The Former Nara Prison
Photo: The Former Nara Prison

Japan’s oldest prison soon to be turned into a luxury hotel

Renovation for the former Nara Prison is set to begin this autumn

Emma Steen
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Emma Steen
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While prison sounds like the antithesis of luxury accommodation, a former correctional facility in Nara is anticipated to become one of the hottest hotels in Japan come 2024. Built in 1908, Nara Prison is considered to be one of the finest examples of modern architecture for its time. Designed by Keijiro Yamashita, the facility was known as one of the ‘Meiji Five Great Prisons’ and is the only one of its kind that remains fully intact. After over a century, however, the historical prison is no longer fit to serve its original purpose.

The Former Nara Prison
Photo: The Former Nara Prison

Instead, the former Nara Prison has been put in the hands of luxury ryokan operator Hoshino Resorts. It’s slated to be transformed into an upscale hotel for people to come and go as they please. The site, which is just a stone’s throw from Todaiji Temple and has a neighbouring recreational facility, is anticipated to revitalise tourism in Nara, which is best known by tourists for its bowing deers. 

The Former Nara Prison
Photo: The Former Nara Prison

Though the most impressive asset – the red brick Romanesque facade – will be preserved, the building’s interior will require extensive renovations to feel inviting to travellers. The new hotel will feature a total of 48 guest rooms, with each comprising roughly nine solitary confinement cells. Meanwhile, the guard quarters will be turned into guest lounges and communal spaces. 

The Former Nara Prison
Photo: The Former Nara Prison

One of the buildings on site, however, will be used as a museum – it will largely remain untouched so that guests can get a feel of what the original buildings used to look like. Construction work to make the facility more resistant to earthquakes is also underway, as the structural integrity of the historical buildings was one of the main reasons the prison was closed in 2017. 

The Former Nara Prison
Photo: The Former Nara Prison

Renovations for the hotel interior will begin sometime this autumn and are expected to be completed in the summer of 2024. Until then, you can explore this fascinating landmark through a virtual tour feature on the former Nara Prison’s website 

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