Kyoto: Hoshinoya Ryokan
This modern ryokan, set in a river valley outside of Kyoto, offers unparalleled tranquility, boundless amenities, and opportunities to partake of Michelin-starred Kyoto-style kaiseki dining.
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Hoshinoya Kyoto11-2, Arashiyama Genrokuzancho, Nishikyo-ku 616-0007 Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, Japan 81/50-3786-0066 global.hoshinoresort.com/hoshinoya_kyoto
A traditional Japanese breakfast of feast-like proportions served in-room
A herbal sachet-scented soak in the Japanese Style cypress wood bath
- 25 guest rooms
- Library with books, CDs, Newspapers, tea and coffee
- Broadband and wireless internet connection
- CD player, tea, coffee, mini-bar
- House and sleeping pyjamas, Japanese clogs and socks
- Free wifi
- Tea and incense ceremonies
- Optional rickshaw tour, Kimono walk
As we walked up the stone steps towards the hotel, our eyes widened. The premises consist of a series of beautifully detailed traditional Japanese-style buildings that cascade down the side of a steep hill and terminate just above the river. The grounds are immaculate, and every inch of the built environment is designed to evoke a poetic notion of living in balance with nature. Most impressively, it all feels utterly organic and without contrivance, and overall not unlike the grounds of the temples and shrines for which Kyoto is famous.
Inside our cottage-like suite, the voluminous and tastefully restrained space was outfitted with cabinets, credenzas, and drawers, which in turn were filled with things like slippers, robes, pajamas, sumi brushes, and any of a variety of other things we never knew we needed but felt entirely pampered for having at our fingertips. The oak flooring is heated from below, and the restroom senses when you enter it, automatically turning on lights and raising the toilet lid. Futon mattresses lie atop a section of flooring that's designed to flex so as to simulate box springs. After dinner, a tea service featuring tea blended to promote sleep was waiting in our room.
The on-site Michelin starred restaurant is helmed by chef Ichoro Kubota, whose extensive Japanese and European culinary training makes for an east-meets-west approach to Kyoto-style kaiseki fine dining. The menu is deeply influenced, both in ingredients and presentation, by the seasons, and strives to integrate western flourishes. Presentation was, without exception, spectacular. The menu changes frequently, but the highlights from our experience included a turnip soup with soft cod roe fritter and charcoal grilled fugu. Wine and sake lists were extensive.
Hoshinoya's top-notch hospitality also extends to stellar concierge service, and they're happy to arrange a wide variety of Kyoto-area excursions as well as on site activities. —Bethia Woolf
IN THE AREA
- Nishiki Market: If Kyoto eats it, Nishiki Market sells it. This several blocks-long enclosed shopping promenade features everything from the most basic of Japanese staples to the most obscure of ingredients—including, it's rumored, whale flesh. While the comestibles draw most of the attention, the stalls selling knives and other cooking implements are also worth a look, and the easternmost end is convenient to the Gion 'geisha' district (and Aje, below). Open 9am-6pm daily; Shijo Agaru, Tominokoji-dori, Kyoto; tel: 81/75-211-3882; kyoto-nishiki.or.jp
- Oimatsu: Delicate, beautiful, and delicious Japanese sweets and tea are the draw, served in a tastefully restrained dining room. One wall is plate glass, exposing the beautifully manicured adjacent garden. Don't miss the intricate antique wooden dessert molds that line the hallway walls. Open 8.30am-4pm daily; Saga-Tenryuuji, Kyoto; tel: 81/75-881-9033; oimatu.co.jp/english/e-cafe
- Morika Tofu Factory: A small popular local tofu purveyor, Morika Tofu Factory produces a staggering array of tofu products. Try the hirousu—fried tofu balls stuffed with vegetables and gingko nuts. Open 8am-6pm (closed Wednesday); 42, Sagasyakadofujinokicho, Kyoto; tel: 81/75-872-3955
- Aje Yakiniku: If the ever-so-slightly precious perfection of haute Japanese cuisine becomes too much, this Kyoto yakiniku institution is the perfect counterpoint. Simply put, it's plates of meat on a table with a gas fired grill. Put your jackets in the provided bags beneath the table (so they don't absorb the smoke) and your protein selections on the grill. Dip cooked meat into the provided sauces, and enjoy. The beer is free-flowing here, and the atmosphere is appealingly 50's diner-ish. 454 Kiyomizu-cho, Kawaramach matsubara agaru, Kyoto; tel: 81/75-352-5757; aje.to