The Mitsui Fudosan Group’s flagship property beautifully straddles a storied history and modern-day luxury.
Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for over 1000 years, is steeped in rich Japanese history and culture. There’s a certain quietude in the air that can best be felt inside an ancient shrine or a serene Zen garden. But everywhere you go, quiet colours and harmonious layouts give the entire city a classy and calming charm. Recently opened Hotel The Mitsui | Kyoto has all this and then some. Not surprising, considering the Mitsui Fudosan Group is concentrating all of its efforts to build the ultimate luxury hotel brand in Japan, and this one is their new flagship property.
The quintessential Kyoto calm envelops the 161-key hotel, where each of its guestrooms have been created using natural materials in a modern interpretation of the Japanese tearoom. Think spacious stone bathtubs with bath salts and a bath cushion. A pillow service that gives you opulent options and the choice between tempur pillows, low-rebound pillows, and buckwheat ones. And amenities that include, superior cotton Imabari towels, pajamas, bathrobes and slippers, and original toiletries by Japanese incense experts.
One of the great pleasures of a visit to Kyoto is experiencing an onsen thermal spring. And The Mitsui has its own spa that uses the Kyoto Nijo Onsen hot spring, with waters rich in Sodium Chloride/Calcium Chloride and said to be beneficial for cuts, improving peripheral blood circulation, sensitivity to cold, depression, and dry skin. You can immerse yourself in their healing baths, in a calming environment punctuated by the sound of running water. While bathers must be at least 16 years old, kids (four to 15 years) can accompany their parents ages between 10 am and 4 pm. Guests who prefer having this experience in a more exclusive (and swimsuit optional environment), can always check into their private onsen suite to enjoy the therapeutic effects of the hot springs to their heart’s content.
The culinary team at The Mitsui selects the finest ingredients from around the world and across Japan, starting with famed local Kyoto produce, to deliver the ultimate gastronomic experiences to your table. At Toki, you can taste teppan gastronomy – a sublime combination of the culinary arts of France and Japan. Forni brings you the best of Italy on a plate, grills, pizza and more elaborate offerings in tune to the 24 seasons of the lunisolar calendar. The Garden Bar is a great place to unwind with a drink as the sun sets and the understated lighting comes on to add a warm glow.
Shiki-No-Ma is their tour-de-force, a faithful yet modern reconstruction of part of the former Mitsui home, constructed from Japanese cypress, which can be used for special events, as a private dining venue, or for an exclusive tea ceremony.
Keeping in step with the best hotels everywhere, they curate special experiences for guests. These could go from something as simple as sessions in transformative wellness breathing to a zazen sitting meditation in the pond garden of the venerated Taizo Temple, part of the Myoshinji complex, followed by a special asa gayu breakfast made in the Buddhist shojin vegan tradition by Ajiro. From an art tour of the historic parts of the hotel premises to an elegant afternoon tea at the registered Important Cultural Asset – the Former Shimogamo Villa of the Mitsui family, industrialists who have been part of the Who’s Who of Japan for several generations.
Another carefully crafted part of the hotel is their courtyard garden, that serves as the focal point of the property. Measuring 1,300 square metres, it is said to be the reimagined version of the original garden of the Mitsui residence by Landscape Designer Shunsaku Miyagi. It is designed in a way that it offers something new in terms of foliage and hues every season.
A gateway to history
Adjacent to Nijo Castle, the hotel has been built on the location, which was the family home of the Kitake, the executive branch of the stately Mitsui Family, for close to three centuries. Even today, a guest can view relics from that period, such as the main gate, landscape features, stone lanterns, etc. The famous Kajiimiya gate that you pass through to enter the property was built in 1703. The shape and architecture of the gate is known as a yakuimon (gabled-roof gate with both male and female joists, clay-roof tiled with adjacent low walls). The 7.4 metres tall, rather well-travelled gate is imposing for many reasons, not least of which is its recent restoration, one that came only after almost 85 years.
Apparently, it was completely disassembled, including its adjacent low walls, and each piece was given a thorough examination with damaged and rotted portions being repaired or replaced where necessary with newly fashioned parts. “Old techniques were blended with modern techniques where required. Over half of the rooftiles were still fit for use. The old way of securing these tiles was to use old dirt and clay to hold them in place, but due considerations for safety and earthquake-proofing, the rooftiles on the restored gate are held in place using wire. In terms of the wooden components, over 80 per cent of the original parts were retained. Structurally the Kajiimiya Gate is in the best shape it has ever been,” say the developers, who engaged the expertise of Fujita Shaji Kensetsu, a team of miyadaiku carpenters specialising in temple and shrine construction based in Fukui Prefecture, overseen by Shimizu Corporation, a company well-versed in building temples and shrines.