Glass experiences the historic capital of Japan at the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

THERE’S not a neon light in sight as we pull up at The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto. In the smart, dimly lit lobby the only brightness visible emanates from the Pierre Hermé Patisserie display of colourful macaroons. The sound of trickling water resonates throughout the hotel and an intoxicating ESPA fragrance hangs in the air.

The theme of tranquility continues as I look out of my panoramic bedroom window onto the gently flowing Kamo River with a clear view of the Higashiyama mountains in the distance, whose peaks seemingly touch the frothy clouds. This splendid low-lying modern riverside resort has been inspired by traditional-style Japanese ryokans, with lattice wood work on the wardrobes and lantern style lamps by the gigantic bed.

Exterior of Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Lobby Reception area, Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

I’m immediately presented with an impressive array of activities that will immerse me in traditional Japanese lifestyle during my stay at the Ritz-Carlton, including a kimono styling session, sake tasting, samurai activity and tosenkyo – a local fan tossing game. For outdoor activities, I choose the complimentary bike ride and a hike, each accompanied by the hotel’s on-site activity manager, who tells me about the Ritz-Carlton’s Community Footprints initiative, which involves their local staff collectively commiting to clean up and remove debris from the Kamo River flowing past the hotel.

The next day my guide from Inside Japan Tours escorts me on a scenic stroll downtown, pointing out en route the key transport links to Kyoto’s 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Kyoto is known as the city with 10,000 shrines with its Zen temples, royal palaces and Japanese gardens. We meander along the narrow streets of Gion, the district where geishas (referred to as geikos in Kyoto) and maikos (geiko apprentices) live and entertain, where the narrow streets are lined with restaurants, teahouses, and little wooden machiya houses with their mysterious blackened windows and bolted doors.

Exterior, Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Treatment Room, Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Back at the hotel, I head to the spa to experience one of their signature treatments – the Kyoto Bamboo Ritual – a massage incorporating several different sized bamboo sticks that are warmed and rolled onto my skin, creating a cocoon of complete relaxation.  I emerge feeling as if my entire body has been through a pressing machine, which has magically pushed the tension out of my body and re-energized me. The adjacent subterranean 20-meter swimming pool area with its cozy loungers is the perfect spot to continue my idyllic indulgent experience.

The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto’s blend of Asian modernity with Japanese authenticity provides the prefect oasis from which to experience this city’s ancient history.

by Amanda Bernstein


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