With the ongoing pandemic and the lethargy gathered from the lockdown, most writers are struggling to find the motivation to work. If you too have been under that pressure, we suggest you check out this novel retreat in Japan.
A Tokyo inn has fully embraced the 'writer' part of a writer’s retreat and is providing a one-night programme that puts guests through the extreme treadmill of being a writer. Instead of lakeside views or green teas, the Homeikan inn’s programme, called the Bungo Kanzume Plan (which roughly translates to 'Literary Retreat Plan') gives guests an office space setting, complete with the staff including an ‘editor’ who will constantly check on you and pester you to complete your work and meet the ‘deadline’. The inn’s staff welcomes the guest by introducing themselves as the 'editing department'.
Sounds motivating enough?
Head to Homeikan Morikawa Annex in Tokyo and enjoy the life of a ‘literary master’ while staying in an old Japanese building.
Homeikan is actually a registered Tangible Cultural Property built over 100 years ago. The inn, which was originally a lodging house, consists of three separate buildings including the main building and two annexes in Tokyo’s Hongo Sanchome neighbourhood.
One of them, the Morikawa Annex, is as old-school as it gets and this is where the Kanzume plan is hosted. The annex is a five-minute walk from Todai-Mae Metro Station for whoever is heading from the city centre. It is around the corner from the illustrious University of Tokyo. The setting has a certain vibe to it, backgrounded in the huge number of authors and journalists who have actually stayed here in the years gone by.
The original programme is designed to emulate the life of a writer (or in Japanese terms, ‘literary master’) who in olden days would resort to isolating themselves from society, avoiding chaos and finding inspiration in such calm set-ups in order to finish their manuscripts. The inn has replicated some of these practices and added some of their own.
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Once the guest (or writer) takes off their shoes and dons the comfortable pair of slippers, the staff leads them to a spacious, well-lit room, where the writer’s name will be displayed with the respective symbol of ‘sensei’ added to it.
The whole annex is filled with such big rooms where tatami mats are laid and private workstations have been pre-set for guests. Once, the guest/writer enters the historic-looking room and settles down on the Japanese-style writing tables, the staff lets them choose from the various options of service available. One such optional service being the ‘deadline’, in which case the editing team will encourage or gently pester the writer to meet a deadline. The staff, upon request, will even lock a guest’s phone in a safe. Or stand outside the inn, checking upon the writer and holding up signs that say “How’s it going?”
Even Wi-Fi is provided on request, in case someone wants to search for information online, but not for anything else. If the writer slides off to scroll through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, the room’s 19th century-styled rotary phone starts to ring. It’s the 'editor' calling to scold you for lagging at work.
Writers who thrive under pressure have other more imaginative options, such as having actors pose as debt collectors. Or, in a played-out scenario, having the guest’s 'lover' and 'spouse' (separate people) happen to meet at the worst possible time and strike off an argument.
If all this sounds like too much, remember they have lots of good stuff too. The baths here have themes, from Roman to Beach, you get bags of candy, energy drinks, and nuts to snack on. These are served any time on request.
The whole experience with the one night’s stay, personal editorial team, watch guard, breakfast, and dinner sum up to a total of around 16,000 yen (US$150), with extra charges applicable to each service the guest picks.