All images © Kenta Hasegawa courtesy Suppose Design Office
“Buy a vacation home that doubles as a hotel.” That’s the tagline for ‘Not A Hotel,’ a real estate start-up founded by Shinji Hamazu. The company challenges the traditional hotel model by treating it as a timeshare and selling it to 12 people, each receiving 30 days worth of use per year. The membership-style service focuses on small, boutique hotels that are impeccably designed by notable architects. Members control their home—everything from the thermostat to transitioning from home to rental property—using their smartphone.
It’s similar to owning real estate, but for a part of the year. Members can also select a duration longer than 30 days, provided that the chosen duration is a multiple of 30.
This approach allows for a more intimate and personal experience as compared to a hotel. It is rented out automatically when unused, to recoup investment, while also allowing the exchange of the stay days at other Not a Hotel properties. There are special facilities like permanent storage space, only accessible to the owners. Furthermore, the ownership can be transferred to another person, just like any other real estate asset. It could also function as a vacation home, offering the added benefit of requiring no maintenance on the part of the owner.
One unique feature is that the concept allows members to use other Not A Hotel properties.
As of November 2022 there are 8 Not A Hotel properties that range from 15 million yen (about $112,000 usd) to 45 million yen ($335,000 usd)
The first location, situated on a small hill overlooking the Nasu Farm Village, features two distinct structures designed by Japanese practice Suppose Design Office. “We were initially contacted regarding the plot as we have a separate company that deals in real estate with great views,” says Suppose co-founder Makoto Tanijiri. “And then Hamauzu asked us to come up with the design of the property, too.”
The larger, named ‘Masterpiece’, is clad in Corten steel and boasts four bedrooms, a pool, a natural hot spring bath, and a sauna. The interior is a mix of natural stone, hardwood, and exposed concrete, with a spacious living room that opens out onto a large terrace offering breathtaking views of the landscape. The smaller structure, ‘Think’, comprises two buildings – a main volume and a tiny tower-like guest house. It features a private hot tub on the roof, a pool, and a sauna, and shares the same sense of spaciousness and careful attention to design as ‘Masterpiece’.
The Architect’s approach to the design was to rethink the idea of luxury, in a different manner compared to what hotels have previously achieved. For them, it’s not just about expensive materials, but also things like the scale of the room, the luxury of openness, and the fuzzy divide between the inside and outside. This approach is evident in every detail of the properties, from the carefully selected furniture to the quality materials used in construction. Even the surrounding landscape has been carefully crafted by Japanese plant specialist Solso, with rough rocks and tall birch trees creating a sense of anticipation as visitors approach the properties.
Hamauzu is trying to create a new lifestyle for people who travel often. With plans to open 30 new venues by 2025, including designs by renowned architects such as Sou Fujimoto in Ishigaki and BIG in Setouchi, Not a Hotel aims to provide residences in 30 different locations throughout Japan for its owners.