The Shinmonzen

Sophisticated, Intimate, Curated

235 Nishino Cho, Shinmonzen Dori Higashiyama Ku, Kyoto 605-0088

At a Glance

The Shinmonzen is a discreet, nine-room boutique gem over ten years in the making from Paddy McKillen, the owner of Château La Coste in Provence (making it the only sister property to Indagare-adored**Villa la Coste**, the hotel on the estate). Joining the ranks of Stockholm’s Ett Hem and Paris’ La Reserve, The Shinmonzen offers an intimate, handcrafted urban experience that is more akin to staying at the private townhouse of an impeccably stylish friend—with museum-grade art, sleek nods to ryokan heritage and a chef’s table restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, opened March 2023.

Indagare Loves

  • The hidden-gem, boutique atmosphere and thoughtful, personalized service
  • The tasting menu dinner by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, ideally accompanied by a Japanese (or Château La Coste) wine pairing
  • The proximity to some of Kyoto's finest shops (especially for fine arts and antiques)—as well as the chance to catch a glimpse of a maiko hurrying along the streets of Gion at dusk, off to her next appointment


Uniquely located in the historic and highly touristed Gion district—the territory of the maiko and geiko—and discreetly camouflaged among the neighborhood’s protected, dark-wood machiya architecture, on a street famous for its antiques and fine arts (Shinmonzen-dori), the Shinmonzen seamlessly combines past and present, thanks to the genius of architect Tadao Ando and interior designer Remi Tessier. (The hotel can indeed be difficult to find on a first visit, as it is identifiable only by a black curtain painted with its signature white "S".)

Says Indagare Trip Designer Grace Park, who scouted the property in 2022: "There is no front desk or lobby here. Instead, a stay usually starts at Kyoto Station, where guests are greeted upon arrival at the platform from their train and whisked to the Shinmonzen to meet the hands-on guest experiences team—usually in the ground floor's lounge area, which opens onto a terrace fronting the Shirakawa River, or in the Jean-Georges restaurant."

Like sister property Villa La Coste, The Shinmonzen is sprinkled with works by Louise Bourgeois, Damien Hirst, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Gerhard Richter and Charlotte Perriand—but perhaps the most arresting piece on display is a sequin and embroidery mural by the Vietnamese artist Tia-Thuy Nguyen, which commands the gaze in the dining room, alongside the green marble open kitchen. From an ongoing series depicting clouds as seen from the air on travels between East and West, the canvas is a sparkling burst of hot pink, orange, yellow and red—the perfect compliment to the delicate explosion of flavors one is usually experiencing while contemplating it (I am still dreaming of the melting ribbons of tuna, twirled in a perfect nest like spaghetti, atop wasabi and radish… and the cured egg yolks, wedged between thinly sliced, butter-toasted bread and generously heaped with caviar—all paired with crisp, juicy Hokkaido white wines).

Other highlights include the small but sophisticated spa, which specializes in reiki treatments; the option to choose between a Western-style bed or a traditional Japanese futon on tatami mats—both of which are supremely comfortable; the oversized Hinoki cypress soaking tubs (which are prepped with aromatics at bedtime and are best enjoyed after a long day of strolling Kyoto’s backstreets, with a glass of Château La Coste’s finest); and the private balconies suspended over the Shirakawa River, where one can observe the resident cranes and ducks taking a dip at twilight, or while sipping a custom morning brew by world-class syphon coffee master Iori Yahashi.

The guest rooms are comfortable and residential in feel, and they celebrate Japanese design elements—in accents like sliding bamboo and shoji paper screens, and even in their names, including Washi (paper), Ishi (stone), Take (bamboo) and Hinoki (cypress). Says Indagare Trip Designer Grace Park: "There are no connecting rooms, but the top floor can be privatized for groups or families with older children. The Suisho and Hinoki suites are the hotel’s best."

Who Should Stay

Says Indagare Trip Designer Grace Park: "Art and design lovers, couples and travelers who are open to forgoing amenities for a more unique and individual experience centered around omotenashi (the deep-rooted culture of Japanese hospitality) and the same culinary focus enjoyed at Villa la Coste. This property is best for those who appreciate a private hotel experience and are looking to spend most of their time exploring Kyoto. The hotel’s complimentary art and antiques walking tour is a must; a member of the guests services team leads the tour to Shinmonzen-dori’s small shops and galleries. This is scheduled at the guests’ convenience."

**“During our design process, the goal was to create a space that accommodates the desires of the modern traveler while respecting the tradition and legacy of Kyoto. This hotel represents a nuanced fusion of the past, the present, and the future.” — Tadao Ando**

Written by Elizabeth Harvey

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