Soaking in panoramic views and an astounding atmosphere
An entire mountain covering nearly 24.5 acres overlooking the Kirishima Range has been made the site of this lodging, comprising just five wooden villas, of which only three are open for overnight stays. The other two are reserved for serving lunch to guests or helping them just relax in nature for the day. Tenku means sky or air. To facilitate full enjoyment of the serene atmosphere of the mountains, all of the buildings have spacious open-air wood terraces. There is nothing more liberating than walking barefoot on these wooden floors.
These vista-facing terraces, boldly cantilevered, are like pleasure gardens for mountain viewing. A tub is embedded in one section of the terrace. The water comes up just to the floor, and reflects the sky in its entirety. As you slip into the sky, it’s as if your whole body is soaking in the scenery itself. Because the neighboring villas are so far away, you could do a naked handstand and wouldn’t meet a soul. The tagline, “nudity is our dress code” isn’t hyperbole after all.
Here and there, grand trees stretch toward the sky, sprouting through openings in the terrace. In the area are lawns and gardens, and hammocks suspended from trees swaying in the breeze. In a parasol-shaped shadow sits a line of wooden lounge chairs. As you repose horizontally in a bathrobe of the finest quality, your hand brushes against a cooler of chilled champagne. The sounds that come to you are those of the wind transversing the mountains and the honeybees doing their work.
When I asked the proprietor, Takeo Tajima, what he considers the most important aspect of this lodging, he replied, “aroma”. He didn’t mean a perfume or the scent of a meal being prepared; he meant the aroma of the vegetables in the garden. On site there are terraced fields and vegetable gardens from which Tenku’s vegetables are harvested. When it’s the perfect time for daikon radishes, you can smell them under the earth, and when it’s carrot season, they give off their distinct aroma. When they are still small, they’re harvested and served.
Mr. Tajima worked entirely unaided to open Tenku. First he purchased a mountain densely covered with intractable bamboo shoots and then, in order to create the best lodging in Japan, extracted them one by one and installed mountain roads. He spent 15 years on construction. Certainly it is a luxurious space, but the question is, what kind of time could one experience here? Perhaps this seemingly provocative question reveals the essence of this lodging.
Written on 07.18.2019
Created by Japan House Tokyo Secretariat’s Creative Adviser, Kenya Hara, Teikūhikō is a combination of beautiful videos, articles and photographs introducing spots that Hara has specially selected, posing the question to visitors, “What do you think of this kind of Japan?”.
Movie / Photograph / Text: Kenya Hara