Ryugon is a 50-year old ryokan nestled within the mountains of Minami-Uonuma (Niigata prefecture). Two hours by train from Tokyo, it’s a region known for rice and sake production but also heavy snowfall. A recent renovation, subtractive in nature, set out to strip the pre-existing fortress like elements that, in their bid to keep the snow out, had also disconnected the inn from its habitat.

Prior to the renovation, Ryugon had been stifled by long windowless hallways. But then what was the point of having a ryokan in the mountains? So a team led by Ashida Architects & Associates came in to help re-imagine what luxury and snow country would look like, combined. The result, which was unveiled in the summer of 2019, is a beautiful structure that is grounded and rounded; an unwavering monument that interprets its harsh surroundings not as a threat but as a gift.

In the video below, the architect, furniture designer and landscape designer all discuss how the surrounding wood, mountains and snow inspired their designs. The hand-carved chairs, for example, were modeled after the round mounds of snow that accumulate on the stones in the lake.

Of course if snow is not your thing, Ryugon seems like a lovely place to stay any time of the year.

(all photos by Satoshi Shigeta)