A stunning bed and breakfast based on the traditional ryokan of Japan, this beautiful hotel with humble and minimalist aesthetic is one of the best places to stay in Kyoto.
The stunning Shinmonzen hotel on the Shirakawa River in Kyoto plays homage to the ryokan, or Japanese Inns found throughout Japan. The vision of designer Tadao Ando, the Shinmonzen is the sister hotel of Provence's Villa le Coste, also designed by Ando, and which is owned by hotel developer, Paddy McKillen, of London's Connaught, Claridge’s and Berkely hotels. The result? An immaculate bed and breakfast with omotenashi culture in rituals of outstanding hospitality and mindfulness.
The outside of the building blends in with the other buildings on the streets of Kyoto's beautiful Geisha district Gion in Kyoto, and as you walk through the lobby from the discreet front entrance under a curtain marked simply with an S, inside the all-concrete hallway with a Damien Hirst painting projects a very modern transformation as it leads to the small reception desk and restaurant. Artwork plays key to the aesthetic with both European and Kyoto fine artists featured throughout.
Credits: Staff at the Jean-Georges restaurant serve a traditional Japanese breakfast (top); Inside one the traditional suites with tatami mats and futon bed (below).
The restaurant overlooking the river is soon to be helmed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten where Franco-Kyotoite dishes alongside a caviar menu are expected to feature using many beautiful locally sourced artisan ceramics. Japanese breakfast for guests is a traditional tetris of bowls and condiment dishes with the like of silken tofu, locally caught fish, tsukenono, rice, miso, nato (fermented soy beans) and tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette). The right amount of little morsels of flavour and texture in various bowls.
The Japanese breakfast (top); the Shirakawa river that runs alongside the hotel (bottom).
Each of the nine suites come accented differently than the next using various Japanese materials, and each with a balcony overlooking the river, which you can walk out to easily from the front doorstep. The more traditional ryokan-style suites find tatami mats and classic futon beds, while other suits floored by Japanese oak have more modern design pieces and western beds. Design as we know comes with a price tag, expect to pay on average about 17k per night at the Shimonzen.
Photography James Thompson