Most decent hotels work hard to ensure guests never need to leave during their stay. With a plush bed, good food and drink, available spa massages, and maybe even a little live entertainment all within a minutes’ walk, why would they want to? However, with so much luxury and convenience on tap, it’s easy to get complacent and forget that there’s often an entire city (or beach or countryside) outside waiting to be explored. Guests at Japan’s first and only “dispersed hotel” have no choice but to leave their building — it’s designed that way.
One of Kyoto’s newest hotels, ENSO ANGO, consists of five separate buildings spread throughout the city that together function as a single hotel. Each building is uniquely adorned with decor that blends Swiss and traditional Japanese design. Local artists carefully designed every aspect from the staff uniforms to the wallpaper to the furnishings to the tsuboniwa (traditional interior gardens found in many Kyoto homes).
The hotel’s common amenities — including the restaurant, tearoom, gallery, yoga studio, bar, gym, and more — are all scattered throughout the collection of buildings. Depending on where guests want to go, moving “within” the hotel requires a leisurely five- to 10-minute walk. The idea is to encourage travelers not to get so comfortable in their rooms that they forget to explore Kyoto altogether.
The property is centrally located between two of the city’s main roads, but “out of the static loop of large hotels and staged photo opportunities.” It’s an intentional move to allow guests to experience the authentic Kyoto. The luxury hotel offers a host of traditional Japanese activities like yoga classes, talks by local artists, obanzai (home-style) culinary classes, guided zen meditation with Buddhist priests from the nearby Ryōsokuin temple, and jogging tours that pass ancient Shinto shrines and the Kamogawa River.
The idea of dispersed hotels is nothing new. During the last century, the so-called albergo diffuso concept was popularized in Italy as a way to save small rural towns suffering from severe depopulation. A similar project is currently underway in Switzerland’s smallest municipality, Corippo, to rebrand the town’s dozens of buildings as a single “scattered hotel.”
Guest quarters and in-room amenities at ENSO ANGO vary widely between buildings, but most rates start around $115 per night.