• The Shinmonzen: An embodiment of Kyoto luxury


    The Shinmonzen: An embodiment of Kyoto luxury


Kyoto has forever been a city synonymous with luxury, from the elegant beauty of the elusive geisha and maiko that draw travelers from across the globe to the deep appreciation for fine dining, rich historic architecture, and passionate artisans.

[The Shinmonzen] Gion, Kyoto: hotel tour (TARO YouTube Channel)

While people folk to the iconic location for its appreciation and abundance of the finer things, Kyoto luxury could almost be categorized as a different genre of living altogether. Its understatedness has long separated Kyoto luxury from other forms and elevates it even. Kyoto folk know how to make a statement without overdoing it.

One of Kyoto's newest and most exciting accommodations, The Shinmonzen, is the embodiment of all that makes the city great. For those who want local authenticity infused with a breath of fresh modern air, this cozy modern ryokan stays true to the city's roots while promising a vision for the future.

The Shinmonzen is situated in the Gion District, Kyoto's most famous neighborhood, and is flanked by the Gion Shirakawa, a running clear water river that offers a peaceful, tranquil soundtrack to inner-city-Kyoto living.

Known as the city's entertainment district, Gion was once a rest stop for the pilgrims on their way to Gion Shrine (modern-day Yasaka Shrine). Over time it became the playground for the nation's rich, famous and powerful and home to exclusive teahouses which hosted – and still do – long, lavish nights of entertainment run by the city's maiko and geisha.

The district is lauded for its charming, historic atmosphere and deep-set ties to the world of traditional Japanese arts, making it an ideal location for The Shinmonzen. For those in the know, it's worth noting that the ryokan is also the sister hotel of Villa La Coste in Provence, owned by Paddy McKillen.

The boutique facility is best described as a luxury hotel with a ryokan influence. It was designed by contemporary Japanese legend Tadao Ando. With a bold dark exterior that both makes its presence felt while still harmonizing with its traditional surroundings, The Shinmonzen is Ando at his best, with quiet elegance and confidence with a touch of traditionalism.

Breezy interiors were crafted by Rémi Tessier, a Paris-based architectural designer who specializes in creating spaces with peaceful elegance and a sense of refinement. Spend a little time examining the interior of the hotel, and a motif you'll surely run into is the passion for Japanese history combined with a modern sense of design. This combination of old and new is thanks in large part to the thoughtful works of Brit Mary McCartney – yes, the Beatles' very own Paul McCartney's daughter – a Japanophile and passionate and talented photographer. An aside worth noting, The Shimonzen’s name is an ode to Shinmonzen-dori, an area of the city known as "the city of artists," and staying true to its title, the hotel exhibits various forms of art by world-famous up-and-coming artists.

In terms of offerings, The Shinmozen's owners decided to focus on intimacy, opting for quality over quantity. Hence the facility has just nine rooms and one dining space, low-key, attentive, and detail-oriented; that's the nature of Kyoto hospitality.

Each of the nine bright, spacious, and artfully designed suites boasts its own unique attributes while retaining a sense of unity throughout, pops of color set off the minimalist Japanese design flourishes with a sense of playfulness, and each room is well-stocked with amenities to make your stay all that little more fun. With large, cypress-scented bathtubs, sleek marble counters made from monoliths, and fresh, velvety tatami mats, the design of the interiors connect guests to the organic world embracing the gifts of nature in a way that feels refined. Each room also boasts a view of Gion Shirakawa from the balcony, a tidy little design flourish that embraces the beauty of the city and doesn't go unnoticed.

Dinner and breakfast, and lunch (if you so desire) is served in the main floor dining and lobby space, The Riverside Lounge. In the lounge, guests can enjoy free seasonal drinks and gourmet food and a spectacular menu curated and designed by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongeristen.

Dinner is seasonally dependent, making it an adventure each time you're seated. The kitchen takes advantage of the best fresh produce on offer, pairing western-Japanese fusion delights with a broad selection of wines, red, white, rose and sparkling. In the morning, be prepared for a treat! Breakfast is a sprawling, lavish affair with Australian-inspired dishes like avocado and eggs on toast to fresh French pastries and fluffy pancakes with a side of bircher muesli. Pack a second stomach if you can.

The luxuries and thoughtful treatment extends beyond the hotel's walls. For ease of access direct to the facility, The Shinmonzen offers an on-platform pick up service for those traveling by shinkansen (bullet train). Plus, if you'd like to explore the city in a little more depth, the staff are more than happy to arrange a private (English) Gion walking tour. The challenge, however, is trying to pull yourself away from this stunning slide of paradise that is The Shinmonzen. Good luck!

Contact TARO for more information and exclusive offers.