The hotel one man dug out of solid rock #1 exterior

Mike GristCatacombs / Caves, Haikyo, Hotels / Resorts, Saitama 9 Comments

The Gan Kutsu Cliff Face Hotel in Saitama is the relic of a dream, one man’s vision to carve out a massive hotel in the sheer rock face, working alone with only a chisel for 21 years until the day he died in 1925. He finished several rooms, a grand staircase, the two main entrances, and several windows including a balcony; the work was completed after his death, with a false facade slapped in white brick over the entrance to make it more appealing. It was closed after about 60 years due to cave-ins, the false facade stripped away, and all ways in and out strapped with iron bars.

Main entrance, balcony, carved into solid rock by one man.

Takahashi Minekichi was a strawberry farmer with a vision, born in 1858, he began work on the Gan Kutsu Hotel when he turned 46. He worked on it alone until he died at 67, never seeing it host a guest or hold a function.

I don’t doubt that it was rewarding though. By his own hand he carved something immortal into the solid rock- even if people can’t stay there anymore the marks he made will outlive us all. We can see his accreted effort in the spaces he left, and we can imagine the grand scale of his vision, we can imagine the pride he must have felt when he hollowed out the balcony and hit air from the inside out.

I went to this haikyo with Su Young. We crested the rise of the river-bank and I pointed the hotel out to her, and she said- ‘is that it?’

It is unimpressive from the outside, until you engage your imagination. From the outside we see several fenced off cave-mouths, windows, rusted swing-sets and climbing frames. But it’s not what’s on the outside that we should be thinking about.

For a time we stood in front, behind the fence, wondering if there was any way in. Perhaps we could hook a rope to the balcony, and climb up? Perhaps the wooden blocks on one of the doors was not securely anchored?

But it was the middle of the day, next to a busy road with some passing foot traffic, and we didn’t even climb over the fence. I wish we had now, if just to take photos with flash through the bars. It wouldn’t really count as exploring, but I could at least have seen something of the inside. But that didn’t cross my mind, it was all in or nothing- and I could see no safe way in.

Heavily blockaded.



Wooden door blocks- perhaps they’d open.


Over the gate, under the wire.

We were disappointed by that for sure, but upon coming home I managed to salvage a few images from the net. This is all there is out there:


Image from here, taken in 1997, what I presume is the main staircase. I’ll guess this was taken through the bars.



Image from here, taken in 1934. The hotel with the facade up, from a postcard.

Happily we didn’t have to end our explorations at that point though- next door to the derelict hotel stood a functioning shrine, also with sections carved into the rock. It wasn’t haikyo, but it was a fun exploration.



Carvings on the shrine beams.








Heart-shaped hole carved through the rock.

After that we were done, but not really as just across the road lay another cliff-face strewn with many holes cut into the rock, waiting to be explored. Next time 😉


Location – Saitama.

Entry – Gazing longingly from outside.

Highlights – Finding 2 photos on the net.


You can see all MJG’s Ruins / Haikyo explorations here:

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Comments 9

  1. That’s amazing! I never knew such a thing existed. What a shame. It’s quite creepy looking on the postcard though, not sure if i would want to stay there.

  2. Hi MJG

    I’ve been following your blog now for a few months, first time to comment. Yours is one of the most interesting blogs on Japan I’ve found – always fun and often enlightening to read your posts about structures, people etc., but even more so those of your haikyo explorations. Actually I only learned through your blog that such a thing as haikyo exists.

    This cave hotel reminds me very much of a place I stayed in Tunesia about 10 years ago. They had dug a couple of 2 stories deep holes into the ground and then excavated the walls. We would then sleep on stone platforms within those arc-shaped caves, and the “lobby areas” were open to the sky above and connected to each other with tunnels. Must be one of the most fascinating hotels in the world. Some people in the area still have their homes like this.
    Actually, a lot of the Tattooine scenes from Star Wars were shot there.

    They really should reopen this hotel in Saitama – with such a fascinating setting and background, I guess there should be a sufficient market – especially if they attach an onsen to it, inside the caves 🙂

  3. Post

    Kelly- No doubt it might be a bit creepy- but that’s all part of the appeal. I don’t imagine he dug any rooms so deep though, probably they all have ‘windows’.

    Tornadoes- I’m sure it was furnished, and would have a window/balcony, so not so bad really, right?

    Jonas- Hi, and thanks for your great comment, that’s cool you like the site. Haikyo is definitely the backbone, and easily draws the most pageviews. The Tunisia Hotel is an eye-opener- of course I’d seen that place in Star Wars but had no idea it was a real place- thanks for the link. I love stuff like this; caves, tree-houses, man-made islands, snow-holes- kind of secret places, unexpected, carved into nature. Maybe dank, but they make up for it with being awesome. As for re-opening the place, it would be great, but I imagine untenable by modern building codes and standards. The charm of it is that its ‘natural’, but to ensure it was stable they’d have to do all kinds of stabilizing work so much it would just be a building with rock-filler stuck onto the side of the cliff. Ah well…

    Miki- Definitely. However I saw another photo in a book I can’t find again in which it looked really grand.

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  5. Dude, theres an entire city like this in Australia. Well, half of it is above ground and not very interesting, but its the half you don’t see thats amazing. The citizens are mostly descendants from Greek migrants so there are crazy Orthodox churches carved out of solid rock. Its surrounded by roughly 31 flavours of gratuitous danger and has merely one (very major) road connect to it.

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