Written for Quintessentially following a jaunt to Japan, my favourite country in the world.
The repository of many of the traditional images intrinsically linked with Japan – Geisha, or Meiko as they are known here, Tea Ceremonies, beautiful Japanese gardens and temples – Kyoto is a must-see on any itinerary when visiting this country.
The perfect base for getting around is the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which is located a five minute taxi ride from Kyoto station in the Higashiyama district. The simple rectangular thicket of bamboo outside the entrance and the impressive white metal cut-out geometric structures- inspired by kimono designs – that clad the lobby interior set the tone for this simple haven. The bedrooms here are fairly compact and bijou, yet polished with the elegant veneer that the Japanese excel at. The wet room bathrooms are a real treat with their sliding entrance doors and short, deep oriental-style baths. The atmosphere at the Hyatt Regency is welcoming and convivial.
Even in a country that prides itself upon impeccable manners and hospitality, the staff here go that extra mile to make your stay a pleasant one. For relaxation, there is the Riraku spa, which offers a wide range of Eastern and Western treatments, including acupuncture and reflexology. I can thoroughly recommend the acupuncture for a whole list of ailments as an excellent quick-fix solution while on the road.
There is plenty to put on the agenda in terms of temples, but for a more unusual insight into some of Japan’s older traditions, there are experiences galore that can be organised, including tea ceremony insights at the Ranhotei Cafe, and informal Sake tastings at Yoramu Sake Bar. Located on a shopping strip near to Nijo Castle, Ranhotei Cafe is a wonderful, minute little tea shop that weaves its spell around you as soon as you step through the door.
Run by Canadian-turned-Kyoto native Randy Channell, this tea master has been studying the magic and history of tea in Japan for 25 years. You will uncover the rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony under his expert guidance, and will even get the chance to make your own green tea, which is actually more complicated than it sounds!
For a more intoxicating brew, Sake is an ideal tipple, and there is perhaps no better introduction to the rice wine drink synonymous with this mysterious country than Yoramu Sake Bar. Owner Yoram, who hails from Israel, is knowledgeable on the history and many varieties that this drink can come in, giving explanation and tuition when needed and leaving you to savour your drinks when required. For those of us with little to no knowledge, Yoram will establish your preferred tastes and present you with different samples accordingly. The simple menu of snacks that he prepares behind the counter are also delicious accompaniments. I thoroughly recommend the fried lotus root.
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