© Fumihiko Sano Studio / Photography: Tomohide Tani

Situated in the north of Kyushu island, about an hour’s drive from Fukuoka, mountainous Oita Prefecture is an ideal destination for rugged adventure. Unsurprisingly, it’s right here where the largest number of tunnels in Japan can be found, and the three-kilometre Kakuma Tunnel, offering a shortcut when heading from Hita to Beppu, is the very latest to be constructed. Because construction began a while ago and the road passing through it had yet to be connected to the regional road network, the nearby town of Nakatsu decided to create Yabakei Tunnel Hotel, an ephemeral hospitality concept that makes use of the tunnel and part of a newly built bridge on the east side of the tunnel. It took no less than 15 years to built, so there was reason enough to throw a party, but similar to most regions in Japan, this part of the aforementioned prefecture had been badly affected by the pandemic and officials also launched this project in an attempt to cheer up the local community.

So, the east entrance of Kakuma Tunnel featured reusable cedar wood structures enveloped in sturdy plastic sheets which accommodated a large pavilion serving as a communal dining space and relevant facilities, all created by Tokyo-based architecture practice Fumiko Sano Studio, while 14 full-fledged Toyota camper vans are parked outside on the bridge for the sleepover. Needless to say, Yabakei Tunnel Hotel‘s the pavilion, furnished with an elongated communal table, custom-made from old local trees, benches and lush potted plants, formed the venue’s lively social hub. A maximum of 35 guests were able to stay per night, and they were served a menu by gourmet caterer USAMI, using local ingredients. After dinner, a bartender would serve cocktails from a separate booth near the entrance and DJs played sets, allowing guests to party and gaze at the stars at the same time. The night after, an organic breakfast would be served, brimming with regional delicacies.

Yabakei Tunnel Hotel
1770-6 Hiyamaji, Yabakei-cho
871-0434 Nakatsu

© Fumihiko Sano Studio / Photography: Tomohide Tani and Fumihiko Sano