“The Nara-ya was first built about the time of the fifth Tokugawa shogun, Tsunayoshi (1646-1709). It started life as a honjin – an inn designated for the daimyo nobility traveling on the Old Tokaido Highway. In 1873, the Meiji emperor (1852-1912) stayed there while his villa was under repair, and members of the imperial household used it frequently in 1896.
“The original Nara-ya was burned down in 1876, and again in 1885. It once had a Western-style hall so unusual that it was recorded in a book called The Most Famous Places of Japan, but the hall too fell prey to fire in 1889.
“Although most of the buildings at Nara-ya now date back only to the turn of the century, they have many spectacular architectural features. Intricately carved gables in the bathroom of the honkan have a playfulness of design that you cannot find in modern architecture.”
– Classic Japanese Inns & Country Getaways, by Margaret Price, 1999