For fans of architecture and design, the charming town of Yusuhara is a must-visit destination. This mountain settlement may be tiny with a population of approximately 3,200 people (as of June 2023), but it boasts several distinct buildings designed by world-renowned Japanese architect, Kengo Kuma
But you might wonder…of all the towns and cities in Japan, why did Kengo Kuma (who isn’t a Kochi native) choose Yusuhara to house so many of his works? Well, the answer comes down to one single building in Yusuhara, which was originally built in 1948
The Yusuhara-za theater incorporates many architectural elements from the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926), blending Japanese and western styles to produce an elegant yet cozy space. Despite being a beloved community entertainment center however, a highway expansion program risked its destruction back in the 1980s. In order to preserve the building and gather necessary funding, a Yusuhara community group began reaching out to architects across the country. One of them was of course the up-and-coming architect at the time, Kengo Kuma
There’s no doubt the majestic use of local cedar wood at the Yusuhara-za theater deeply impacted Kengo Kuma’s signature style today, which similarly revolves around natural materials. Indeed, after his visit, Kengo Kuma became determined to support local revitalization projects, which eventually led to the construction of his original works including the Kumo-no-Ue-no Library, Yusuhara Town Office, and more
Thanks to the hard work of Kengo Kuma and the local community, the Yusuhara-za theater stands proud today. It is open to the public free of charge, so definitely check it out during your architectural tour of Yusuhara
Just outside the town center, you’ll find the adorable Coffee stand CANS Hutte, which offers delicious hand drip coffee, homemade muffins, ice cream, and more!