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HOME SPECIAL Second Town Journey in ONOMICHI(尾道) A architectural structure floating in the sea | guntû
A architectural structure floating in the sea | guntû

VOL.11 A architectural structure floating in the sea | guntû

It’s the “Guntu,” a cruise ship floating in the Seto Inland Sea. Departing from Onomichi, this vessel garners worldwide attention with its unparalleled concept and exceptional staying value. Let’s explore its standout presence and unravel its allure.

The Seto Inland Sea area is attracting attention for its art, possibly influenced by the Setouchi Triennale. However, it is also known for its many architectural spots, particularly in Onomichi, where we visited this time. There are numerous spots that architecture enthusiasts should not miss. These include the hotel “LOG” designed by Studio Mumbai, the renovated maritime warehouse complex “U2,” properties from the vacant house revitalization project, and more. The highlights are endless, from the utilization of location and history in design to the respect shown to the land and the exquisite framing of beautiful landscapes.

Moreover, what’s truly astonishing is that some of these notable architectures are situated on the sea, which adds to the allure of the Seto Inland Sea.

“Guntû,” the renowned architectural marvel floating on the sea, operates from the Bella Vista Marina in Onomichi and offers luxury cruises around the Seto Inland Sea for 2-3 nights. This 80-meter-long, 3-story vessel features 19 suites, each designed as a suite room. Prices start from ¥475,000, which includes almost all amenities such as meals, activities, and alcoholic beverages, making it almost entirely all-inclusive.

“A Small Inn Floating on the Sea”

The Guntû was created by the Setouchi Cruise, a subsidiary of Tsuneishi Holdings. Renowned architect Yasushi Horibe was responsible for the design and architecture of this small vessel, which blends seamlessly with the beautiful landscapes of the Seto Inland Sea.

Its exterior boasts a refined silver tone, designed to harmonize with the sparkling scenery of the Seto Inland Sea without being overly ostentatious.

Stepping inside the vessel, visitors are greeted by a modern entrance area dominated by white tones.

The anticipation of embarking on a voyage is heightened by the beauty of the white plaster staircase, which also evokes admiration for its intricate details.

As you step into the guest rooms, you’re greeted by a space dominated by “wood.” Featuring a unique design with gable roofs resembling mountains and verandas, it’s an uncommon design for a ship. Yet, it’s a simple and luxurious space adorned with abundant use of wood.

When people think of cruise ships, they often imagine opulent luxury liners with Western-style decorative elements like the Titanic. However, the ship designed by Mr. Horibe is enveloped in the warmth and pleasant aroma of wood, devoid of excessive ornamentation. High-quality wood is abundantly used, reminiscent of a Japanese-style inn rather than a Western-style cruise ship.

The design aims to provide relaxation and comfort by engaging all five senses—sight, touch, sound, and smell. While maximizing the allure of the scenery guests will encounter, the design itself is visually stunning. This is the essence of what makes it a distinguished architectural marvel.

Mr. Horibe carefully considers the significance of architecture for the city in which it resides. His design, solid yet warm, anticipates the guest experience thoroughly, resulting in outstanding craftsmanship.

“To truly appreciate the beauty of the Seto Inland Sea, experiencing it from the sea rather than from the land is crucial. Therefore, it is essential to create a relaxing atmosphere on board the ship. We pursued how to provide guests with a leisurely experience, resulting in a warm and inviting space abundant with wood.”

Typically, cruising involves exploring port destinations while luxuriating on board the ship. However, in the case of the Guntō cruise, there are no port stops. Additionally, the ship does not dock at any harbors for accommodations but instead anchors in the bay—meaning guests will drift on the sea aboard the ship without touching land.

Now is the time for an exclusive journey of immersion.

“The ‘Setouchi, Hyobaku’ experience embodies the essence of Guntu’s journey. Drifting amidst gentle waves, observing passing ships, traversing the Seto Inland Sea, touted as Japan’s largest enclosed sea, from west to east—this is the essence of Guntu’s voyage.”

For instance, on the veranda, guests can fully appreciate the charm of the serene Seto Inland Sea. Designed at a height where guests, when seated, can directly see the sea instead of through glass. Rather than viewing the sea from the town, it’s about gazing at the sea while floating upon it. This space is designed to maximize that experience. The sea changes its scenery with the seasons, time of day, and weather. Indeed, facing the sea in its unique moments is the essence of the Guntu experience.

Furthermore, the unique experiential value compared to typical cruises lies in its emphasis on accommodation aspects. “Many customers seem to prioritize enjoying the time spent on the ship itself, focusing less on destination-oriented sightseeing trips and more on aspects such as scenery, dining, and baths,” remarked the source.

Indeed, the sensation of being close to the sea surface and becoming one with the ocean is an experience unavailable on large cruise ships. Designed to offer views of the Seto Inland Sea from every room, guests can savor the “Setouchi landscape” from any accommodation. While specific floor selection isn’t possible, the first-floor rooms, closest to the sea, are designed to align the eye level with the ocean, explaining their popularity.

This is an exemplary architectural feat meticulously designed for the ultimate purpose. However, if the exterior is magnificent, naturally, the interior is equally elegantly designed to provide a comfortable and luxurious experience, akin to that of a high-end resort. Among the notable features is the cuisine.

An all-inclusive, lavish “Japanese” experience

“Whatever you like, as much as you like” is the concept behind the exquisitely prepared, all-inclusive dining experience, reminiscent of a high-end Japanese restaurant.

Under the supervision of Kenzo Sato from the renowned traditional Japanese restaurant “Shigeyoshi” in Jingu-mae, Tokyo, the cuisine onboard is prepared using local ingredients and adjusted according to the weather and preferences of the guests each day.

At the sushi counter, guests can enjoy sushi supervised by Nobuo Sakamoto from “Watarai” on Awaji Island. In the lounge, traditional Japanese sweets supervised by Seiichiro Kita from “Kashiya” in Nara are prepared right in front of you. It’s a dreamlike parade of Japanese cuisine.

In addition, there are numerous spaces and services dedicated to the theme of “wellness,” where guests can simply enjoy their time passing by. These include bathing facilities with dry saunas and steam saunas (which change daily), a gym equipped with Technogym® machines from Italy, relaxation areas, as well as treatment rooms for Sculpture Lymph® and chiropractic sessions.


The charm of the Seto Inland Sea lies in the serenity it brings forth. It’s the multitude of islands, numbering around 700, dotting the sea, creating a picturesque archipelago, and the coastal scenery that transforms with the seasons, offering a different expression in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The ports of call visited during the cruise are also filled with charm. From the World Heritage Site of Itsukushima Shrine to the historic sites like the Onomichi Channel associated with Taira no Kiyomori and the Shiwaku Islands, where naval forces once flourished, there are remnants and landmarks that evoke a sense of ancient history. What soothes the hearts of those who visit these places are the colors of the sea, the scent of the tide, the touch of the wind, and the warmth of the sun.

The journey provided by Guntu offers a truly luxurious experience that allows you to directly savor it all. It’s not just about Onomichi; it contributes to the development and revitalization of the entire Setouchi region, making it a truly special presence. I aspire to enjoy the time spent in this revered accommodation, drifting through the Seto Inland Sea, and relishing the architectural marvels.

Setouchi Cruise <guntû> Official Website (JP/EN)

Interview Collaboration: Setouchi Cruise
Interview & Article: Mio Inagaki (Harumari TOKYO )