ASO, KUMAMOTO PREF. – Nestled near a volcano in southern Japan, 450 quake-resistant domed houses put up by a health resort and decorated with flowers and dinosaurs are drawing visitors from across Asia.
A dozen polystyrene foam pieces, each so light that two adults can pick them up, are glued together to make the houses.
Despite the light materials, the domes withstood last year’s deadly earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture, where Aso is located, said Masaya Konishi, manager of the Aso Farm Land resort.
“These dome rooms were completely unharmed,” Konishi said. “Not a single pane of glass broke.”
Wind and earthquakes do not easily damage the dome houses because they have no beams that can be broken, Konishi said.
Japan Dome House, the company that makes the polystyrene pieces used in the structures, says that after the 2016 earthquakes, sales spiked between twofold and threefold.
The head of Aso Farm Land resort, Katsuyuki Kitagawa, designed the dome-shaped cabins after being inspired by his work in the sweets industry, Konishi said.
One day Kitagawa thought it would be interesting to put people inside manju — traditional sweets that are round and filled with red bean paste — and decided to make rooms shaped like the confection.
The colorful result has proven alluring for tourists looking for a quirky family holiday, especially the domes adorned inside and out with images of the popular Kumamon bear character, the mascot of the region.
“We were looking for something very Japan and different that would just be fun,” said Singaporean tourist Tsalina Phang, who was staying in a dome house with her family.
“This, with all the decorations of Kumamon, just sounded perfect for us,” Phang said, as one of her daughters bounced happily on a bed in front of an image of the red-cheeked bear.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.