Architectural Project and Denpaku in Amami
Alongside his research on elder care facilities, Yamashita has visited many resorts and vacation accommodations around the world and accumulated architectural insights and experiences of lodging facilities. Eventually, he was commissioned to design a resort facility, Nest at Amami Beach Villas, in his home island of Amami.
Around the same time, Yamashita started to receive requests from local administrations and communities to deal with the vacant house problem in the island. In order to meet the requests, he founded a brand of tourist accommodation named “Denpaku,” that renovates and makes use of vacant traditional and/or legendary houses. (Den伝 is a word associated with “tradition” and “legend”, paku泊 means “stay over”.) It started with 2 inns in Amami City and expanded to 15 in two yours, not only in Amami Oshima island, but also in other islands of the Amami Archipelago, such as Tokunoshima.
While frequently flying to Amami for these projects, the opportunity to speak with various people increased. Yamashita became more and more aware of the reality of elder care and medication in Amami, and started to wish to put his university research into practice in Amami.
Conducting a Survey of Elder Care Facilities in Amami
Yamashita conducted a survey of existing elder care facilities in Amami, and found out the following problems:
・There are not enough elder care facilities and some senior citizens have to wait in order to receive care.
・The elderly who came from Amami and whish to return have difficulty finding a place to live.
・The environment of Amami is full of nature that even senior citizens who have spent most of their lives in urban settings would desire to spend the rest of their lives. However, there are not enough options of high quality elder care facilities.
In view of this result, Yamashita set some goals for the future.
・Create an example of a high quality elder care facility that also accepts senior citizens that returned to Amami or came to Amami afresh from urban areas.
・Expand from the example and build affordable elder care facilities and communities for Amamians.
・Establish a system that provides care-givers necessary salary increases and encourage young people to return and join the workforce in Amami.
Repurposing a Former Supermarket
In Kasaricho, Amami, where Yamashita was born and bred, there used to be a popular supermarket.
It was built on a piece of land that belonged to a noble family, at the heart of a small town called Akakina, in the northern part of Amami Oshima.
The supermarket provided selected fresh produce of the region, and it was not only a place to shop but also a hub for the locals to gather and interact.
Sadly, the store went out of business and the vacant building was left standing for several years.
The sight of the decaying ex-supermarket instigated a new idea in Yamashita’s mind. “What if I repurpose this building, ‘legendary’ for the locals, and convert it into a new community space with an elder care facility?”