We Can’t Wait to Stay at Bowen Island’s Upcoming, Japanese-Inspired Kitoki Inn

We’re a pretty satisfied bunch, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t covetous. Sometimes we see things out there that we just must have. Cool Things We Want is an archive of those earthly desires.

We all need things to look forward to right now, which is why I’ve had my eye on a new Japanese-inspired boutique hotel that’s been taking shape on Bowen Island. When finished, the humble Kitoki Inn will consist of three clean-lined, self-contained cedar cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, plus a Japanese-style bathhouse — all located on a private three-acre property that backs onto forested parkland. The name roughly translates as “feeling of being in the forest”.

How’s that for some light at the end of the tunnel?

Kitoki is just a 20-minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay, which is to say it has the potential to be a perfectly convenient place to escape from the city and decompress. Local designer Jon Reed is currently working with Kennedy Construction and PM Homes to complete the project by summer, but the immersive website (with branding by Glasfurd + Walker) is live now and reservations are already being accepted.

Full disclosure: owner-operator Mitsumi Kawai is pretty dear to me. She used to work with us at Scout and was the owner of Tofino’s Kuma Restaurant and Bowen Island’s Shika Provisions. To further pedigree, her parents and sister Moeno were the charmers behind East Hastings’ beloved Basho Cafe. She’s one of the kindest, most hospitable people on the planet, and this is what she was born to do.

“Mits” and her husband, Rob Leadley, are aiming to craft a calming environment that steers guests towards relaxation through exposure to nature. “We’re inspired by the subtle service approach we witnessed in our travels to Japan where it feels like every detail is considered and orchestrated behind the scenes to make a guest feel completely at ease.” Mitsumi says.

  • Kitoki-Inn Glasfurd + Walker Design
  • Kitoki-Inn-Illustration-13
  • Kitoki-Inn-Illustration-10
  • Kitoki-Inn-Illustration-3
  • Kitoki-Inn-Illustration-7
  • Kitoki-Inn-Social-Launch-Final_Tile 1 copy
  • Kitoki-Inn-Illustration-9

I recently took the opportunity to visit Kitoki during its construction. I walked through cabins and stood under the elegant roof of the soon-to-be onsen, or bathhouse. I touched textiles, tasted tea and listened to Mits explain her vision. By the time I left, it was clear to me that – from construction materials and sight lines to the softest towels on earth, and the ginger house-made granola – every choice made has been to make guests feel completely at ease, free to become absorbed in the thousands of shades of green in the forest and the restorative powers of the onsen.

More From Kitoki:

“From design to decor to service, Kitoki embraces the local and the sustainable. Kitoki guests will enjoy organic bath and skincare products from Bowen-based luxury brand Sangre de Fruta, coffee from Vancouver roastery Modus, and comfy, eco-friendly bedding from Takasa Lifestyle Company. Bowen jewelry designer Miki Tanaka and industrial designer Bob Schultz have been commissioned to craft the inn’s signage, while interiors will feature custom millwork by Squamish-based Van Urban Timber that repurposes trees from Kitoki’s property. One-of-a-kind handicraft by Mitsumi and her parents, Miju and Hiroshi, imbue the inn with the warmth and comfort that is Kitoki’s signature.”

Have a look at some of the photos I took below and visit the Kitoki website here. As mentioned, summer reservations are open. Once word gets out and we get the green light to travel, I expect the place to book up fast.

  • Headed to Bowen Island
  • Ferry Deck On The Way To Bowen
  • Forest Ferns at Kitoki Inn
  • Details From A Bowen Island Walk
  • Forest walk to Kitoki Inn
  • Late Afternoon Hike From Kitoki Inn
  • Site Visit: Kitoki Inn
  • Site Visit: Cabins at Kitoki Inn
  • Kitoki Inn textiles are soft and comforting, in muted colours that pick up on the natural environment.
  • Afternoon hike from Kitoki Inn
  • Firewood at Kitoki Inn
  • Kitoki Inn Bento Boxes
  • Kitoki Inn Ginger + Matcha Granola
  • Kitoki House Made Cookies
  • Afternoon Tea at Kitoki Inn
  • Mitsumi Kawai, Kitoki Inn
  • Organic Bath and Skincare Products From Bowen-based Luxury Brand Sangre de Fruta at Kitoki Inn
  • So Soft! Kitoki Inn
  • Deep Green Ocean

There are 12 comments

  1. This will no doubt be a fabulous escape with two of Bowen’s finest at the helm. Can’t wait!

  2. This looks very nice but I wonder how you were you able to get approval for this development in an area zoned for single detached homes? Bowen is beautiful because it has always been looked after by a strong and caring community. Am I correct that you do not live on Bowen?
    This development is in my home and I believe that as an Inn it is against our community plan.

  3. Hi Lyn, thanks for expressing your concerns. We have been Bowen residents since 2013 and we are building our family home along with 3 cabins to run a B&B home occupation (fully allowed under the Bowen bylaws for this property). We are working with the municipality, of course, with our approved permits and they are aware of our intention to run a B&B. We agree Bowen is a beautiful community and we also want to maintain its strength as well. We have previously owned a take-out shop on the pier and it is important to us to work with, and support Bowen businesses and people. Kitoki is about respecting nature and the community and our hope is to have guests experience the magic of the island in a respectful way. Bowen is a wonderful place and we are invested in keeping it that way.

  4. Thank you Mitsumi,
    I was shocked to hear that we would have an Inn on Collins Rd. and am grateful to hear that you have the blessing of Mayor and Counsel. I don’t want to be unwelcoming but I do have concerns.
    Is it possible for you to give information about your intentions to your neighbours on Collins Rd so that we will have time to understand and come to terms with this change?
    We all need our neighbours and a building a relationship is a good way to begin.

  5. OMG, you can almost smell the self-important, white privilege Nimbiness from this Lyn character. How embarrassing! Good luck, Mitsumi. This is so good for Bowen and I can’t wait to see it when it’s finished.

  6. Hi Lyn, we intend on being very respectful neighbours. I’ll reach out to you so we can chat further.

  7. This looks INCREDIBLE! And I can’t wait to come and visit, have already booked my weekend there in July. Good luck Mitsumi, so excited to have a small piece of Japan on our doorstep

  8. Good luck dealing with your neighbours Mitsumi. I’m not familiar with the politics of Bowen Island but just that comment above from Lynn gives me an idea of the challenges that exist. As for me, I look forward to staying at Kitoki Inn once it’s open! What a great addition to the island. This place is just what we need, now more than ever. Thank you.

  9. Wishing Mitsumi and Rob all the best in bringing their vision to life! This is going to be such a beautiful and special place to visit, I am already dreaming of my stay.

  10. Hi, please understand that it’s reasonable for neighbours to want to know about changes to their rural neighbourhood. It’s also reasonable that islanders are particularly sensitive to their small island home increasingly becoming a tourist “destination.” A transient population feels different than neighbours no matter where you live. It’s the same in condos that allow short -term rentals downtown. The sense of community is not the same with people who are randomly coming and going. This situation is different in Snug Cove, but it’s in a particularly rural part of the island where the impact may be felt more strongly. It’s unfortunate that plans weren’t brought to the neighbours who might feel more supportive if they found out directly from owners of the new inn. Respectful communication will help everyone concerned.

  11. This looks incredible, fantastic work. Our local community is totally on board with this development. Looks very respectful and innovative as a contribution to the community. Sorry to hear there’s some questionable feedback, looks very well contributed and considered.

  12. So beautiful and sensitively considered – congratulations to the team that put this together. It distils the best of Bowen & Mitsumi’s generosity of spirit. Bravo!

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