Fire - Damaged Iwate Inn 'haunted' By Good - Luck Deity Solicits Funds To Reopen

Fire-damaged Iwate inn 'haunted' by good-luck deity solicits funds to reopenAn inn that was gutted by fire five years ago, but was once popular because of the widespread belief it was inhabited by a guardian spirit that brought good fortune, is trying to regain its former glory.

The operators of Ryokufuso, which opened in 1950 and was built from a 300-year-old refurbished house, are seeking investors to help rebuild the historic inn after failing to raise all of the estimated 300 million yen ($2.74 million) needed to reopen on their own. They are now trying to solicit the remaining 52 million yen from individual investors by setting up a fund.

“We are asking for your cooperation to preserve ‘zashiki warashi,’ ” said Sho Itsukaichi, Ryokufuso’s president, who operates the inn that is part of the Kintaichi Onsen hot spring resort in northern Iwate Prefecture. The inn’s zashiki warashi (children in a tatami room) is a household guardian deity that is similar in appearance to a child.

The fund is operated by Music Securities Inc., headed by President Masami Komatsu. Ryokufuso and Music Securities linked up after the Bank of Iwate, the hotel’s business partner, introduced them in May.

Buying into the fund can be done from as low as 30,000 yen. The money raised will be used to install such things as air-conditioning units and lighting.

The inn originally wanted to construct facilities of the same size as those that were destroyed. But the 600-million-yen price tag was too high, so the operators decided on a design that included just 10 rooms compared to the previous 18.

If all goes as planned, the inn will resume operations next fall, officials said.

Ryokufuso derived its fame from the belief that anyone who saw its zashiki warashi would be blessed with good luck.

The inn featured the Kamemarojinja shrine that honors the zashiki warashi, and which survived the 2009 blaze. Also destroyed in the fire was the Enju no Ma guest room where most sightings of the child-like deity were reported.

Ryokufuso was so popular that it was always fully booked three years in advance.

Because Kamemarojinja shrine survived without damage, former guests and tourists still frequented the facility. Encouraged by requests from the visitors to reopen, the operators of Ryokufuso decided to rebuild.

According to Music Securities officials, the fund operator decided to divide the investment into smaller units because it believes doing so will bring in more guests.

Investors in the fund will receive discount lodging tickets and items featuring zashiki warashi. If sales go better than planned, investors could also receive dividends.