By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterNUMAZU, Shizuoka — Spherical tents at Ashitaka Sports Park in the hills of Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, are so popular that they’re fully booked for almost all weekends through the end of August.
The tents are part of a lodging facility called Inn the Park, which opened last autumn on the refurbished grounds of a former municipal youth outdoor learning center.
The learning center held camp schools and other activities for more than 40 years. Two years ago, an architectural firm proposed the development of a new aesthetically pleasing facility that would contrast with the surrounding environment.
The tents are about 3.5 meters in diameter and made of tarpaulin, a type of fabric that is water and wind resistant. Every tent has two beds and lighting. Toilets, washrooms and showers are located in a separate building a short distance away.
The tents have a transparent plastic window, through which guests can take in gorgeous views of the sky and woods from their beds.
A total of four tents are currently available. Three are fixed to the ground while the fourth is suspended amid trees. Two additional tents are expected to be operational by the end of May.
Shota Okazaki, 25, from Nagoya, booked a tent in early February. “I finally get to stay here,” he exclaimed. “I could hear birds tweeting and the wind humming from all around, like I was floating in the woods.”
Along with the tents, the facility includes guesthouses that were renovated from lodges, an outdoor restaurant that was previously a kitchen and a salon that was originally a canteen.
The inn also offers various services, such as wedding ceremonies at the salon and night tours in the nearby woods.
The learning center opened in 1973. At its peak in the 1980s, the facility attracted about 40,000 guests a year, but the number plunged to about 10,000 in recent years, according to the city government.
The decline in use prompted the city to close the center as part of administrative reform, before soliciting bids from private companies to refurbish and revitalize the park.
Operated by the city government, the approximately 400,000-square-meter park includes woods, a stream and tennis courts. It is bordered by another large park called Ashitaka Park, which sprawls across roughly 200,000 square meters of hilly terrain and picturesque scenery. A baseball stadium and multipurpose athletic field can also be found at Ashitaka Park.
Inn the Park is run by a subsidiary of the architectural firm that handles information on underutilized public real estate. The architectural firm established the subsidiary solely for the operation of the inn.
“We’re considering future plans such as opening a cafe on the lawn and a bar near the stream,” said Wataru Yamaga, 24, a staff member in charge of the operation. “I want to create a pleasant place not just for guests at the facility, but also for visitors to the parks, by gradually expanding the facility.”