After a careful restoration, the historic Kanaya Samurai House in Nikko was re-opened to the public from March 29th. The property forms a very significant part of Japan’s hotel industry as it was the very first western-style hotel in Japan.
The 2-storey wooden house was built in the 1640s as a samurai residence. In the late 1800s it was the residence of Zenichiro Kanaya. Mr. Kanaya was inspired to open up his home to foreign guests after hosting a foreign friend, James Curtis Hepburn, a Christian missionary who created the Hepburn romanisation system for Japanese. Mr. Hepburn saw the appeal of the Nikko area and the potential for foreign visitors, and suggested that Mr. Kanaya create accommodation catering to foreign tourists.
Mr. Kanaya made some alterations to the home and opened it up to guests as the Kanaya Cottage Inn in 1873. British traveler, writer and historian, Isabella Bird, wrote about her stay at the inn in 1878 in her book ‘Unbeaten Tracks in Japan’, which further helped to promote the area and the hotel.
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