Produced by Alex Kerr

Interview with Alex Kerr

The Yamaura as a Rural Retreat

The Yamaura is a “hidden” treasure, a rural region that miraculously withstood modernization and preserved its traditional landscape. It is a mountainous area where you can still find century-old farmhouses and pastoral sceneries untouched by urbanization. While the hamlet containing the Kiyomizu farmhouse is the most well preserved, the entire area is a stronghold of classic Japan. In the past, villages like this must have been quite a common sight in Nagano Prefecture, but today you could hardly find any even if you were to look all over Japan.

Yamaura Stay is an experience that goes beyond the farmhouses alone and encompasses the whole Yamaura area. You are not simply staying in an old house, you are staying in an old village. Alex Kerr envisioned Yamaura Stay as a “Rural Retreat,” a peaceful sanctuary to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and to forget the busy schedule of modern life. Traveling to a rural village up in the mountains, strolling among the fields, relaxing inside your farmhouse and using your time freely, that is what the Rural Retreat is about.

To truly achieve this, though, you need a comfortable place. Here is where Alex Kerr's well-known concept of “old-world aesthetics and present-day comfort” comes in. His restoration style leaves intact all the original charm of antique beams and walls while creating a neat and cozy space equipped with every comfort.

A lovely rural region that can be counted among Japan's best assets and small unassuming villages hidden away in the mountains that offer an invaluable retreat experience: this is Yamaura Stay.


Japanologist and East Asia researcher.
Born in 1952 in Maryland, in the United States, Kerr first came to Japan in 1964 when his father, a naval officer, was posted in Yokohama. He obtained a bachelor's degree in Japanese studies at Yale and a bachelor's and a master's degree in Chinese studies at Oxford. In 1977, he moved back to Japan full-time and settled down in Kameoka on the outskirts of Kyoto. Around that time, he bought an abandoned 300-year-old house in Iya Valley, a remote mountainous area of the Tokushima prefecture on the island of Shikoku, which he restored to new life. That was the start of the Chiiori project, which resulted in the foundation of the Chiiori Alliance & Trust in 2005. He has also written some bestselling books, such as "Dogs and Demons" and "Lost Japan".


Other stays produced by Alex Kerr

Ojika Island Tourism

Situated on a small island with a population of about 2600 people in the Goto Archipelago, the westernmost part of Kyushu, Ojika-jima gives visitors the chance to experience life on the island like a local. Among other things, you can stay in traditional houses 100 years or older, which have been renovated into comfortable accommodations.


Chiiori is a 300-year-old farmhouse in the Iya Valley, a remote area on the island of Shikoku. The house, which was bought and brought to new life by Alex Kerr in 1973, is now registered as tangible cultural property and is considered the starting point of the farmhouse renovation project in Iya.

Tougenkyou Iya

Tougenkyou-Iya is in the Iya Valley, a secluded region of Tokushima Prefecture on the Shikoku Island. Here, in a small hamlet that extends vertically over 390m of steep mountainside, you can spend the night in renovated thatched-roof farmhouses.


Utazu is a city in Kagawa Prefecture that faces the Setouchi inland sea. Founded as a port town over 1,500 years ago in the Edo period, Utazu thrived thanks to its salt production. In the historic district called komachi are two restored lodgings, one is a Japanese-style machi-ya and the other is a Western-style antique house.

Hanare Ninoumi

A traditional residence in the Castletown of Kameoka, an outer district of Kyoto, Ninoumi has been reborn as a three-apartment lodging. Here, you can experience the culture and history of a local machi-ya and the historical castle town landscape. Guests can join walking tours led by local guides and other activities to discover more about life in Kameoka.

Tsumesyo Mikuni

Mikuni is an old port town in Fukui Prefecture that thrived with maritime commerce. Even now, you can admire the town’s traditional landscape lined with old townhouses. Tsumesyo Mikuni features two apartments in a restored century-old house that once was the town's pharmacy.