Kyoto is magical and it is easy to understand why the city received Conde’ Nast Travelers Readers’ Choice Award as the best Asian city of 2011. A journey to Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital is to take a step back in time and to experience the essence of Japanese culture. From ancient temples and shrines where centuries old traditions are carried out before your eyes to the cobblestone alleys of Gion, the city’s historic Geisha quarter, where teahouses are filled each evening with music and laughter, the past comes alive in Kyoto.
No matter what season you experience Kyoto, its cultural refinement and grace, complimented by abundant natural beauty, beckon you to delve first-hand into the wonders and charm that the city has to offer. In summer relax in front of the glistening moss garden of an ancient temple admiring its subtle beauty as others have done before you for hundreds of years. While in fall, meander through the tranquil environs of a solitary temple that comes alive in the glow of autumn leaves where you may try meditation in the company of the friendly temple priest. Winter, perhaps my favorite time of year, brings certain solitude along with a blanket of snow that makes the city’s charm and beauty all the more radiant. As spring bursts forth with a wave of fragrant cherry blossoms that cover the city in a canopy of ephemeral beauty, stroll through the grounds of imperial villas that become like a work of art.
A journey to Kyoto would not be complete without an evening in a ryokan or Japanese inn. From a former Buddhist temple that is now a luxuriously appointed inn located deep in the surrounding mountains to an impeccable inn located in the center of Kyoto, an evening at a ryokan is a holistic experience. A ryokan allows you to enjoy with all of your senses the refinement of Kyoto that has been developed and nurtured over generations. Passing the evening in a simple tatami room of refined elegance while enjoying a delicious kaiseki meal served with understated grace and style is an experience that you will never forget.
By Philip Rosenfeld