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KYOTO, JAPAN, January 31st, 2018: Situated in the heart of Kyoto on the bank of the Kamogawa river, with views of the 36 Higashiyama mountains, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto is full of historical and modern Japanese design elements, with many folds of Kyoto’s history waiting to be discovered. Opened in 2014, the hotel strives to combine all the luxury and comfort of international and Japanese hotels. The hotel features a unique theme that skillfully combines local traditional design elements with modern touches and original art pieces.  

The Site of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

The banks of the Kamogawa river have been prosperous with tourism attractions since the Edo period (1603-1868) when show tents and kabuki dance theaters congregated its banks. The premises where The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto stands had once been the land of samurai and kuge – the Japanese aristocratic class that dominated the Japanese imperial court in Kyoto, believed to love the spectacular landscape of the mountains and river. This exact site was formerly owned by Ryoi Suminokura, a wealthy merchant during the Edo period known for opening up Kyoto’s Takasegawa river canal for shipping. His mansion remained on the site until the early Meiji Period (1868-1912). Later, Denzaburo Fujita, famous for being the first ordinary citizen in Japanese history to become a Baron, built his mansion Ebisugawa-tei entirely from gorgeous cypress wood in 1908. He was also a successful business man, famous as the founder of the Fujita Zaibatsu (“Finance Group”) and played a key role in the modernization of Japan. Ebisugawa-tei remains in all of its historic glory now housed in the Italian restaurant La Locanda, combining Japanese heritage with western culture.

The Interior of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

The hotel’s interior spaces were each designed with concepts that pay respect to Kyoto’s history. The publish spaces, banquet rooms and conference rooms were designed in accordance with the concept utage, or “feast”, the spa embodies seido, or “stillness and movement”, the lobby exudes miyabi, or “elegance”, and the guest rooms were designed with hana (“opulence”) and nagomi (“calm”) in mind.

Wood is the primary material used throughout the hotel, with walnut and oak used in the restaurants, public spaces, The Lobby Lounge and The Atrium, paulownia primarily used in the banquet hall area, and dyed oak in the spa. Guest rooms primarily use oak, but two guest rooms that are designed in a traditional Japanese style, featuring paulownia, castor aralia, and Japanese horse-chestnut for the floorboards. The hotel’s highest-class room – The Ritz-Carlton Suite – mainly features dyed zebra wood to match the color scheme of the ebony flooring.  

Furthermore, lacquer – one of Japan’s most iconic crafts – is represented throughout the interior in the application of a lacquer-effect paint on the furniture featured in the public areas and guest rooms, and a beautiful, vermilion, authentic lacquer sushi counter can be found in Japanese restaurant Mizuki.

Traditional elements of Japanese design are evident throughout the hotel. Classic ribbed wood and grid patterns that evoke the design of traditional wooden machiya townhouses and chashitsu tea ceremony rooms, and were common in historic Kyoto, are featured throughout the property. In addition, hangi curved wood blocks and kumiko woodwork – a technique that allows for pieces of wood to be assembled without the need for nails or screws – are featured in the elevator halls, the elevators and the reception and concierge counters.

Another traditional Japanese material found throughout the hotel is nishijin-ori fabric, a traditional textile produced in the Nishijin district of northwest Kyoto. The fabric is used as a wall texture in the hotel’s banquet rooms, conference rooms, cloak rooms and business center.

Also, kyowagasa (a “Kyoto-style umbrella”) has become an elegant symbol of Kyoto's unique aesthetics, finished with simplicity using the finest materials and techniques. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto has incorporated the umbrella’s beautifully delicate design into the contemporary lighting featured in the Atrium and The Lobby Lounge.

In addition, traditional Japanese patterns such as hemp and shippō are featured throughout the hotel. The hemp leaf pattern is classic Japanese pattern derived from the hemp plant, which has been cultivated in Japan for over 2,000 years. The hemp pattern emerged during the Heian period, and was often used in the decoration of Buddha statues that were produced at the time. Guests can see the hemp pattern on wall surface of the banquet hall and wall tile of the washroom and the shower booth. The traditional Japanese shippō designed can also be seen in the doors of the guest rooms, the headboards of the guest room beds, the elevator walls and many other locations. Shippō is a design derived from cloisonné work in which a metal object is carved in high relief and the removed portions are filled with colored enamel. The name refers to the seven treasures of Buddhism: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, seashell, amber, and coral and the pattern represents these seven beautiful treasures inlaid in metal in an infinitely repeating pattern.

The hotel’s restaurants, however, feature slightly different concepts to the rest of the interior. For example, Italian restaurant La Locanda houses the historical Japanese mansion Ebisugawa-tei, and combines a traditional Japanese interior design with western furniture and Italian cuisine for an international atmosphere.

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto welcomes guests to spot all of these design elements throughout the hotel’s interior, and discover the stories of historic Kyoto that can be found on the hotel’s historical site, for a deeper-than-expected glimpse into Japan’s history.