The Shinmonzen Kyoto
A spring visit to the Shinmonzen Hotel in Kyoto served as inspiration for TLmag’s forthcoming 2023 edition: The Culture of the Object.
In a city renowned for its cultural heritage and excellence in arts and crafts, the Shinmonzen Hotel in Kyoto is a perfect fit. Located on the historic Shinmonzen Street in the Gion arts district, this multi-story hotel, a new construction of a traditional Machiya townhouse, was designed by Japanese star architect Tadao Ando and captures the essence of the city’s dynamic mix of tradition and modern life.
From the exterior, the hotel looks similar to many of the other townhouses of the neighborhood but for a subtle sign out front, a simple calligraphic S on a piece of black cloth that lets guests know they have arrived. Inside, Ando has applied his mastery with light and space, creating minimal spaces that are warm and inviting while interior designer Remi Tessier complements the spaces with furniture and objects that embrace craft and natural materials such as wood, bamboo, stone and marble. As Ando has said, “the goal was to create a space that accommodates the desires of the modern traveler while respecting the tradition and legacy of Kyoto”.
Owned by Paddy McKillen, renowned hotelier and art collector, The Shinmonzen is the ‘little sister’ to Villa La Coste, the sprawling wine, art and luxury hotel located in Provence. Along with the elements of Japanese architecture and design hang works of contemporary art by artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Damian Hirst and Hiroshi Sugimoto as well as select pieces of iconic modernist furniture.
The nine rooms and suites are simple in their use of wood, shoji screens and white walls with accents of contemporary art. Sumptuous elements of craft are seen in the long wooden headboards designed by Paul Longpré or the cocoon-like curving armchairs by Toan Nguyen. Throughout the space are gorgeous ceramic vessels by Takayuki Watanabe as well as other artists.
Each room has been oriented towards the river, as Ando notes, “From each room, guests can gaze upon a sparkling and effervescent river that is considered to be the most beautiful body of water in all of Kyoto.” In this way, guests are treated to the natural beauty of this region as well as the rush of city life just outside the property.
The hotel’s restaurant, Jean Georges at the Shinmonzen, is led by chef Hana Yoon, who trained with Jean Georges Restaurant in New York. About her vision for the hotel’s restaurant, Yoon states, “Jean-Georges at The Shinmonzen holds a unique allure due to its enchanting location in Gion, Kyoto, where tradition intertwines seamlessly with creativity and artistry. Our mission is to weave together the finest seasonal ingredients with the visionary creations of local artisans, resulting in an extraordinary dining experience that is truly unparalleled”. The restaurant works with local farmers and providers using only local products for dishes that blend French, American and Asian influences.
The Shinmonzen represents the balance perfected between past and contemporary, of traditional heritage and modern life. Guests are treated to unparalleled Japanese hospitality and are able to experience the eternal beauty of this exceptional city.