A century-old Japanese house which an Onomichi merchant used as a villa has been renovated for accommodation. / The house rental “Kujira Bekkan” (Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima)

As a filming location for a movie by Yasujiro Ozu

Onomichi is a port town which has been loved by many writers and filmmakers.
The great film director, Yasujiro Ozu, chose Onomichi for a location when filming “Tokyo Story” and stayed there for the duration.

You can see Onomichi Channel and freight trains from the one of the filming locations, Jodo-ji Temple, which is designated as a National Treasure.
This scenery is worthy of Onomichi, and tasteful.

When you walk from Jodo-ji Temple and go through the alley between Kubo Elementary School and Onomichi-Higashi High School……,

You will find an inn at the end of the slope.
This is the renovated villa of an Onomichi merchant, “Kujira Bekkan” (Annex).

Cinema Onomichi and Kujira Bekkan

This inn was opened in April 2019.
Shingo Kitamura, the sub-manager of “Cinema Onomichi,” was deeply engaged in the opening of this inn. Yuki Imayoshi, who is also a staff member of “Cinema Onomichi,” manages the operation of the inn.
“Cinema Onomichi” is the only movie theater running in Onomichi City.

Perhaps it seems that the relationship between an inn and a movie theater is a kind of mystery.
However, the origin of this relationship was an “encounter” between Onomichi and a film director.

The encounter between Onomichi and a film director

“Kujira Bekkan” was first planned by Yuta Morigaki, a young director.
He visited Cinema Onomichi for an event during his directing debut in 2017.

Morigaki wanted to make his own base for aspiring artists, and to support the activities by artists at that time.
As he strolled on the streets of Onomichi guided by Kitamura, he met various people and decided to open Kujira Bekkan.

A century-old Japanese house which an Onomichi merchant used as a villa was renovated

The Kujira Bekkan building was built about 100 years ago.
This is a house rental and it has a small kitchen and a bathroom.
First off, this house was renovated as a place where artists can gather and stay, which was Morigaki’s idea.

The edges of the frames on the sliding doors on the second floor are curved to fit the pillars.
Wow, this is craftsmanship!

Also, there are various beautiful designs decorating the interior.
Kitamura said, “I guess that the merchant who lived on the seaside brought material to this inconvenient place on the mountain, and behaved extravagantly.”

On the other hand, various artists from Onomichi participated in the renovation of this inn.
For example, see the washroom.
Tomato cans lined up on the shelves are pretty kitschy, but surprisingly, they are perfectly in tune with the old space.

If you share your idea, you get a 3,000 yen discount off the accommodation fee

You can get discount of 3,000 yen for the accommodation fee from the second night, if you submit your idea to the inn.
This trial began as an idea of Morigaki’s, and the concept that Kujira Bekkan “wants to support artists and creators.”

Many guests from inside and outside of Japan left various plots, such as for town revitalization, stories, etc.
They are bound into a file, and everybody can look at this idea file.

The genuine Onomichi

Kujira Bekkan doesn’t serve any meals, but you can cook something at the kitchen.
However, we recommend that you to go to the entertainment district, Shingai.
You might feel as if you are straying into the old Showa era (40-50 years ago), as there are a lot of shops with a nostalgic atmosphere.

“Onomichi Station and the shopping street there act as the entrance of Onomichi,” Kitamura said, “and Shingai has the true Onomichihood which you cannot feel or taste in mainstream Onomichi, in my opinion.”

We visited Kujira Bekkan at the end of November, and from the room we could see the last sunlight of the day going down over Mt. Jodo-ji.
A one-night stay is not enough for us to cherish the view, to taste the designs, or to fully enjoy the town.
Maybe you will feel same way and want to stayat Kujira Bekkan longer, just like you were living there for a while.

Kujira Bekkan
Address/12-11, Higashikibo-cho, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima 
Access/25-minute-walk from JR Onomichi Station

Twiter @kujirabekkan
Instagram @kujira.bekkan

Photographs and text by Kaori Masuda

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Written by

Kaori Masuda

Kaori Masuda

Kaori Masuda I was born in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture and am a writer and a poet. I run Hoshimugi (https://hoshitsumugi.wordpress.com/), a workshop website dedicated to poems and essays. I spent many years in Tokyo and Kanagawa studying at university and starting my adult life there. I moved to Shikoku with my husband and son about 10-years ago, and am going to write about all the breathtaking spots we have here on the islands of Ehime. Ehime is really a fantastic place. Please come and see for yourself.


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