Photo: Nora Rose Mueller

Inside Sumiya, A Traditional Japanese Garden Outside Mexico City

Located an hour and half’s drive from Mexico City, Sumiya is an an unexpected and slightly eccentric estate-turned-hotel, constructed entirely in the Japanese style (the buildings are specifically modeled after a Shogun mansion), and complete with a perfect replica of Kyoto’s kabuki theatre. The hotel grounds are open to the public, and are a perfect blend of Japanese architecture and Mexican botany– a fusion mirrored in the hotel’s menu, whose brunch makes Sumiya an excellent morning stop.

Built at the behest of famous American socialite Barbara Woolworth Hutton, the project cost $2.2 million dollars and six years to build, before finally being completed in 1959. Allegedly, Hutton only lived a Sumiya for a handful of weeks over the course of three years.

“The hotel grounds are a perfect blend of Japanese architecture and Mexican botany…”

In light of Hutton’s colorfully cinematic life, it’s little surprise that Sumiya has a similarly idiosyncratic quality. In her era, Hutton was a household name, nicknamed “Poor Little Rich Girl” because of her immense inherited wealth and penchant for tragedy. As the heiress to the Woolworth fortune, she was, in her prime, thought to be the richest woman in the world– a title which is seen as having sabotaged many of her relationships: she was married and divorced seven times over the course of her life, including to Hollywood royalty Cary Grant, and a range of real royalty including a count, a baron, and a prince.

Photo: Nora Rose Mueller

Though Sumiya was converted into a privately owned hotel in 1993, the space is still infused with an element of peculiarity. Varnished mahogany and angular lines contrast with the lush, tropical verdancy of the surroundings (Cuernavaca, where Sumiya is located, is known as “the city of eternal Spring”). In the distance are the two volcanoes Popocatépetl and Ixtaccíhuatl, which add a grand backdrop to an already grand hotel. A still tranquility permeates the paths, which wind between perfectly sculpted natural features. The space feels apart from the world– it’s difficult to keep your moorings about where (or when) you are, and it’s easy to understand why Hutton would have built the place as a sanctuary (though in reality she spent very little time there). Now, at least, it is open to anyone looking for an afternoon to enjoy the luxury of peace.

Camino Real Sumiya is located at Internacionl Fraccionamiento Sumiya S/N, José Parres, 62564 Jiutepec in Morelos, Mexico. For more information, visit their website.

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