This was the first year that The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto had been an official ILTM Japan hotel, and those delegates lucky enough to stay at the 13-month old luxury hotel really experienced the peace and calm of Japan. Once again the gal marvelled at how architects Mitsubishi Nikken Sekkei had managed to put a 134-room hotel into such a discreet position on the Kamogawa River bank that, were it not for flags outside, it would be possible to miss the hotel altogether. You walk into the hotel down granite ramps and automatically-opening all-wall screens, into the haven within.
The whole feature of Peter Remedios‘ interiors is that you keep on getting fleeting glances, perhaps of afternoon tea, with a live guitarist, perhaps of the day-long Pierre Hermé boutique, with multi-coloured macaroons that offer a full display by morning, dwindling quickly as local gourmets come in to buy. After three nights here – yes, three nights, the duration of ILTM Japan – I still find it difficult to remember which way to turn. The layout of the hotel, on five floors (two technically basement) provides a constant, but delightful, puzzle. Turn a corner enroute to the lowest-level 24/7 gym, for instance, and you see three rocks coming up out of thousands of well-washed pebbles. This is Japan.
There are continual surprises. Look at my breakfast eggs. How could the yolks look like tomatoes? I asked hotel GM Yuji Tanaka and of course he came up with the answer almost immediately (a regular refrain throughout Japan is ‘thank you for waiting’, with the inevitable bow). It turns out these hens are fed on 33 different ingredients, including red capsicum, saffron, aloe vera, pearl barley and seaweed. I ask no more. The breakfast buffet, by the way, is truly outstanding, with Pierre Hermé yoghurt pots, and cream-filled brioche buns, all made here in the hotel’s kitchens under licence, with a Pierre Hermé disciple leading the team.
This luxury hotel has a major advantage in being right on the river. All day long, when the weather allows, there are locals walking, jogging or cycling along tracks either side of the water. I like the hotel’s fifth floor terrace suites, with private garden, but 328 juts out to give superior over-river views. At sunset I look across to Mount Nyakuoji, and feel at peace.