HOUSE OF LIGHT - Tokamachi, Niigata, Japan

HOUSE OF LIGHT - Tokamachi, Niigata, Japan


James Turrell

2,260 square feet
3 bedrooms
12 beds (12 tatami mats)
1 bathroom
¥4,000/night/person (+ ¥20,000 shared facility fee)
1 night minimum stay

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"This experimental work, where you can experience the artist's world, is architecture without a parallel anywhere in the world.  House of Light was conceived as a guesthouse for meditation, where James Turrell took the concept from Junichiro Tanizaki's essay 'In Praise of Shadows'.  The artist's idea was to incorporate his media and lights with the traditional usage of light in Japanese houses.

Turrell's purpose was for three families to share the accommodation for a night and exchange their thoughts. If the number of guests in your party is small, you may be asked to share the accommodation with other groups. One room per group will be provided, but there are no keys to individual rooms, and you are requested to share the kitchen, bathroom and the 12-mat common room ("Outside-in") with other groups. In this case, the facility charge will be divided by the number of people staying.”

“When I first met Fram Kitagawa, he asked me to make a "meditation house" for the Echigo-Tsumari region. He gave me a book written by Junichiro Tanizaki 'In Praise of Shadows.' The condition he gave me was that the house must be raised over 2.7 meters above the ground because of snow covering in winter. After reading 'In Praise of Shadows', I decided to create a house in the traditional architectural manner of this region. I wished to realize the 'world of shadows we are losing', as Tanizaki wrote, as a space where one can experience living in light, by relating light inside to light outside.

Light outside is light in sky. I devised to have the roof slide so that one could look up at the sky through the opened ceiling. As Tanizaki describes that 'In making for ourselves a place to live, we first spread a parasol to throw a shadow on the earth, and in the pale light of the shadow we put together a house...If the roof of a Japanese house is a parasol, the roof of a Western house is no more than a cap', my designed house should have a roof as a parasol. A parasol to cover as well as a parasol to open. The sky light has different aspects at daytime and night.

Light inside is light in water. I furnished the bathroom with fiber optic so that one could look down to the light in the water of the bath.  On the top of the house, one can look out over the Shinano River, while on the first floor one can look into trees.  In the interior space, one can experience a soft transforming light. 

I attempted to create the 'beauty of shadows' by using familiar Japanese idioms such as shojii (paper sliding door) and tokonoma (alcove).  The blue of sky, the gold of walls, the red of an alcove, the green of the bath and the black tone over the entire space will bring about subtle contrast.

This is an approach to Japanese culture from mine as a Westerner.  For me as an artist who has sought for the 'perception of light', the House of Light was an attempt to contrast as well as to incorporate day and night, the Eastern and the Western, tradition and modern.” James Turrell



Size: 2,260 s.f.
Maximum Guests: 12
Bedrooms: 3
Beds: 12 (12 tatami mats)
Bathrooms: 1

Minimum Stay: 1 night
Daily Price: ¥4,000/person

Facilities Charge: ¥20,000/night (shared by all guests)
Check In: 4:00 p.m.
Check Out: 10:00 a.m.



Air Conditioning
Catering (breakfast + dinner)


Wireless internet (first floor only)


Smoke Detector
Fire Extinguisher


All Year

Visiting Artworks
Hot Springs


Mountain Biking


Autumn Color Change
Snow Activities
Annual Snow Festival


The House of Light was designed by James Turrell as one of 200 artworks created on the occasion of Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, an event spread across a 290 square mile area and conceived to revitalize a growingly depopulated rural region.  James Turrell has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1974), The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1984), Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (1991), Freidrich Prize (1992), Wolf Foundation Wolf Prize (1998) and the National Medal of the Arts (2013).


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