Japan’s quirky, quake-resistant dome homes prove popular
Nestled near a volcano in southern Japan, 450 quake-resistant dome houses put up by a health resort and decorated with flowers and dinosaurs are drawing visitors from across Asia.
A dozen polystyrene foam pieces, each so light that two adults can pick them up, are glued together to make the houses.
Despite the light materials, the domes withstood last year’s deadly earthquakes in Kumamoto prefecture, where Aso is located, said Masaya Konishi, manager of the Aso Farm Land resort.
“These dome rooms were completely unharmed,” Konishi said. “Not a single pane of glass broke.”
The dome houses can withstand wind and earthquakes because they have no beams that can be broken, Konishi said.
Japan Dome House, the company that makes the polystyrene pieces used in the structures, said after the 2016 earthquakes, sales increased up to three-fold.
The head of Aso Farm Land resort, Katsuyuki Kitagawa, designed the dome-shaped cabins after being inspired by his work in the Japanese confectionery industry, Konishi said.
One day, Kitagawa thought it would be interesting to put people inside “manju” – traditional Japanese sweets that are round and filled with red bean paste – and decided to make rooms shaped like the sweet.
The colourful result has proven popular with tourists looking for a quirky family holiday, especially the domes adorned inside and out with images of Japan’s popular “Kumamon” bear character, the mascot of the Kumamoto region.
“We were looking for something very Japan and different that would just be fun,” said Singaporean tourist Tsalina Phang, who was staying in a dome house with her two daughters and husband.
“This, with all the decorations of Kumamon, just sounded perfect for us”, Phang said.