Kyoto, located in the Kinki region of Japan, is arguably the country’s most beautiful and historic city. With much of its original architecture still intact, Kyoto is a place like no other, where history and modernity are naturally integrated with each other, boasting over several thousand religious places while at the same time being a major metropolitan hub of Japan. A luxury vacation in this unique city is a must while in Japan, and these five activities will help you get started planning it.
1) Stay at a Luxury Ryokan (Japanese Inn)
A Kyoto getaway begins with accommodation. There is no better way to appreciate and immerse yourself in the city than to stay at a ryokan, or Japanese style inn. Visitors indulge in luxury of all senses at these inns which feature traditional Japanese rooms with futons and tatami, views of beautiful Japanese gardens, Japanese baths and delicious kaiseki meals – traditional Japanese multi-course cuisine. Shiraume Ryokan, situated in the heart of Kyoto’s most historic Gion district, is one such example. Shiraume, which began as a teahouse in the Meiji period, is a world famous ryokan known for its hospitality. The inn sits alongside the scenic Shirakawa stream, whose banks transform into cascades of red, white and pink blossoms in the spring. More information on Shiraume Ryokan can be found here.
2) Stroll in Gion in a Kimono
You can travel back in time in Kyoto by walking into the Gion district. Apart from the plethora of traditional architecture and greenery, Gion was and still is famed for its geisha, female entertainers trained in classical Japanese arts. You can further immerse yourself by exploring Gion while dressed up in kimono, stylized traditional Japanese clothes which came to prominence during the Heian period, which are worn today during special occasions such as weddings and coming of age ceremonies. Information on rentals can be found here.
3) Participate in a Tea Ceremony
An excellent way to relax and get in touch with your spiritual side is by participating in a Japanese tea ceremony, called sado. Known as the Way of Tea in Japan, sado is an art form, with heavy influence from practices of Zen Buddhism. The art was further refined by legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. Powdered matcha, green tea, is used in ceremonies and is accompanied by wagashi, Japanese sweets. An authentic tea ceremony can be experienced at En, details here.
4) Indulge in Kyoryori
Kyoryori, or Kyoto cuisine, is one of the most refined in all of Japan. It is food not only to be eaten but to be enjoyed by all five senses. This is not surprising, as Kyoto was the emperor’s home for over a millennium. Kyoto cuisine is often considered to be the pinnacle of kaiseki dining. Only the freshest, in-season ingredients are used, and special attention is paid to the dishware which brings out the most appealing aspects of the food. All authentic kyoryori is enjoyed in a multi-course meal served at a ryotei, or traditional Japanese restaurant. This article from Time introduces a couple of places where this special cuisine can be enjoyed.
5) Souvenirs from Yojiya
No trip is complete without unique souvenirs. When in Kyoto, visit the shop of local favorite makeup brand, Yojiya, a Kyoto-based cosmetic company founded in 1904. Yojiya is known for their non-powder oil blotting paper, which gives smoother skin and allows for the easier application of makeup. Other products include lipstick blotting paper and compact soap sheets. Look them up here.