Nestled in a quiet cul de sac at the west end of Arashiyama and basking on the banks of the Katsuma river is an oasis for one weary of the matcha ice-cream vendors and sushi shops. It’s called the Suiran.
Once the summer house of Shozo Kawasaki of motorcycle fame, this Meiji era hotel is the ultimate in Zen. The gardens boast a yuzu tree, a plum blossom and two hundred year old pines. Opening as a Starwood hotel in 2015, the now Marriott owned Luxury Collection is everything one would expect from this opulent brand.
Crunchy pebble paths take the guest on a winding excursion amongst Japanese gardens and tinkling waterfalls to the reception area. The hotel now houses two restaurant areas and 39 rooms in a low rise building each with huge glass windows stunning views of the foliage and hills whether it be cherry blossom season or the turning of autumn leaves colour; the backdrop is mesmerising.
There are traditional rooms and western rooms. The Japanese style offer tatami mats and low tables and chairs but if you’re wanting a European mattress there are plenty of rooms to suit where you’ll have cloud soft sleep. Even the carpet has been designed with nature in mind the design representing moonlight on the water in our room.
Our room has all the luxuries one would expect from a five star hotel: flat screen satellite television, high speed internet, mini bars, coffeemakers, hairdryers, Remede bath products, Yukata Pyjamas and slippers and of course green tea. The Gyokuto Garden Terrace rooms have gardens and private onsen baths. For an extra fee guests without a private onsen can book a private onsen. There are spa treatments on offer where the masseur will not only pound away your knots but also any bad spirits surrounding you.
Can one ever have enough Veuve? My absolute favourite pleasure was the champagne happy hour each night at café Saryo Hassui’s waterside location. Veuve flows from 530 – 630 pm with Japanese accompanying snacks. Café Saryo Hassui has low ceilings and offers exquisite views of the river.
From here it’s only a short stumble to the fine dining restaurant Kyo-Suiran which overlooks the gardens and is decorated with shoji screens and calligraphy paintings. It is here that breakfast is served every morning from seven. There are both a Western and Japanese option available with freshly squeezed juices being offered by one of the staff at each table.
Rates usually include a full-English or Japanese breakfast and a free one-way transfer from Kyoto, Saga-Arashiyama, Randen-Arashiyama and Hankyu stations.
Suiran’s concierge team are an imaginative bunch, they can organise an array of unique activities, including sake tasting and chakra cleansing, as well as frequent dinner nights focusing on the delicacies of Japanese cuisine, such as kinshu, where chefs sculpt edible art.
The hotel is in the perfect place for those wanting to stroll to the famed Arashiyama bamboo forest. We were told it would be a good idea to leave around 5 am if we didn’t want to battle the crowds. However we didn’t leave until seven. It was a rainy day so we managed to get some photos without people in them. But as we left the forest around 9 am the crowds started to swell. The Tenryu-ji Temple was also a short walk away but it was so crowded we decided to give it a miss after walking through gates and around the temple.
Arashyama has some great shops and kimono shops if you want to dress up. There are plenty of places to eat and matcha, matcha, matcha everywhere. Next door to the hotel is a museum of Japanese poetry.
There is a gorgeous train ride on the Sagano Romantic Train through the landscapes of Arashiyama and Sagano. The best river boat ride in Japan is down the Hozugawa River on a flat bottomed boat helmed by a boatman using oars and bamboo poles. You certainly feel like one of the rich Japanese in the edo period being taken to their summer house on one of these cruises.
Nicole Lenoir-Jourdan was a guest of Jetstar Business Class, Suiran – a Luxury Collection Hotel and Kyoto City Tourism.
Ukyo-ku Saga-Tenryuji Susukinobaba-cho 12 Kyoto 616-8385, Japan.
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