The Ribbon Chapel is located in the garden of the Bella Vista Sakaigaham resort in Onomichi, Hiroshima, which overlooks the sea of Japan. Its two intertwined staircases, twisting around one another to a panoramic view of the Sea of Japan, speak for themselves as its main features. Although they pile up upon one another almost like a tiered wedding cake, the two entwisting ribbon staircases aren’t just for looks.
First, they are symbolic, representing the twists and turns that a couple will go through in life before uniting with one another. But they also serve an intriguing design purpose. As the architects at Hiroshi Nakamura & Nap Co. explain, in the Ribbon Chapel, the intertwining staircase also takes the place of floors, ceilings, and walls. The entire chapel literally is a staircase. The exterior, meanwhile, uses timber panels painted in a titanic zinc alloy, to make them immune to corrosion from sea salt.
Japanese wedding tradition is a little different than American tradition, so the architects envision the Ribbon Chapel’s staircases to be used by the bride and groom after the ceremony, where they each climb their separate stairway, overlooking different vistas of oceans, mountains, sky, and distant islands, to meet at the top and “ask heaven’s permission to join as one, and declare their marriage,” before they walk back down together as husband and wife.
Outside of the intertwining staircases, the chapel itself is relatively small, capable of seating about 80 people max. The aisle of the chapel overlooks an ancient, picturesque tree on the resort’s ground, which the architects believe also sets a symbolic tone of unity. In between coils of staircase, enormous windows let in ample amounts of natural light.
First completed in 2013, the Ribbon Chapel can be booked through the Bella Vista Sakaigahama resort.