Konichiwa from Kyoto

Written by Courtney Kruer, Monogram

This March, Monogram took our brand international to sponsor the annual Leaders of Design Conference which was held in Kyoto, Japan. The Leaders of Design (LDC) are a tight knit community of incredibly influential architects, interior designers, landscape design firms, furniture designers, and more that come together from over 40 cities across the globe throughout the year to facilitate connections throughout the design industry. Our first day, we were welcomed with open arms by founders of the LDC, Meg Touborg and Keith Granet, at the exquisite Kyoto Ritz-Carlton. How gorgeous is the lobby of the hotel?

That night, after speeches by Mariel Hemingway and Azby Brown, we left the hotel for the opening cocktail reception held at the Seiryuden Temple in Kyoto. We gathered around for introductions and then were seated for a night full of networking and delicious sushi. We were surprised halfway through appetizers with a breathtaking 150+ pound tuna brought into the room by two renowned Michelin chefs flown in from Tokyo to make us the most fresh sushi that any of us had ever had the pleasure of indulging in.

The next day, we opted to have the traditional Japanese breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton. Can you believe that all of this was only breakfast? These dishes range from traditional Japanese tea, white rice, miso soup, yogurt with fresh fruit and honey, a rolled egg omelet, tofu, blacked cod, small glasses of sweet vinegar and grape juice, and so much more. Needless to say, we were quite full!

Following breakfast, all 130 of us took buses to The Miho Museum, which was southeast of Kyoto near the town of Shigaraki. We were greeted by the director of the museum, Hiroo Inoue, who taught us about the history of the museum and how it was constructed to be such a stunning architectural piece of the city. Next we had an interactive workshop in the museum with Tom Andrews, the president of SY Partners, where we practiced “Designing Mindfulness” throughout our daily life. Both the setting and the workshop left us very relaxed and centered for the rest of our trip, which definitely helped with our 14 hour jet lag!

The following day was full of immersing ourselves in traditional Japanese culture thanks to a custom  Kyoto University program LDC conceived, designed and presented that welcomed us to the grounds of the Myoshinji Temples. Throughout the day, we rotated in small groups to be educated in Japanese art forms such as Calligraphy (Shodo), Flower Arranging (Ikebana), a traditional tea ceremony and how to consider the symbolization and layout for peaceful contemplation in Japanese gardening.

We even learned how to write “elevate” in Japanese Calligraphy. Monogram is Elevating Everything even abroad!

That evening, we drove to the Kyoto National Museum for an art gallery walk and a beautiful seated dinner. Unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the gallery, but as you can imagine by the stunning design of the exterior of the museum, it was quite a breathtaking site!

On our last day in Japan, we explored two gardens led by Japanese monks. Although the cherry blossoms were not yet in bloom, these gardens were remarkable. We even saw one of the last functioning and undisrupted wells for drinking water left in Japan, which is still used by the monks that live there.

On our way to dinner for our final evening in Kyoto, we of course had to go see the famous Golden Temple that was built in 1955. Even in the rainy, cloudy weather, it was spectacular.

We then went to our final destination for the week: Kitayama Monolith. The site is often used for weddings and we can absolutely understand why! The elegant architecture and design combined with the all glass walls onlooking a garden surrounded by water, made this one of the most gorgeous places we had ever set foot inside of. We were greeted by Japanese Geishas of all ages, who later on performed traditional dances for our entire group. The night ended with music, nightcaps and dancing, which we never wanted to end!

Needless to say, if you ever get a chance to go to Japan, especially Kyoto, you must do so. In addition to how beautiful and clean the city was, the most inspiring part of the trip was just how friendly and helpful everyone we encountered was. Whether it was the concierge at the Ritz-Carlton or a cashier at a convenience store, we were treated with the highest form of respect and kindness every single day. It’s definitely worth the 12-16+ hour journey across the world to experience the rich culture that this entire country has to offer. We sincerely thank the Leaders of Design for allowing us to be a sponsor of their annual international conference and network with all of their members. Words cannot describe how appreciative we were to Elevate Everything in Kyoto with over 100 of the most undeniably inspirational leaders of the design community.

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