Bare Woman - Meet Mitsumi Kawai

A short ferry journey from Vancouver transports you to the idyllic Bowen Island. Despite the proximity to the city, the island greets you with charming artisanal boutiques, pristine natural landscapes, charming bistros, and serene, community-centric lifestyle. It’s here in the heart of Bowen Island, you’ll discover Mitsumi Kawai and Rob Leadley’s Kitoki Inn, an invigorating boutique accommodation experience. Recently opened in July 2021, the Kitoki experience is an invitation to relax in harmony with nature.

Seamlessly blending Japanese minimalism with contemporary West Coast aesthetics, you can’t help but feel at ease as soon as you step foot on the property. Every design element and detail has been thoughtfully considered to provide guests with a restorative, serene and one-of-a-kind retreat. From locally sourced apothecary products, organic cotton bedding, subdued ambient lighting, and warm fir panelling, each of the three private cabins on the property exudes a sense of home and place.

Nestled amidst a forested setting, each of the cozy cabin’s boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies, allowing you to enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of your natural surroundings. Within the property, guests can enjoy a covered open-air Onsen-style bathhouse equipped with hydrotherapy shower, hot tub and wood burning fireplace.

We were fortunate to connect with Mitsumi to learn more about the vision and intention behind the Kitoki Inn and gain insights on how to infuse our own living spaces with a similar sense of tranquility and serenity.

  1. Safe to say we are all inspired by what you and Rob have built with the Kitoki Inn. What inspirations or experiences helped shape the vision?

    Thank you! We love creating and curating experiences and we are in a transition in our life where we had many different ideas and paths that we were dreaming up. We were on an extended trip in Japan and something clicked as we walked around the gardens, temples, and shrines of Kyoto. The vision was to take inspiration from our travels in Japan and my Japanese roots, and weave in the natural beauty of Bowen Island to create a tranquil getaway. We envisioned a place to take a couple of days off from the busyness of life to unplug, reconnect to nature, to yourself, to each other, and leave feeling ready to re-enter the world. A quick escape to recharge. Creating an open-air bathhouse felt like the perfect way to enjoy all the seasons, particularly the cooler, rainy months of the Pacific Northwest. Sitting in the bathhouse and looking out into the forest canopy, hearing birds, frogs, crickets, rain, all help to quiet the mind and relax. We're thrilled people feel connected to our vision of Kitoki.

  2. Did sustainability and the natural surroundings of Bowen Island play a role in the design and development?

    Being on Bowen, one of the main draws that we wanted to share with our guests is being surrounded by nature, the forest and trails and the beaches and ocean. The three cabins are designed to be staggered for privacy with large sliding glass doors and outdoor decks that allow guests to take in nature in the cozy comforts of the cabin. Similarly, the bathhouse is open-air, allowing you take in fresh air and appreciate any weather as you have a peaceful soak. 

    When we were developing this land, we had to take down some trees, even though it was already prepared with a build site. Luckily, we were able to have the larger and fir trees milled and use them in our cabins with the help of Vancouver Urban Timber in Squamish. It's pretty special to know the shelves and tables were made from trees that once grew on the property. It was also important for us to landscape the property in a natural, sustainable way. The land is sloped and we were pleased that the deer, birds and insects are loving the native grass we seeded that we let grow wild and go through the annual cycle. 

    As for the day-to-day operation, we try to stay away from anything single use. We're extremely lucky to have Sanger de Fruta producing beautiful botanical bath and body products on the island, made with sustainably sourced ingredients. We carry the Garden of Earthly Delights line, which is a perfect fit for Kitoki with its earthy cedar and sandalwood scent mixed with a light floral fragrance

  3. You’ve created such serenity in your space. What advice can you give to someone who may be looking to replicate the same feelings of calm in their own space?

    When we were designing Kitoki, which translates to "tree and spirit", we wanted to create a space that is calming, tranquil, and slows down time. I don't have a design background so it was an organic process - I focused on the natural warm hues (like Bare's sweaters!), used natural wood tones and brought in nature and light through the windows. My mother is a sewer and her pieces add coziness and warmth to the space with her hand sewn quilts, linen coasters, and sashiko (hand stitched) mats. Our design ethos was to be natural and minimal, but at the same time warm and inviting. 

  4. What are some personal rituals you’ve integrated into your everyday to promote self-care?

    I don't have many daily rituals but I do love stretching in the morning to start the day. I can take in the weather and the seasons by looking out at the trees, the sky, and the North Shore mountains in the distance. Bowen has great trails and getting out for hikes always feels amazing. And one of my favourite weekly routines is going to my ballet and hop hop dance classes. It feels so great to move to music. Lastly, sleep! A comfortable sleep setting with soft lights and luxurious bedding is the ultimate self-care.

  5. Having run or been a part of several curated business’ in the hospitality industry, what brings you most joy when creating experiences for people?

    Running a restaurant in Tofino (Kuma) and Bowen (Shika), it was really lovely to be a part of the people's day through a comforting meal during their visit. At Kitoki, I can feel that guests are able to relax, take a pause from the hustle and bustle of life and have a quiet experience in nature both in the cabins and the bathhouse. Sometimes guests leave behind nice notes, drawings, and even poetry, that all means a lot to me. We have many guests who come back and share with us that Kitoki is their happy place. I love that. We appreciate that people notice the details, that it reminds them of a visit to Japan, or that it's their first time away after having kids. It's ready a feel-good business to create and operate. We feel very fortunate. 

Booking Information:

  • Bookings are full until the second half of 2024.
  • New bookings will open on November 25th at 9:00am PST.
  • Link to book HERE.
Photography by Joann Pai & Rob Leadley

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