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House of Light, Tokamachi

A beautiful guest house that is also a work of art

The House of Light is a beautiful guest house on a promontory that overlooks Tokamachi. It is part of the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale and is the work of American artist, James Turrell who is known as an artist of light. The idea behind it is as a place of meditation and it was inspired by a Junichiro Tanizaki essay. The artist has combined his work into the play of light in a traditional Japanese house. It is an amazing place to stay but also worth a look around if you are in the area and have time to take the guided tour.

The rooms in the house are the traditional Japanese style with plenty of wooden beams and tatami floors, though there is definitely a modern feel to it. Much of the lighting is indirect, giving off colored glows and many areas can change colors to give several different effects. If you are there for the day tour you will not get the full effect of this but stay at night and you will enjoy playing with the settings. In the main room is a retractable roof which slides back to reveal a view of the sky. It can only be opened when the weather is fine so rainy or snowy days are out but lying back on the tatami and gazing up at the stars is an amazing feeling. This room is known as "Outside In" and the changing lights inside the room are supposed to emphasize the different lights at dawn and dusk.

There are two tatami rooms upstairs along with a small kitchenette. All around the top floor is a wooden balcony that gives views out to the valley and across to the three famous peaks of Echigo (Niigata). The four seasons provide much of the color with the white of winter and the greens of summer being especially vivid. Apparently many city dwellers are surprised by the silence when they stay here as it is located in a park outside the town. There is also no other artificial lighting around which helps with all the light effects coming in from outside.

Downstairs is another tatami room where the light from outside casts interesting shadows on the walls - another design feature. In the dimmer light downstairs is an strip of light embedded in a wall. It looks as if it is a piece of fluorescent tape hanging in space but is just another cleverly designed artwork. The handles of the sliding cupboard doors are traditional hair clips which is another really interesting touch.

The other room downstairs is the bath. It is called "Light Bath" and is lit with fiber optic light cables so when you climb in your body seems to glow with light which is a really cool effect. The light in the rippling water and the steam make for an other worldly experience.

There are more artworks in the park below the house so there is plenty to explore during your stay. It is not often you get to stay inside a work of art, and you can guarantee that this will be one of the most memorable places you will stay.

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Jerome Lee 8 years ago
Oh wow, this looks incredible. I've read one of Junichiro Tanizaki's essays and visited James Turrell's works in Naoshima and was impressed by both, so this would be a real treat! Thanks for the great find Rufus!
Rufus Starbuck Author 8 years ago
Naoshima is high on my list of places to visit.
Victoria Vlisides 8 years ago
Always looking for good accommodations! Thanks!
Rufus Starbuck Author 8 years ago
It's a stunning place to stay. There are a few places that are part of the Echigo Tsumari art projects that also offer accommodation - http://www.echigo-tsumari.jp/eng/facility/stay/

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