Created: January 15, 1994
Designer: Barbara Woolworth Hutton
Days Open: Open early March to October 31
Hours Open:
Entry or Parking Fees:
Garden Phone: +1 855 266 5203

Kasugai2 (Medium)
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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.
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.
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.

A few weeks ago, the Camino Real Sumiya Hotel turned 24 years old. At the entrance, on a wall there is a plaque that recalls that it was inaugurated on January 15, 1994 by then Secretary of Tourism, Jesus Silva Herzog.

The Camino Real hotels today belong to or are operated by the Real Turismo Group, which in turn forms part of Grupo Empresarial Ángeles, which in June 2000 acquired the company Real Tourism Owner and Operator, and whose president is Olegario Vázquez Raña, in so much so that his son, Olegario Vázquez Aldir, occupies the general direction.

Last year, GRT initiated the remodeling of several of its properties in the country, with an investment of 620 million pesos, of which 70 million were destined to the rejuvenation of Sumiya.

And it is located in the town of Jiutepec, practically conurbated to Cuernavaca, Camino Real Sumiya is one of the most imposing hotels in the state of Morelos, with a very particular history.

With ample gardens, huge trees and Japanese architecture, it was originally an imperial resting house built in the mid-1950s by one of the richest women of the time: Barbara Hutton Woolworth, heiress of the chain of stores that take their second last name by name. 80 years ago, this company was very important, with a large number of branches in various parts of the world, of which there are still a few in Mexico.

According to the official history of the place, the house was completed in 1959 and it was the seventh and last marriage of the owner, which was with the Vietnamese Prince Raymond Doan Vinh Na Champassak.

A millionaire of tragic, wasteful and philanthropic life, he collected husbands, including the famous actor Cary Grant, whom he divorced three years later, and the well-known Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa, who had his time of splendor during the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo, who ruled the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1961, when he was assassinated in an ambush. His story tells Mario Vargas Llosa in La Fiesta del Chivo . With Rubirosa she was only married for a year.

Hutton also ordered the construction in Sumiya of a replica of the Kabuki Theater that exists in the Japanese city of Kyoto, all made with imported materials, which includes an ofuro bath, where “ritual purification was carried out. actor before entering the scene, “as well as a zen garden, sand and stones” brought from seven different quarries in Japan. “

Likewise, the legend states that Dona Barbara died in 1979, at age 66, with barely a few thousand dollars in her bank account.

Thus, property over the years fell into neglect and, according to the weekly Proceso reported in a report published in January 2007, was bought by former president Luis Echeverría and other partners, paying a debt that Hutton had with the government, luxurious home in hotel.

The magazine says that other characters who have been shareholders of the hotel are Maria del Carmen Echeverria Zuno de Porras; Ricardo Salinas Pliego, owner of Televisión Azteca; and David Ibarra Muñoz, former Secretary of Finance, among others.

Currently, Camino Real Sumiya is a hotel focused mainly on groups. Its CEO, Guillermo Gros Cibils, comments that within the GRT is the second most successful in this segment, after Camino Real Polanco, in Mexico City.

From Friday to Sunday he is filled with wedding guests, ceremonies that account for 48 percent of his occupation and 60 percent of income, raising his average tariff of 1,500 pesos per night during the week, to three thousand pesos at the end of week.

However, their average annual occupancy ranges from 50 to 55 percent. That is, almost half the time is empty.

In this regard, Gros Cibilis complains that fate needs publicity. “The state government has a lot to do. It does not destine enough money to promote “, although in Morelos the lodging tax is 3.75 percent of what is paid for each room.

The Vazquez Aldir family does not own Sumiya, but only operates one of its hotel brands, but has managed to turn this peculiar site into one of the most traditional hotels in Cuernavaca, which is well worth a weekend, at least.

Garden Features:

  • Waterfall:  Buddhists find the natural process of water springing from a mountain source, gathering strength as it rushes down a valley, eventually dissipating calmly into the sea to be a metaphor for human existence; birth, growth, death and rebirth.
  • Pond:  Represents the sea – everything flows into the pond, calming the restlessness of life. Rocks in the pond represent islands.
  • Creek:  Water represents life. The way water moves through a landscape illustrates the paths of least resistance such as the tendency of how one lives their life.
  • Bridges:  The word “bridge” (hashi 階), also a homonym with the word for “edge”, are seen as linking two edges; opposite shores of a river or symbolically “this world” and the “after world”. The plank bridge is built low to the ground in order to give viewers a feeling of being close to the surrounding field scenes.
  • Stone Lanterns:  The stone lanterns (ishi-dōrō 石灯籠) in the gardens give a very artistic look to the scenery and show the man-made effect they have on the gardens.
  • Pine Trees:  Image of eternity, longevity, representing permanence, in contrast to the ever changing aspects. nature.
  • Forest:  The inclining path depicts a change of scenery with the forest scene on the left and the tree covered hill ahead. Forest (mori) is similar to the word “moru” which means “to guard and protect.”
  • Tea Gardens:  In the 1500s tea gardens were constructed to be understated and naturalistic. A small humble tea room was made for the tea ceremony (Chanoyu  茶の湯). The man-made water laver (tsukubai つくばい) was used to purify oneself before entering the tea room. All troubles and concerns were to be left outside.
  • Enclosure & Entry:  An enclosure is a frame to control how the garden will be viewed. It allows for the garden to be viewed as an independent work of art. Enclosure necessitates entries. Both physical and spiritual gates connect the garden to the outside world and divide it into selections of changing view. Physically, wooden gates are used, but more likely, scenery change is marked by a bend or rise in a path or another ephemeral gate.
  • Stone Garden (karesansui  枯山水):  The use of white sand/rock depicts the sign of purification. Many shrines use white sand to create “ma 間” (space) which is used to represent “mu” (nothingness), a teaching of Zen Buddhism. The white stones represent the ocean; the raked patterns, the waves; and the rocks, the mountains and islands.


Garden History:

The Gardens were co-designed by the cities of Kelowna and Kasugai. Building funds were raised through the efforts of both the City of Kelowna and the Kelowna-Kasugai Sister City Association. In 1983, in Kasugai, Japan “Kelowna Boulevard”, was dedicated to the growing friendship. The following year a site behind Kelowna City Hall was dedicated to link the citizens of Kelowna and Kasugai. That site is now known as Kasugai Gardens. Completed in 1987, the Gardens symbolize the friendship between the cities, providing residents and visitors with a pleasant and relaxing environment for quiet reflection.

Garden information provided by Caroline Ivey, Parks Community Coordinator for City of Kelowna.

Gardens in the Americas