Toshiyuki Yanno and Alphaville architects
March 01, 2015

Leave the jumbo Tumi roller at home if you’re planning to stay at Japan’s Koyasan Kokuu Guesthouse—the sleek, micro rooms are inspired by the country’s ubiquitous small capsule hotels.

Kyoto-based design firm Alphaville crafted this garage-like crashpad an hour south of Osaka near the Kii Mountain’s sacred Koyasan temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inside, the white-wood hangout space is a nod to Japanese minimalism: streamlined furniture, polished concrete floors, and a breakfast bar with a wood-burning stove, an interpretation of an irori (traditional sunken hearth). The in-module amenities? A twin bed and one wall hook for a T-shirt. Or possibly a scarf.

But the charm of this place comes from its far-flung location on the edge of an ancient cedar forest, along with the friendly husband-and-wife owners. Ryochi Takai is the son of a local Shingon Buddhist monk and moonlights as DJ Two Seven Clash in Osaka, and his partner Yuri is the talented cook behind the daily made-from-scratch breads and authentic curries. The couple arranges calligraphy meditation classes, on-site acupuncture and shiatsu massages, tours to 1,200-year-old pagodas, and social hours fueled by Ryochi’s playlists.

The rate—starting at $30 a night—may just be the world’s most affordable, too.

Nate Storey is an editorial assistant at Travel + Leisure.

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