NARA–Hoshino Resorts Inc. wants those who enter a century-old prison here to have no idea of escape, but to enjoy their stay.
The company has pledged to rehabilitate the former Nara prison into a “high-end” luxury accommodation facility, unveiling the outlines of Japan’s first “prison hotel”.
Yoshiharu Hoshino, CEO of Hoshino Resorts, told a news conference at the former prison on May 31 that the company plans to begin renovations in the fall and open the hotel in the fall. summer 2024.
Nine isolation cells will be transformed into a guest room. A total of 48 rooms will be created on the first and second floors.
The five detention buildings that housed detainees are arranged in a fan shape that extends from the center. One of the buildings will be left as it is to become a museum, which will be open to guests and visitors alike.
Nara Prison, built in 1908, is designated an Important Cultural Property by the central government. It was used until 2017 to accommodate juvenile delinquents. The aging facility has undergone seismic upgrades since its closure.
“We hope the cultural property will not only be preserved, but used to attract visitors and create a series of ripple effects on the region,” Nara Mayor Gen Nakagawa said.
The plans are part of a project to redevelop an area encompassing the former prison and nearby Konoike Sports Park into a tourist hub as part of an overall agreement between the Ministry of Justice, Nara Prefecture and the city of Nara.
Nakagawa said the collaboration of cultural and sports facilities will help entice tourists to stay longer in Nara.
The sports park will include a skate park dedicated to skateboarding, as the sport caught the public’s attention during the Tokyo Olympics last year. It will also be equipped with a running course.
The project will require around 520 million yen ($4 million). Up to half of the total amount will be covered by Hoshino Resorts and another company through the corporate version of the hometown donation system “furusato nozei”.