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Setouchi Cominca Stays Pioneers Regenerative Travel To Revive Japan’s Rural Towns

November 26, 2020 Visit North Asia No Comments Email Email

Setouchi Cominca Stays, a unique collection of traditional Japanese cominca homes that have been transformed into exclusive-use, modern vacation rentals, is also a regenerative travel initiative, focused on preserving the local culture of the remote, lesser-known towns of Uchiko in Ehime Prefecture and Shobara in Hiroshima Prefecture.

Over the past decade or more, Japan has seen a nationwide increase in the number of vacant houses, most notably in rural towns with aging and decreasing populations. From 2008 through 2018, the number of cominca (traditional Japanese houses built before 1950) decreased by more than a half million homes – nearly half of which were located in the Setouchi region around the Seto Inland Sea, including Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures.
Comprised of five traditional cominca-style houses, all between 100 and 250 years old, Setouchi Cominca Stays offers travelers exclusive access to the historic town of Uchiko in Ehime Prefecture and the rural hamlet of Shobara in Hiroshima Prefecture. The lesser-known town of Uchiko is a historic merchant town that boomed in the late 19th century with its Meiji-era wax production. Guests of Setouchi Cominca Stays have the unique opportunity to stay in one of the preserved historic homes in the Yokaichi and Gokoku Quarters, a 600-meter street lined with traditional merchants’ homes in Uchiko’s Old Town. From this central location in the heart of this remote town, guests have the unique opportunity to stroll through the preserved streets, meeting proud locals and visiting museums, temples and a stunning kabuki theater.

The remote hamlet of Shobara in Hiroshima Prefecture, meanwhile, offers a glimpse of ancient Japanese rural life, including the opportunity to stay in one of three historic farmhouses, which date back 100 to 250 years and have been meticulously restored as part of the Setouchi Cominca Stays project. Here, in this remote valley surrounded by picturesque terraced fields where rice has been cultivated for centuries, guests can immerse themselves in a different era of Japan – staying in traditional thatched-roof homes with earthen floor entrances and tatami rooms, soaking in wood-burning outdoor baths, and relaxing in the indoor/outdoor living space known as a doma, around a fire pit. Area excursions available to guests include picking fresh vegetables with locals, cycling through rice fields, experiencing a private Taiko (traditional Japanese drum) or kagura (“dance for the gods”) performance, trekking to local shrines and forest bathing.

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