In a preview from The Touch—the new book from Kinfolk and Norm Architects, published by gestalten—a slow sailboat takes hotel guests downriver to a bygone world at the edge of Kyoto, one in which there are no clocks to mark the passage of time and where ancient, untouched nature obfuscates any signs of the modern city.
Gardens are planned spaces; liminal borders between the human concepts of aesthetic beauty and unbounded nature. How people apply order to nature reflects their own particular cultural learnings about control and chaos.
The Japanese garden aesthetic, in contrast to western European traditions of tightly prescribed knots, hedgerows, and geometrically shaped flower beds, is imperfect, asymmetrical, and inconstant by design. From the smallest atrium garden to the largest parks, irregularity reigns: odd numbers are always preferable to even (the number four is considered unlucky in Japanese culture), changes made by winds or rains are embraced, and any non-natural elements, like lacquered bridges or stone lanterns, are left exposed to the elements as a reminder of time’s inevitable progression.
In this context, the goal of Hoshinoya Kyoto may seem somewhat nontraditional. The resort, set within the sprawling grounds of the Arashiyama park just outside of Kyoto, is reached via a 15-minute ride on a hinoki (a traditional Japanese cedar boat), which slips quietly around the green bends of the river. It’s a vessel, and a mode of travel, that even seasoned travelers in Japan (including the Japanese them-selves) are not accustomed to seeing in this century. According to Yoshiharu Hoshino, the group’s chief executive, the hybrid hotel-ryokan (a traditional Japanese guesthouse), has been designed to disorient the guest from the concept of time rather than remind them of it. “Escape from human realms and daily concerns is what we would like our guests to experience,” Hoshino says.