With an array of unique and precious artworks on display throughout the hotel, guests staying at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto may feel as though they are visiting an art museum. One of the main artistic themes that runs through the works of art displayed in the hotel, including those of world-renowned artist Kohei Nawa, is The Tale of Genji - the classic work of Japanese literature written by the noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in the early years of the 11th century.
The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting to Empress Shoshi, the second empress of Emperor Ichijo, and daughter of Michinaga Fujiwara - the most powerful and influential political noble of the time. The work is a depiction of the beautiful lifestyles of high courtiers during the Heian period and their interactions with each other, which are expressed vividly through waka poems.
When Genji, the protagonist of the story, is 35 years old, he built a mansion called Rokujōin. The residence consists of a garden built for admiring each of the four seasons, and four buildings that represent each season in which a different female acquaintance lived. Murasaki Shikibu richly describes the residence during its first year following completion and its transition through the seasons, with the sound of warblers and parties in spring, fireflies in early summer, late summers spent in the cool of the garden pavilion, brightly-colored leaves in autumn and icy winds in winter.
Many contemporary artists regard the public areas of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto (the first floor and the first floor of the basement) to be an interpretation of Rokujōin, expressing the delicate emotions that unfold in Rokujōin’s four seasonal buildings, as well as the concepts of miyabi (“elegance”) and mono no aware (“the pathos of things”) that were developed by the aristocracy at the time. The second basement floor is home to works of art based on the theme of Uji, a small city located between Kyoto and Nara in which the last ten chapters of The Tale of Genji are set. The design of the guest rooms of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto express the beautiful aesthetics of the city of Kyoto, and suite rooms feature art pieces that contain the representative colors of The Tale of Genji, giving each suite room a unique, individual feel. A total 409 art pieces made by 80 Japanese artists are displayed throughout each area of the hotel, including the guest rooms and spa.
Upon entering the corridor that leads to the hotel’s first floor entrance, guests will come across Kohei Nawa’s "PixCell-Biwa (MICA)", a work of art that consists of a traditional Japanese instrument covered in countless transparent spheres.
Ritsue Mishima’s artwork “The Light of the Moon” is located behind the front desk in the reception area. The work is inspired by a Kyoto bamboo grove, creating a space reminiscent of a bamboo grove lit by moonlight. The moonlight that falls on the bamboo forest creates an intersection between the past, present and future, where a new story is born.
“Kokonoezakura” (or “nine layers of cherry blossom”) by Takehiko Sugawara is displayed in the hotel’s first floor lobby. The work is modeled on a specific mossy, old cherry tree which is a natural treasure at Joshokoji Temple in Keihoku town, located north of Kyoto. The quietly living tree is said to be 600 years old, and was planted in its current location by Emperor Komei for his older brother Emperor Kogen who lived in harsh environment in the mountains.
As guests pass through the lobby area they will find the tranquil, elegant space of Italian restaurant La Locanda. The restaurant’s reception showcases Ritsue Mishima’s “Jelly Fish 2013”, consisting of Venetian glass shaped like countless jellyfish, which represent Pandora, the “all-gifted”. A mystical golden light radiates out from the center of the work.
Also located near the entrance to La Locanda is Kentaro Yokouchi's “adapting form – PSTG”, which is based on scenery from the Tale of Genji. The work expresses the beautiful Kyoto Gion Festival using cloth brought from Flanders, expressing a scene in which a variety of cultures mix in harmony.
Shihoko Fukumoto’s "Time and Space" can be found in Ebisugawa-tei, a historical Meiji Era residence made from cypress wood that is now housed within La Locanda. The work is located in the residence’s tokonoma (or “alcove”), and expresses the fact that this space has seen the transition of Kyoto throughout the eras, through the many conversations that have taken place here in this space since the Meiji Era. Below this work lies a sculpture with motifs of the waterfowl of the Kamogawa River titled "Beaks and Quests" by Masaomi Raku who is active contemporary sculptor and the second son of Kichizaemon Raku, Fifteenth hereditary head of the Raku family of tea-bowl makers. The sculpture symbolizes the never ending quest of life.
In the first basement floor lies a large, circular work of art by Shinji Oshimaki titled “Echoes - crystallization / moon”. It is a unique work of art that depicts endangered species of flowers by using correction fluid and crystal powder, and when viewed from a distance looks like a crater on the moon. It is the same beautiful moon that the Heian period nobility depicted in The Tale of Genji would have looked up at, and creates a space where the viewer can be immersed in “the pathos of things”.
The hotel’s banquet hall and basement floor where the spa is located feature their own art concept based on the Uji Chapters of The Tale of Genji – the last ten chapters of the story that are set in Uji – a city loved by the aristocracy. In these spaces guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto can enjoy a different atmosphere to that on other floors of the hotel.
Hiroko Osugi 's "The Words of Secrets 2013", located in The Ritz-Carlton Spa, is a work consisting of light ink bleeding across a canvas, creating an elegant and tranquil atmosphere. The work depicts a “waterfall” of three curved and straight lines that run from the sky to the ground, within which secret characters written in graphite are disguised in splashes of water, possibly symbolizing a woman of the Heian era obstinately expressing her feelings of love.
The corridor leading to The Ritz-Carlton Spa is home to a work of art entitled "Air Bubbles". The air bubbles that turn into foam as they pass through water like the souls and spirits of people living in the present. To express the bubbles and the way they interact with their environment and landscape as the same as how humans interact with their environment, the artist repeatedly drew the bubbles by hand and filmed them using a camera.
The bottom of the hotel swimming pool is also part of a work of art, consisting of a gradation of three shades of blue, creating a luxurious space in which guests can swim. Kyoto has been blessed with plentiful supplies of water including the Uji and Kamogawa River, as well as cultural diversity, and the pattern expresses a blue spring in a cave at the source of a river stream.
In the hope of bringing happiness and fortune to its guests, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto places both lucky omens and works of art in each of its guest rooms. One such work, Hajime Nakajima’s "Hachihogu", is made from thin strips of bamboo, which have been believed since ancient times in Japan to block negative energies. The bamboo strips are painted red and abstractly express the number Eight. The figure "eight" in Chinese (八) is said to be auspicious, but this work is intended to bring good luck through a design in which the Arabic numeral "8" is overlapped repeatedly.
Guests are invited to discover these works of art on a complimentary art tour arranged exclusively for staying guests, and open the door to an unknown world of exploration.