I sit in a simple room, rough walls - built from earth excavated from the hillside on which the hotel sits - in a shade of near-chartreuse imbue a sense of calm and serenity. A bright blue rug at my feet matches the woven back of my brass-framed chair, one that, despite its high-design look, is remarkably comfortable to plant oneself in, taking in the vista of the port town below. It’s February but the sun is shining and the temperature is a comfortable 17C. The windows are open and the sea air fills the room with a salty smack. Light streams in undisturbed to the library, which itself is modelled on the personal study of Bijoy Jain in Mumbai. The colour, just one of the many distinctive complexions that make up the final scheme, was chosen by British colour artist Muirne Kate Dineen, who often collaborates on Jain’s projects. It’s distinctive. In fact, it’s the first thing you notice upon arrival. A sensational palette of complementary, natural pigments each chosen to highlight the nuances of the surface they are assigned to. Whittled down from 114 different colour ‘recipes’, the final scheme is a fitting ode to the hotel and its surroundings.
I’m whisked away to the bar for an early-evening aperitif. Here I sit sipping on a locally-produced rosé, the walls flushed with a tint almost identical to the one in my glass. Records play from a turntable in the corner, nostalgic cracks and hums break the beautifully mellow tones every now and again and I’m transported to thoughts of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, penning their prose to the same sultry sounds of vinyl. A blissful state to be in before dinner.
Ai Hosokawa supervises the seasonal menus at LOG. For the past 15 years, her nourishing dishes and clean flavours have created waves in the Japanese culinary world and she’s produced many celebrated cookbooks incorporating her creative use of seasonal ingredients. Every plate served at LOG is sprung from the earth and sea within and around Onomichi. ‘Just as the building is a part of, and a place to enjoy the landscape, the same is true for our food’, the staff tell me. ‘Our approach to cooking is allowing any ingredient’s true flavour to flourish. You may call it simple, or uncomplicated - but the clean flavours on our plates are really a manifestation of care. The care for nature as well as people. We treat the produce kindly, not adding excessive flavours and making sure we use every part of the ingredient possible, not allowing for anything to go to waste.’
Dinner is a set menu of around six courses. Japanese in essence but with a European and Pan-Asian flare, the dishes are designed to satiate without sitting heavy and they do a wonderful job. Breakfast is only available to hotel guests and draws inspiration from European kitchens; seasonal fruits, green leaves, local artisanal cheese and homemade bread and pastries.
A gentle warmth cocoons me upon waking in the washi-lined rooms. The washi is from Wataru Hatano, an artisan in the outskirts of Kyoto, whose studio we visited earlier this year. Soft light from the shoji-screened windows is absorbed by muted hues for an almost ethereal setting in which to stir from peaceful slumber. The six guest rooms at LOG mirror a traditional Japanese nagaya building, with the space between the shoji screens and the window evoking a Japanese engawa veranda. The blend of Indian and Japanese, modern and traditional is truly captivating and culminates in perhaps one of my favourite hotel experiences in-country.
Climbing the steep stone steps of Mt. Senkoji is the only way to get to the entrance at LOG. Practise packing lightly, or leave any large suitcase in storage for this sojourn. Or, as it is Japan after all, send your larger suitcase on to your next destination for a fuss-free way to travel and conserve your energy for exploration of the ascending alleyways en route.
Rachel E T Davies