xiv toba bettei
Design and Supervision
Yasui Architects & Engineers, Inc.
Public Area Design
Ishii Architect Office Co. Ltd.
Guest Room Interior Design
Nikken Space Design Ltd
Japan’s XIV Toba Bettei membership hotel, owned by RESORTTRUST, INC, opened in March 2016, but diners at its »floating restaurant« might think they’d slipped back in time a few hundred years. Modeled after the 16th century Karakasa-tei teahouse of master Sen no Rikyu, the dining room features a ribbed circular ceiling, discreet panels between the tables, and polished natural wood – all built exactly at water-level to give the sensation of drifting on the hotel’s picturesque pond.
That combination – classic Japanese architecture immersed in nature – was the guiding aesthetic of designer Nobuko Suzuki (for Nikken Space Design), and her interiors for Toba Bettei’s guest rooms are filled with homages to time-honored Japanese style. Low-set furnishings, minimalist lines, soft lighting, and repeating rectangles all contribute to a nostalgic look. The color scheme pairs customary Japanese hues with metallic lacquers and foils: deep red with gold, indigo with silver, and mustard yellow with copper. Sliding wood-and-paper shoji panels let in light while creating a layered space.
The emphasis on tradition is appropriate for Toba, a small fishing village on the Ise-Shima Peninsula. The town’s winding stone streets, tiny izakaya pubs, and numerous shrines are a throwback to previous centuries – and visitors to the area can still find locals mending nets and diving for shellfish and lobster by hand, as they have for centuries.
Suzuki’s vision for the resort goes well beyond historical recreation, of course. »We tried to capture the essence of Japanese traditional architecture, without building something completely traditional,« says the designer. To that end, the rooms also showcase dramatic rim lighting, sleek black ceramic surfaces, and wooden-slab sofas – all unmistakably modern. The bathroom fixtures, including INAX’s Asteo spalets, also add a dash of contemporary, plus state-of-the-art technology, to maximize comfort at this getaway dedicated to quiet relaxation.
Designer, Nikken Space Design (guest room interiors)
Your interiors for Toba Bettei are boldly traditional.
What inspired that aesthetic?
Three weeks before the presentation of my design, I still didn’t know exactly what I would submit, so I decided to visit Kyoto to steep myself in Japanese culture. I came across a historic sumiya – a house of entertainment which embodies the supreme hospitality of the Edo Period. It was full of little Japanese-style rooms, each with a unique interior and ambiance, and I thought it fitted perfectly with the hotel’s philosophy of providing the best service and hospitality in an out-of-the-ordinary setting.
Interesting! The final result feels very open and graceful.
We have a term, »Tei-Oku-Ichi-Nyo,« that means the garden, or outdoor area, is included in the concept of a building. I designed the guest rooms so the garden and the deep side of the room are connected and work as a whole. There is some emptiness in the layout that makes it possible. There are no doors. I tried to make the space look like a house – specifically Japanese, yet with modern taste.
Did that guide the bathroom design as well?
Yes, I used the same method. The bathwater actually comes directly from the hot spring, so you can enjoy the view outside and the hot spring inside at the same time. Also, everything from the ceilings to the height of the chairs is designed low. I structured the space low and flat, not as high as it would be in a western style.
You chose the shower toilets from INAX – what made them the right fit?
When it comes to toilets, Japanese-made is kind of an automatic choice for a project in Japan. Here it is also standard to have a shower toilet instead of a regular toilet.
What is it that sets Japanese products apart?
Fundamentally, Japanese pay great attention to detail. On fixtures, for example, we care about which side you put the buttons. When you use something cheap, you can feel it by the touch. That’s not good for the client or the customers. With Japanese products, we always know the customer will be satisfied.