires intellectual and creative thinking.

Japanese architect Shigeru Ban designed this project where nature, architecture and human connection meet. Surrounded by lush vegetation, the two-storey building features an undulating roof, creating a soft sense of movement and highlighting its relationship with the surrounds. Timberframed glass doors lead the way to the double-height reception and library area – which was imagined as a social hub – and the adjoining fully equipped catering kitchen.

Inside Shishi-Iwa House, the seamless flow of spaces invites guests to reflect and meditate, but also to connect with other people, thanks to the humancentric design.

“For this project, I was interested in developing a distinct design language befitting its beautiful location,” says Shigeru. “Everything, from the construction to the furniture and interior detailing, was carefully plannedand considered to achieve a bespoke atmosphere.”

He also pointed out how his design team created uniqueopenings in the guest rooms and social areas to allow for thebest views of the garden and encourage outdoor access. The architect included timber, “to heighten the sense of warmth and coherence throughout the boutique retreat”, and paper tube elements – a material he uses in his disaster relief designs – in the public and private areas of Shishi-Iwa House.

Shigeru designed and chose all the furniture of the hotel, including some pieces by Alvar Aalto, combining them with artworks by Japanese masters from the Gutai period (prominent in the 1950s and 1960s) such as Jiro Yoshihara, Toshimitsu Imai, Yasuo Sumi, Sadamasa Motonaga and Masaaki Yamada, and by international artists such as Chinese-French painter Zao Wou-Ki and South Korean painter, engraver, draughtswoman and illustrator Seund Ja Rhee.

Far from the hustle and bustle of the urban life, this peaceful retreat with scenic views of Mount Asama and the forest is an ode to the beauty of nature, epitomising the concept of slow living with both sophistication and simplicity.

Visit to find out more about Shishi-Iwa House.
My Reading Room

One of the main directives was to preserve the natural surroundings of the hotel site, so most of the trees were saved.


Each room on the ground floor opens to a private garden, while the ones on the upper level have a private terrace.

The spaces in the building are kept simple, airy and spacious, with minimal furnishings.
My Reading Room

Good to know

Shigeru Ban won the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2014) and earned worldwide renown for his use of cardboard tubes in sustainable building construction.