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Ace Hotel Kyoto among new lodgings tapping historic property to draw inbound tourists

This conceptual image shows the renovated Shin-Puh-Kan building housing Ace Hotel Kyoto. (Photo courtesy of Kengo Kuma and Associates)
Hotel Royal Classic Osaka, which features the former Shin-Kabukiza Theatre's design, is seen in this photo provided by the hotel.
Takashimaya department store's eastern annex, where Citadines Namba Osaka opened on Jan. 18, is seen in Osaka's Naniwa Ward on Jan. 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)
The renovated elevator hall on the first floor of Takashimaya department store's eastern annex, where Citadines Namba Osaka is located, is seen in Osaka's Naniwa Ward on Jan. 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)
A kitchen is seen equipped inside a guest room at Citadines Namba Osaka, in this photo taken in the city's Naniwa Ward on Jan. 20, 2020. (Mainichi/Yoshiyuki Hirakawa)

OSAKA -- Ace Hotel Kyoto is set to open in the spring of 2020 and will be among the new lodgings looking to attract foreign tourists by renovating historic landmarks in western Japan cities, as the region braces for an even greater number of guests for the Osaka, Kansai Expo slated for 2025.

Riding on the popularity among inbound tourists of old buildings with deep historical and cultural connections to local communities, Tokyo-based NTT Urban Development is constructing Ace Hotel Kyoto in the ancient capital's Naka Ward on the former premises of the Shin-Puh-Kan commercial complex.

It will mark the popular U.S. hotel brand's first foray into the Asian market. In collaboration with world-famous architect Kengo Kuma, known for designing the new National Stadium in Tokyo, the hotel utilizes the former Kyoto Central Telephone Exchange building erected in 1926, which was listed as the city's first designated and registered cultural property.

"We'd like to pass on Kyoto's history and culture," said a representative of NTT Urban Development.

In neighboring Osaka Prefecture, Kuma also designed Hotel Royal Classic Osaka in the Namba district by remodeling the Shin-Kabukiza Theatre. The hotel, which was launched by Bellco Co. in December 2019, features a traditional Japanese gable design called "Karahafu" at the lower part of the now modern building. The original Shin-Kabukiza Theatre was one of the masterpieces of architect Togo Murano (1891-1984).

Also in the same district lies Citadines Namba Osaka, which was inaugurated on Jan. 18 by refurbishing the eastern annex of the Takashimaya department store at a cost of 14.5 billion yen. The nine-story structure was originally built in 1937 for Matsuzakaya department store and later became Takashimaya's annex in 1968. The historic building features art deco ornaments, including a series of arches on its external walls, and marble-decorated elevator halls, and has been listed as a national tangible cultural property.

"The hotel operator highly appreciated our building. We'd like to manage the facility steadily as a landmark of this town," said Yoshiro Murata, president of Takashimaya Co., during a ceremony on Jan. 20.

Singapore's Ascott Ltd. operates the hotel on parts of the building's first through seventh floors. A food court is scheduled to open in the building in the spring of 2020, in addition to tenants for upscale customers, drawing a contrast with the nearby Kuromon Market in Minami that features a rather common touch. The Takashimaya Archives also opened on Jan. 20.

A free shuttle bus service for customers is under consideration between the eastern annex and Takashimaya Osaka Store in the city's Chuo Ward, which boasts the top sales among all department stores in Japan thanks to thriving inbound tourism demand.

Turning back to Kyoto, Nintendo Co.'s former head office will be given a new lease of life in the summer of 2021, serving as a hotel designed by Tadao Ando Architect & Associates. The four-story ferroconcrete building in the city's Shimogyo Ward was completed in 1930 and had served as the popular video game company's headquarters until 1959. The currently unoccupied structure is owned by Yamauchi, a Kyoto-based asset management company for Nintendo's founding family.

"The structure was built in the early Showa era and has been beloved by local people. We are contemplating what kind of hotel we'd like to open," said a representative of Plan Do See Inc., the Tokyo-based operator of the hotel.

(Japanese original by Mihoko Kato, Osaka Business News Department)

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