31 Aug 2018 in In immersion
Just one day in Kyoto? Discover our pick of the ancient capital’s must-do experiences!
You’ll probably arrive in Kyoto from one of Osaka’s two airports or at the central JR Station. Head straight for the western district of Arashiyama, where HOSHINOYA Kyoto awaits you.
Your hotel is reached via a short boat trip along the Oi river. But first, it’s time to explore! Leave your bags with staff at the mooring jetty and head across the iconic Togetsu-kyo Bridge.
Set against the ever-changing colours of the forested Arashiyama mountains, this wooden structure was originally built in the Heian Period (794-1185) and maintains a timeless charm. Little wonder that it’s a favourite location for historical films.
Thanks to its leafy setting, Arashiyama was the preferred retreat of the Imperial family as long as 1000 years ago. Today, the grandeur of the past fills its streets. The grandest monument of all is Tenryu-ji, a magnificent Zen temple founded in 1339.
Its sprawling gardens lend themselves to idle wandering with occasional pauses to contemplate the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Exit Tenryuji on the north side and you’ll be just minutes from the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
Walk along the paved path to enjoy the unique feeling of being cocooned by a thicket of towering bamboo stalks.
Time to head to your hotel. Just near the Togetsukyo Bridge, a wooden boat transports you gently upstream to HOSHINOYA Kyoto.
Lodged at the bottom of a hill with river views from every room, the resort is a haven of tranquillity. You’ll walk into the complex via a moss-lined path, which extends past water features into a Zen rock garden. Urban life couldn’t be further away.
After check-in, you’ll be guided to your pavilion. If you’d like to unwind before dinner, a deep Japanese-style bath awaits you in the bathroom – with complementary accessories to enhance relaxation.
Time to eat. And how! Chef Kubota’s kaiseki creations are the ultimate take on Kyoto’s melting pot cuisine.
You’ll taste the freshness of the seasons in every dish.
If you’re not too tired, head to the whisky bar for a nightcap. But, be warned, you have an early rise!
Even if you’re not an early bird, it’s time to seize the moment! Staff will drive you to a nearby Buddhist temple, where you’ll join a small group for early morning meditation.
The ritual consists of energetic chanting followed by silent contemplation. It’s a unique experience, one that will stay with you for a long time. After the ceremony, you’ll sip green tea with the priest and congregation.
Breakfast in your room. Whether you choose the Japanese or Western option, fuel up! You have a big day of sightseeing ahead.
Your first stop is Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, in eastern Kyoto. Built in the 15th-century as a complement to the Golden Temple (which is further out of town), Ginkakuji consists of a grand pavilion – which is surprisingly lacking in silver – and a handful of other buildings.
Make sure you take a walk through the moss garden and admire the immaculately-raked sand garden.
Exit Ginkaku-ji and walk south along the Philosopher’s Path, a pretty canal-side walkway lined with cherry trees.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a popular spot in sakura season.
The path takes you to Nanzen-ji, the head temple in an expansive complex of sub-temples and gardens.
The imposing Sanmon entrance gate offers superb city views from its balcony. Beyond is the Hojo, the main hall, famed for its rock gardens. Stare at the rocks long enough and you may discern the tigers they are supposed to resemble.
Head south-west via Maruyama park to Gion, Kyoto’s famed geisha district.
Wander its streets, admiring the traditional machiya-style wooden townhouses and you may glimpse a geiko (the local lingo for geisha) or maiko (apprentice).
It’s just a short walk to Nishiki Market, where lunch awaits!
Known as Kyoto’s Kitchen, the market is home to food stalls where you can pick up anything from fresh sushi to takoyaki octopus balls.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is your final stop, its entrance marked by a colourful pagoda. Set in the hills among forested paths, this world-famous temple boasts splendid city views from its wooden veranda.
The big attraction is trying to navigate the 20-odd metres between 2 ancient stones with your eyes closed. If you succeed, you’ll supposedly be lucky in love!