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.