Climb a ladder to access a bedroom just large enough to fit a full-sized mattress at the Koyosan Guesthouse, built by Kyoto studio Alphaville Architects to house those visiting a nearby Shington Buddhist temple. Fittingly spare and monk-like, the guest house features an all-white interior with cathedral ceilings and skylights that pull natural light into the open common areas.

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Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house stacked
Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house pods

The design takes inspiration from capsule hotels, offering guests the bare minimum of private space to sleep. The rooms are stacked two-high with pale wood doors; larger bedrooms with bunk beds are also available. Lounging and dining areas create a dormitory-style environment when guests want to socialize.

Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house inside
Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house bunk

With its clerestory windows and wooden construction, the design pays tribute to both traditional and contemporary Japanese architecture. The open framework consisting of rows of two-by-four wooden beams ensures that the contents of the building can easily be changed out in the future, making the shell of the building adaptable.

Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house exterior hall
Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house
Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house common space

Koyasan is a temple of the Shingon Buddhism sect founded 1,200 years ago, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s located in the town of Koya, in the mountains to the south of Osaka.

More from the architects

“Each single room directly faces a hall so that you can chose proper distance with other guests ensuring the privacy. Selecting of thin wooden structure, resulting that the burden load per one pillar is relatively light, visibility of environmental facilities for easier maintenance and the simple composition of the space allow not only owner of this guest house but also guests to maintain, modify and keep on using this architecture for the long time.”

Capsule rooms Koyasan temple guest house exterior

“We made two different scale spaces, one is a lounge for 20 people and the other is single room of a mattress size, by setting simple wooden continuing structural frame. The architecture is consist only of 2×4 inch wooden structure set at the interval of 455mm wrapped by the exterior wall with insulation outside. We did not make the hierarchy among structure, finish or furniture, same as the old Japanese traditional architecture.”