Japan’s quirky, quake-resistant dome houses prove a big tourist draw

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Quake-resistant dome houses are pictured at the Aso Farm Land resort in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan. Pictures taken on Sept. 15. -- REUTERS

ASO, JAPAN — 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 it 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,” Ms. Konishi told Reuters. “Not a single pane of glass broke.”

Wind and earthquakes do not easily damage the dome houses because they have no beams that can be broken, Ms. Konishi said.

Japan Dome House, the company that makes the polystrene pieces used in the structures, says that after the 2016 earthquakes, sales spiked two to three-fold.

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A staff arranges a bed at one of the dome houses decorated with Japan’s popular “Kumamon” bear character. Pictures taken on Sept. 15. — REUTERS

The head of Aso Farm Land resort, Katsuyuki Kitagawa, designed the dome-shaped cabins after being inspired by his work in the Japanese sweets industry, Ms. 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 confection.

The colorful result has proven alluring for tourists looking for a quirky family holiday, especially the domes adorned inside and out with images of Japan’s popular “Kumamon” bear character, 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,” Ms. Phang said, as one of her daughters bounced happily on a bed in front of an image of a red-cheeked bear. — Reuters