Meiji Era juvenile prison in Nara to be converted to hotel

JIJI

A former juvenile prison in the city of Nara that has been designated an important cultural asset will be converted into a hotel, the Justice Ministry says.

The move, announced Friday, is part of the government’s strategy of using public facilities for tourism as it works to reach a goal of 40 million visitors a year by 2020.

The Nara Juvenile Prison, which closed in March, was built in 1908, late in the Meiji Era, and is rated highly as a tourist attraction because of its antique red brick construction.

The government forecasts high demand for the “prison hotel,” given the relative lack of accommodations in Nara.

Cells at the facility will be renovated into guest rooms, while a building that was used as a hospital will be converted to a low-cost lodging house. A museum displaying items relevant to the history of criminal justice in Japan will also be set up, along with shops selling local specialties.

The government has granted exclusive negotiating rights for the project to a consortium including Tokyo-based Solare Hotels and Resorts, which runs inns nationwide. The hotel is expected to open in 2020 once the buildings are reinforced for earthquakes.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday that the project will be a “symbol showing that Japan’s tourism policy is starting to change.”