One of the most beautiful cities in the country, best-known for its architecture, history, ancient temples and peaceful zen gardens, Kyoto is top of the list for anyone visiting Japan. So, considering its significance as a major destination, it is a little surprising that luxury hotel offerings are so thin on the ground. All the more reason then, to welcome the new Ritz Carlton with open arms.
Located on the banks of the Kamogawa River in downtown Kyoto, a quick stride away from a string of attractions including Nishiki food market and the atmospheric geisha district, Gion, the hotel - assembled to resemble a traditional Meiji house and courtyard - slots so discreetly into its surroundings, that most passersby wouldn’t think to take a second glance.
Dressed by US-based Peter Remedios Design Studio, interior details such as bonsai trees, patterned motifs, zen gardens or peaceful water features - including a three-storey waterfall that takes centre stage - are a nod to the traditions of Japan, while blond woods and subtle, indirect lighting create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. This continues to the 134 guest rooms and suites, which either overlook the tranquil inner courtyard, or frame views of the river and the Higashiyama mountains beyond.
In the basement is a sexy 20-metre indoor lap pool tiled with deep aquamarine mosaic, while the spa offers treatments such as the ‘Ryokucha Serenity Ritual’, which uses the anti-oxidant properties from green tea.
Upstairs, the dining spaces have been designed by Tokyo-based outfit Spin Studio. These include traditional Japanese options from multi-course Kaiseiki dinners to La Locanda, an elegant wood-panelled fine-dining Italian restaurant that occupies a former townhouse dating from 1908.
The biggest temptation though, is the Pier Hermé boutique with its exquisitely displayed treats, located right at the entrance of the hotel.