Luxury Hotels

TOKYO – 11

There are four areas of Six Senses Kyoto, which opened April 2024. There’s the traffic bustle of the city road outside, there’s the calming interior, the spa with stunning interior bath house  and there’s the calm green garden in the centre of the C-shaped building (above) and at the rear.

A ryokan directly across the street from Four Seasons Kyoto Residences has been razed by Wealth Management to make way for the 81-room hotel, with interiors by Clint Ngata/BLINK. With a frontage of 31 metres and depth of 112 metre, the only solution was a long-armed C shape, going in at the middle of five floors. Nearly all rooms, with balconies, face inwards.

The lobby sets the tone. Its light ash, with an origami-reminiscent multi-facetted ash ceiling.  One wall has a metal 3-D scroll, about two metres across, with a couple of dozen little unrecognisable animals climbing up and around the scroll. Similar little religious beasties are outlined on the freeform, unframed and back-lit mirrors in the all-ash elevators.

Outside every room door is a papier-mâché mask of a fox, made of recycled paper. Its eyes are back-lit. Inside, rooms look cool – some have low-set tables, Japanese-style zaisu seating (Girlahead would definitely choose a near-elevator room as the corridors, both wings, are about 100 metres).

Nico Black, the Anglo-French GM, looks straight out of Montmartre, even down to his painter’s jacket fashion (see below) His experience includes running hotels for Ian Schrager and his ilk and, as such, in 2023 he organised NOMA’s ten-week popup at The Ace Hotel Kyoto. He’s certainly a foodie. At lunch in Six Senses’ friendly Sekkei restaurant he introduced Girlahead to a drink with fermented this and fermented that (she much preferred the ‘gym and tonic’ that she later had from the cart in the hotel’s lobby). She did really like her superfood salad, big chunks of cooked veggies with chicken topping. The multi-hued crispbreads were made from pulp left over from breakfast’s juices.

Both Sekkei and its adjacent café attract local businesspeople at lunch, and residents at dinner – an alternative is the sushi counter. Much of the green produce comes from the hotel’s really impressive vegetable garden, leased from the adjacent Toyokuni-jinja shrine. The garden’s lawn is an outdoor yoga studio.

Of course Six Senses’ Earth Lab plays a key role, as does the Alchemy Bar. See washi paper being made, do-it-yourself poultice production. The spa and its boutique are like beautiful stage sets, for a play that is bound to win awards. A Kyoto Experience starts with foot-washing, and a calligraphy assessment (Girlahead’s determined circles showed she was feeling confident). And then a soothing massage and a sleep, and then pop into the glass-walled sauna, and then and then, various Japanese baths awaited.  This is a hotel for recovery, and to re-activate the senses.