At Kitoki, a curved pathway paved with large, flat stones leads directly to the bathhouse, the property’s centerpiece. Along the way, it ushers you past three private cabins. Each one is marked by hand-crafted custom bronze kanji signage: 木 (wood), 木木 (trees), and 森 (forest). A crisp silence surrounds you. So tranquil you can hear the air brush up against your skin. Upon entering, each cedar-clad cabin is equipped with its own kitchenette, and a little tray of breakfast goods like homemade cookies, scones, and granola welcomes you. A large queen-sized bed faces out onto the blanket of Douglas firs. But, as comfortable as the cabins are, the real miracles start just behind the hand-woven rope noren of the bathhouse. Past the wooden sliding doors and lavish dark stone shower, an arresting forest view receives you in the open-air bath. The view from here is best of all.
Posted outside of the little wooden shop is a sign-up sheet. Every cabin is offered two 90-minute baths each day of your stay. While it may be enticing to want to stay submerged all day, it is ill-advised to stay so heated for so long. My best recommendation is to book in the morning, upon rising, and again in the evening to lull you into a perfect rest. A wood-burning fireplace fills the air with the smouldering scent of camp. Returning to the cabin in a complementary Japanese cotton robe and slinking into bed, I forgot there were others checked-in because the property was so still. Waking only with the light of day after the deepest slumber I can remember in an age.
What is a ryokan
To understand Kitoki, we must first examine both the ryokans’ historical and contemporary culture. A traditional Japanese inn, the ryokan has a long-established history, but history is an ever-evolving process. Though taken out of Nippon, the final model of the buildings is nonetheless remarkably faithful to the ryokan concept. Understanding the ryokan involves knowing the ideas, materials, and designs of these traditional spaces and understanding what the tradition was not. Instead of being strictly derivative, owners Mitsumi Kawai and Rob Leadley worked with designer Jon Reed to synthesize and find harmony in creating a distinct, regional idiom in the Pacific Northwest. The result was an architectural vocabulary that included many authentic characteristics to Japan while customizing others to suit Bowen Island (originally Nex̱wlélex̱m in Squamish).
Snug Cove on Bowen Island
The way we travel has changed in more ways than one. In a new era of travel, smaller locales close to home serve as the perfect spot to getaway. For many, Bowen Island is a short and sweet 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay outside downtown Vancouver. And while you’ll be hard-pressed to leave the relaxation of Kitoki, Snug Cove offers a handful of delights a short distance from the inn.
A small, vibrant community outpost just a 5-minute drive from Kitoki Inn, Artisan Square has just the right amount of whimsy. Peruse the shops and gallery for fine cashmere, local art, hand-made chocolates, fresh flowers, and modern housewares or dine in at Artisan Eats Café with an offering of lunch, brunch, breakfast, and baked goods.
539 Artisan Ln, Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G0
SANGRE DE FRUTA
A particular standout at Artisan Square is Sangre de Fruta. You’ll recognize it as the divinely scented product line inside your bathroom at Kitoki Inn. Organic skincare with a holistic approach to formulation holding natural botanicals at its heart. Locally produced, everything is made on Bowen Island.
563 Artisan Ln, Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G2
TELL YOUR FRIENDS CAFE
In a row of tiny wooden storefronts on the quay of the ferry, Tell Your Friends Cafe is the perfect spot to grab a coffee before or after your visit to Kitoki Inn. A hearty menu of healthful dishes like Moroccan chickpea salad and grilled halloumi sandwiches provides quick and easy meals.
400 Bowen Island Trunk Rd, Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G0
COPPER SPIRIT DISTILLERY
Honouring the traditional art of distilling, this young family-run business refines organic spirits, which you enjoy in their tasting room. Their full menu serves classic cocktails like martinis, Manhattan’s, and G&Ts with a fresh twist. The beautiful tasting room is not to be missed by non-drinkers either, as their menu includes inventive non-alcoholic drinks alike.
441 Bowen Island Trunk Rd, Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G0 ■
Kitoki Inn, 503 Collins Road, Bowen Island, British Columbia, VON 1G1
[email protected], +1 (778) 722-0150