The experience begins before you even arrive at HOSHINOYA Kyoto. From the exclusive boat waiting room where you’re offered refreshments as you sit in low wooden chairs and look out onto a small peaceful garden, you get a taste of what’s to come: serenity, seclusion and modern comforts combined with Japanese tradition. Step onto the private wooden boat, and after 15 minutes along the magical Oi River, you’ll arrive at the hidden resort.
The site of HOSHINOYA Kyoto was once home to a 17th-century mansion before being transformed into a ryokan with a cluster of buildings over 100 years ago, and now looks as though it could be a small village. Walk past the Water Garden and along the winding stone path surrounded by cherry blossom trees and Japanese Momiji maples — here you’ll come across the 25 guest pavilions, each one private and separate from the others.
All meticulously designed, the rooms are a balanced mix of old and new, combining to offer an updated Japanese-style retreat complete with shoji paper sliding screens, karakami wallpaper and tatami mat flooring. Impressive bent-wood sofas designed by Japan’s foremost makers of furniture, Hinoki Kogei, face windows that look out to the river and passing local wildlife.
At HOSHINOYA, everything is centred around relaxation, and time almost seems to stand still. Mornings begin with a stretch class in the Hidden Garden before your in-room Japanese breakfast and then an incense ceremony — an experiential introduction to the aristocratic pastime. Sit in the Library & Lounge to catch up on some reading, or relax on the large cushioned seats of the Floating Tea Room’s open-air balcony to enjoy a hot drink as you watch the river’s water flow beneath you. If you’re looking to venture further afield, seek advice from the staff, who have a comprehensive knowledge of the area’s rich history.
At night, take a seat in the intimate restaurant as the chefs cook up a kaiseki Japanese-style banquet with seasonal touches, overseen by head chef Ichiro Kubota (previously of Umu in London’s Mayfair). Dining service is impeccable, as it is throughout all areas of the resort, with staff ensuring you’re well looked after at every moment.
After retiring to your room, hop in the traditional soaking bathtub and enjoy the surrounding sounds of the forest. When it comes time to check-out, the tranquillity of HOSHINOYA Kyoto will ensure you leave feeling calm and rejuvenated as you board the boat once more and head back to the city.