Kasuien Kyoto- Wellness Ryokan
Kasuien – the beautiful ryokan behind The Westin Miyako Kyoto was first introduced to me by Joanna Kawecki from Ala Champ Magazine. She’s always the first person to know about any new designs, art, or architecture in Japan. Her extensive research skills always make me feel slightly lazy.
The photo she tagged me in was by Hiroshi Nakamura of NAP who took on the project to renovate the ryokan (completed summer of 2020) that was originally designed by architect Togo Murano in 1959. The photo was of the garden at the ryokan which looked like a green bean sitting right in the middle of a traditional Japanese Karesansui garden. And although it looks very modern, and as though it was only added recently, it was in fact designed by the legendary architect Murano.
As you step foot into the ryokan you are greeted by two gardens, the one which was designed by Murano, and the other which was designed by Ogawa Jihei VII, a legendary landscape artist of the Meiji and Taisho era. These two gardens alone are good indicators that you are not going to be disappointed by the architecture of the building itself. Ōhashi san, one of the head staff members of the facilities, says one of her favorite features of the ryokan is how the architecture of the ryokan complements the beautiful gardens.
The renovated ryokan offers 12 rooms, all unique and all with a beautiful bath – we’ll get back to that later. The traditional inn carries the theme of “wellness” which can be felt throughout its design. The spacious rooms (sizes range from 52 to 101m²) and the minimalistic design highlight the beauty of Japanese aesthetics and allow you to truly “feel” the environment you’re in, with no clutter or distractions. The building is also constructed with natural materials that harmonize with its natural surroundings. The rooms which were designed by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP paid respect to Togo Murano’s original design without taking away Murano’s signature modernist essence, although Nakamura added his own creative touches. Kasuien says the ryokan is a classic example of traditional Japanese “Sukiya” style architecture, characterized by graceful and minimalistic aesthetics that flow with the topography of the land.
Taking a bath at night allows you to relax and funnily enough, taking a bath in the morning gives you a good jolt to start off the day. I don’t know if it’s us getting older or just learning to appreciate the finer things in life, but a good bathtub is a must for the hotels we stay in. In keeping with their “wellness” theme, each room at the Kasuien offers a fabulous bathtub made from umbrella pine, and the water inside it is sourced from a natural volcanic spring located more than 1,000 meters underground, a true rarity (and luxury) for inner-city Kyoto. The bath in our room came with a generous window, allowing us to breathe in the beautiful Higashiyama landscape.
Luxury. Pure luxury, but with comfort. Kasuien, being a high-end ryokan, offers you luxurious services and packages throughout the duration of your stay that allow you to truly not lift a finger, yet be absolutely spoiled. For example, instead of going out to dinner, dinner comes to you. The in-room dining experience is like having a meal at a Michelin star restaurant but in your pajamas (of course, you’re free to dress up as well). The evening dinner service includes two chefs rolling sushi in your room, and for breakfast, the chefs show off their skills in whipping up a delicious dashi maki tamago omelet. The best part of the luxury experience is that the atmosphere is not uptight, and you don’t feel like you have to keep your back straight at all times. The lovely staff at the hotel let you have quality time by yourself, but will come to your aid if you ever need assistance, and the beautiful design at the ryokan is warm and welcoming. One of my favorite spaces was the lounge which has an amazing collection of design books. I spent hours in the comfortable space making myself herbal tea, eating snacks, and reading the books from cover to cover. To me, this is pure luxury.
KASUIEN KYOTO- 数寄屋風別館 「佳水園」 | ウェスティン都ホテル京都 | 京都 (miyakohotels.ne.jp)
Words: Sara Aiko
Photos: Sara Aiko