In the years between 2009 and 2010, we decided to part with the aging original Kumonodaira Mountain Hut and construct a beautiful new hut using traditional Japanese woodworking techniques. We wanted to take into consideration how the design and environmental technology would attract the new hut design while at the same time honoring the image of the original hut that was deeply rooted in the memory of the people as part of the mountain scenery. As “the place to create relations between human beings and nature”, we wanted our hut to be the cornerstone for nurturing the unique Japanese alpine culture that abounds in these mountains.
Speaking about architecture of a mountain hut, it seems strangely fitting to conceive an image that the mountain hut is “the ship floating in mountains”. If image of a ship is one where it is tossed about by the angry winds and waves, then the mountain hut has to be buried under snow for half year, and has to withstand rainstorms and wind gusts even in midst of summer while surrounded by several thousand square kilometers of isolated wilderness. Thus, the mountain hut must be equipped with all sorts of lifelines in order to provide its guests rich environmental experience. The building itself must combine resiliency and functionality. If there were the thing called the most important role of the mountain hut, it would be “to continue to exist”. The history of the mountain hut, which first began with the living place for professional huntsmen and a place of emergency shelter for alpinists, has nurtured an alpine culture and lore simply by “bring the building to be existed” under the stringent alpine environment which denies human beings access under ordinary circumstances.
New Kumonodaira Mountain Hut has been built utilizing Japanese traditional construction method and equips with aesthetics to match surrounding scenery, while in the building maintaining robustness and functional, pleasant livability. There is a wide range of innovations to accommodate climate of Kumonodaira which has heavy snowfall, has a large temperature fluctuation, and has high humidity; We have used Japanese timbers such as Hiba (cypress), Kuri (chestnut) and Karamatsu (Japanese larch) as construction materials, and we have employed a raised-floor-style structure for the building to protect it from humidity from the ground.
Japanese traditional construction methods are a sophisticated technology that utilizes property of timbers to their utmost limit and has potential to accommodate a wide range of environmental conditions, The Horyuji Temple has withstood centuries of wind and weather. The Kumonodaira Mountain Hut represents a building that successfully uses traditional craftsmanship. Furthermore, the hut does not put stress on the natural environment and wherever possible employs the solar power, composting toilets, and a rainwater purifying system.
Alpine culture in Japan currently stands at an important crossroads. Until now, mountaineering has reflected the sightseeing boom of the mass-consumption lifestyle accompanied by rapid increase in demand for domestic tourism caused by the population increase in the 20th Century. This popular style of mountaineering was to allow peak bagging by mountaineering groups, and placement of the mountain hut served as mere relay point for their ultimate goal, of reaching the summit, and was not based on the idea of a relaxing stay in mountains.
Today in the 21st Century, while domestic demand is taking a downswing, changes in the style of mountaineering and outdoor activities are gradually becoming more diversified and international demand is increasing. At present, there is a lack of diversity in the services provided by the mountain huts, and to put in perspective, our consumption-led stance is still the driving force as even national parks do not have the system to maintain nature in sustainable way and the deterioration of the trekking trails in various regions presents a serious issue. Our rich Japanese alpine culture must be passed on to future generations.
We Kumonodaira see the mountain hut as “the place to create relations between humans and nature” and we are seeking new direction in which the mountain hut should. Most of all, we do not want to do something intrusive or destructive. More than anything, we are aiming to make the mountain hut a cozy place where guests feel that they can have a relaxing time. We want to be the place where guests in a moment can discover the sense of wonder that they may be act of torch with as they quietly feel the surrounding nature. We also want to help our guests relax through activities such as reading, listening to music, savoring a daytime drink at the terrace or at times experiencing learning and discussions pertinent to nature. There are a variety of ways to encourage relations between humans and nature such as outdoor, adventures, natural science, art, and simple living. It is our hope that we can be a catalyst to instigate a culture that links society and nature in creative ways while developing a wide variety of lively exchanges between visitors regardless of generation or nationality.