Kyoto is a vibrant city, filled with culture, history, and sites to see but if peace, quiet, and romance is what you seek, stay at Hoshinoya Kyoto. Thirty minutes outside of the city center and in the riverside town of Arashiyama, this traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) is tucked away in the valley of Japanese red maples and cherry blossom trees. Built 100 years ago, this historic ryokan has just been renovated by the masters of hospitality and Japanese luxury: Hoshinoya. We stayed here for a couple nights and were transported into a world where hospitality and elegance know no bounds.
And getting to the hotel was half the fun. The charming Hoshinoya river boats pick you up at their Arashiyama dock and bring you fifteen minutes upstream to their magical spot on the shore.
Hoshinoya Kyoto feels more like a collection of guest houses than a hotel. The architecture of the hotel is kept at a low profile, letting the beauty of the surroundings take center stage. This rock garden is meant to mimic the currents of the river and seems to flow right over to the water like a fall.
Our suite felt so cozy between the fluffy white bed, banquette of pillows, and bounty of amenities. All good hotels provide things like slippers and stationery, but here we changed into their signature luxury leisurewear, took a seat on our plush banquette, and tested out the suite's Japanese calligraphy set. What a unique and thoughtful touch!
The flavors and presentation of this traditional nine-course kaiseki meal were like nothing we'd ever experienced! There were nine courses, one of the most decadent and exquisite being this cocktail of steamed abalone, topped with green apple, fresh sea urchin and caviar osetra.
Presentation is not just how the food is platted but the beauty of the plate it is served on. Each course came out on hand-painted ceramics in varying artful shapes. This course in a charming fish-shaped bowl was off the menu and made for us a special surprise. Red beans and rice is a traditional dish given to newlyweds for good luck.
We went back to our room to find a honeymoon surprise of sparkling sake wine. The bed and bubbles looked all too inviting.
The next morning we woke up to the gentle sunlight streaming through our paper windows and the soft knock of the chef. A bountiful hot pot breakfast was prepared for us right in our suite!
So full from our bounty of food, we decided to take a walk to the neighboring hillside temple. The views over the river, the fiery red hills, and Kyoto city were spectacular.
The Hoshinoya ryokan experience is all about immersion in Japanese culture, inclusive not just of style and cuisine, but customs. They offer guests a number of classes so they can try their hand at the Japanese arts like tea ceremony and incense making. Here is a look at our incense teacher, teaching us how to pack and sculpt the ash into perfect mounds and position the sandalwood for long and fragrant burning.
Though Hoshinoya feels a world away, just down stream are some incredible historic sites. On the morning we checked out of our little oasis, we went to the heart of Arashiyama to see the UNESCO heritage site, Tenryuji Temple. It was originally a summer home to a retired shogun but has since become a temple and gardens.
After a packed week in Kyoto city, it was so nice to spend time in Arashiyama, the place where Japanese nobles would come to relax, artists would go to dream, and honeymooners can revel in romance.
Much love from Arashiyama,
Anne & Mike
Note: Hoshinoya invited us to be their guests; however, all opinions are our own.