Nobu Ryokan Hotel

Malibu opens its doors to the first of the new Nobu Ryokan Hotel collection. These luxurious boutique hotels are the perfect blend of traditional Japanese inns and modern elegance.  

Written by Julie Wuellner

Top Floor View.jpg

Ever since opening its doors on Carbon Beach in 2012, Nobu has been one of the hottest restaurants in Los Angeles. Celebrities and regular folks alike flock to the modern Japanese restaurant. On the weekends, it is often booked weeks in advance. Less known but just as extravagant is the Nobu Ryokan Malibu located just steps away from the restaurant. The Nobu Ryokan Malibu is part of Nobu Hotels Collection, a group of luxury hotels set to be built all around the world in exotic locations. Nobu Ryokan Malibu is inspired by traditional Japanese ryokan inns and aims to seamlessly blend authentic Japanese minimalism with the natural elegance of the California coastline.

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa is the mastermind behind the inventive Japanese dishes at the Nobu restaurant. In Malibu, Michelin Star Executive Chef Gregorio Stephenson and Executive Sushi Chef Toshiyuki Shiramizu turn Matsuhisa’s dishes into reality for hundreds of customers every day. Stephenson has been with Nobu Malibu since it opened in 1999 back when it was still located in the Malibu Country Mart and is without a doubt a contributing force to Nobu Malibu’s success. Shiramizu began his journey with Nobu at Nobu Hong Kong in 2000. With his formal training being done in the heart of Japan, his inventive mind along with expertise in Japanese cuisine dazzle customers on a daily basis.

Garden Fireplace.jpg

The recently opened Nobu Ryokan Malibu is lesser known but perhaps even more luxurious and exclusive than the restaurant. Located right next door on Carbon Beach, guests can enjoy the same breath-taking ocean views along with traditional Japanese luxuries such as hand-crafted teak soaking tubs, shoji screens, bamboo towels as well as spacious patios overlooking the Malibu Pier. “It is located on a magical edge, where land and sea meet, in a wonderful serene cocoon that creates a completely private and discreet getaway,” designer Todd-Avery Lenahan told


The boutique hotel has only 16 guest rooms, each priced at least $2,000 per night with a two-night minimum stay. It is impossible to book a stay directly, in fact, the Nobu Ryokan has no phone number you can call for reservations. Instead, guests have to fill out an inquiry form on the Nobu Ryokan website; this ensures complete privacy for guests. There are absolutely no outside visitors or tourists allowed inside the Ryokan. General manager, Janelle Eng told Vogue that, “You go to Nobu and Soho House to be seen – you come to the Ryokan to not be seen”. No luxury is spared for guests staying at the hotel. Each room is entirely unique and offers a whole host of luxuries. Priceless Japanese artwork out of Larry Ellison’s private collection adorns the hotel walls; each room has at least two pieces. In an interview, founder and owner of TAL Studio Todd-Avery Lenahan tells us, “He has one of the most important private collections of Japanese artwork anywhere in the world.” Meals can be brought over from the Japanese restaurant next door, and guests wishing to head over there are often offered some the best tables in the house. For those looking to be active, there is a brand new fitness center on the premises with state of the art equipment and all Ryokan guests are also welcome to head over to the private Malibu Racquet Club.

Responsible for Nobu’s luxurious, minimalistic, Japanese inspired look and feel are architect Severine Tatangelo of Studio PCH, along with Todd-Avery Lenahan, Montalba Architects, and CW Eisner. Lenahan describes their approach by saying, “There is a warmth, an ease, and a sincerity to everything about the design and this property is very representative of [Larry Ellison’s] personal value as it relates to hospitality and the things you should experience in a great resort or in someone’s home.” The Japanese influences on the hotel are countless, “For the bathing areas; Mr. Ellison wanted an extremely reductive and elemental bathing experience that is reflective of the way one would bathe in a Japanese bathroom,” Lenahan says. Studio PCH also tells us they paid special attention to the design of the bathrooms, “Most of the bathtubs have a skylight above allowing light to wash into the bathroom in a way that is almost spiritual. There is a moment in the day when the sun enters through the skylight when you can feel a stillness and calm settle over you. Witnessing this effect in person is a very special moment." However, being inspired by Japanese inns, the design team had to triumph over various challenges such as traditional Japanese sleeping arrangements. Lenahan tells us that, “I had a challenge in that, in a traditional Japanese ryokan, the sleeping actually occurs on the floor on tatami mats but obviously our clientele here, as far as Western, we certainly had to accommodate the Western sensibilities for the sleep experience. That is what informs the overall styling of the bed presentation and the other furniture in the room”.

Beachfront Room.jpg

The Nobu Ryokan sits on what used to be the Casa Malibu Inn, “The word renovation doesn’t speak to the magnitude of what this was,” Lenahan tells us, “the existing footprints of Casa Malibu Inn and much of its structure was to be integrated as the skeletal bones of the new project, but that is the extent of the Casa Malibu influence on the project." In 2007 the Inn was purchased for a mere $20 million by billionaire Larry Ellison who owns a whole host of properties along Carbon Beach as well as the Malibu Racquet Club. Ellison quickly joined forces with Nobu Chef Matsuhisa to create the first of the entirely new Nobu Ryokan branded hotels. Actor and producer, Robert De Niro and producer Meir Teper are also partners in this venture. Matsuhisa told Haute Living that, “Larry Ellison loves Nobu. The first time I met him in one of my restaurants was a long time ago. He loves Japan, and he loves Nobu’s food – he likes the sashimi and crispy rice best, but he really likes everything – so we had something like a marriage. We moved to his property, and he supports us.”

Black Cod Miso photographed by Steven Freeman.jpg

Nowadays Nobu Hotels can be found all around the globe. There are hotels located in Miami, Manila and Las Vegas. In the next few years, numerous additional hotels are said to open. These will be located in Ibiza, Riyhadh, Marbella, Los Cabos, Chicago, Toronto, and Bahrain. Nobu hotels worldwide are known for their luxuries, fantastic hospitality, and gorgeous design. In an interview with the New York Times, De Niro said that “I like a hotel that’s got good service. It can be old style or new style, but the service has to be good”. Expanding on the importance of hospitality, Matsuhisa said, “We need to be sure to take care of our guests every minute through check-in, housekeeping, room service. We are taking care of them for several days, maybe a week. For this, we need to have everyone on the team understand the Nobu philosophy and how to make guests happy.” This philosophy has quickly paid off for the hotel brand. After the first Nobu Hotel opened in Las Vegas, it was quickly awarded numerous titles such as “Hottest New Hotel” by CNN Travel and also won the Luxury Travel Advisor’s Award of Excellence.” Other Nobu hotels have been received just as warmly.

Nobu Malibu Outdoor_Courtesy of Nobu Restaurants.jpg

When asked what is next for the Nobu brand, co-owner, Robert De Niro told the Hollywood Reporter earlier this year that, “I’d like to do the Caribbean next. A Nobu beach club, hopefully." MM

Holly Bieler