Preserving Nintendo's Legacy: Marufukuro Hotel - Where History Meets Luxury in Kyoto


In a quiet corner of Kyoto, a three-story building, once the headquarters of gaming giant Nintendo, now stands transformed into the Marufukuro, an 18-room luxury hotel that opened its doors in April 2022. Nestled near Kyoto's Kamo River, the establishment, designed by iconic architect Tadao Ando, offers a unique blend of historical preservation and modern luxury.

Upon entering the hotel, visitors are greeted by a distinctive mix of 1930s-style art deco and linear graphic stonework on the pale brick facade. A discreet plaque reading "PLAYING CARDS" in gold letters hints at the building's rich history. Despite being the birthplace of Nintendo, the Marufukuro has no current affiliation with the gaming company, as it is now owned by the No. 10 Family Office, founded by Banjo Yamauchi in 2020.

Banjo Yamauchi, the biological grandson of Nintendo's third president Hiroshi Yamauchi, emphasizes the importance of historical preservation, stating, "This building represents the tough history of Nintendo." The Yamauchi family sold its Nintendo shares in 2014, and the hotel aims to preserve the legacy of Hiroshi Yamauchi's innovative spirit.

The Marufukuro is not just a hotel; it's a nod to Nintendo's roots as a hanafuda playing card company. The hotel's name is derived from another Yamauchi card company, Marufuku, with the suffix "-ro" added to denote a luxury building. The hotel features a stylized picture of Napoleon Bonaparte, paying homage to Nintendo's early hanafuda cards that used the French leader as its mascot.

Inside the Marufukuro, guests are immersed in Nintendo history, with decorative details inspired by playing card suits. The hotel, operated by Plan Do See, offers an array of luxurious amenities, including the top-tier Marufukuro suite designed by Tadao Ando, where guests can find the architect's hand-signed autograph on a wall.

The hotel attracts a diverse clientele, including Japanese regional visitors and international guests who began arriving after Japan lifted travel restrictions in November 2022. While some visitors are drawn by Ando's architectural work, others are enticed by the hotel restaurant, Carta, helmed by Japanese chef Ai Hosokawa.

The Marufukuro's library, curated by Banjo Yamauchi, stands as the most visibly game-related space in the hotel. The library features high-end design books, Nintendo-themed art objects, and historical Nintendo treats on display, including an original red-trimmed Famicom console and a Light Telephone from 1971.

As the Marufukuro aims to be a historical and cultural beacon, its presence has already begun to influence the neighborhood positively. The revitalization of the area aligns with the hotel's long-term goal to encourage creative interest in the neighborhood, attracting artists and visitors alike.

Despite the hotel's clear ties to Nintendo's history, the Marufukuro maintains a separation from the gaming company. This intentional distinction is crucial for the hotel's mission, which focuses on historical preservation, luxury hospitality, and philanthropy. The No. 10 Family Office, overseeing the hotel, emphasizes its commitment to preserving the unique creativity and pioneering mindset of Hiroshi Yamauchi.

While the Marufukuro and Nintendo are operationally disconnected, the hotel's long-term goals raise questions about the preservation of Nintendo's work. In the broader historical context, the Marufukuro stands as a niche landmark, offering guests a chance to delve into the rich history of Nintendo while enjoying a luxurious stay in Kyoto.

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