Keep cool during Japanese summers at boutique hotel Shishi-Iwa House

Often known as where rich Japanese build their holiday homes to escape the scorching summers of Tokyo, the resort town of Karuizawa in Nagano prefecture is now home to a much-needed sanctuary accessible to all. Shishi-Iwa House is a boutique hotel retreat designed by Pritzker award-winning architect Shigeru Ban.

Looking like part farmhouse and part chapel, it peeks out discreetly from its forest of lush greenery, where general manager Kazuhiko Yamada - or Kaz - awaits. He ushers you into the reception/ library for your first 'wow' moment - the 8-metre high ceiling with its distinctive timber rafters and the awe of seeing photos of the starchitect's work come to life. Sleek minimalism runs throughout the space with its timber structure and Alvar Aalto furniture, with chairs and accessories made of Ban's signature cardboard tubes. The length of the house is curved because no trees were harmed in the building process, so you get the benefit of both sustainability and a tranquil foliage-filled view everywhere you look.