A handpicked selection of experiences endorsed by our experts. If you can’t see what you’re looking for, let us know, as our extensive network of local contacts can open many doors.
Visit Daitoku-ji, which was founded in 1319 and was historically one of Kyoto’s principal centers of the “Way of Tea,” and tea ceremony and related arts like calligraphy flourished here. To this day, it remains a subdued oasis in Kyoto’s northern reaches. It is a vast temple complex containing 21 sub-temples, of which Daisen-in and Obai-in both have excellent Zen gardens.
Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine
Visit the Fushimi Inari Grand Shrine, one the most mysterious and haunting Shinto shrines in all of Japan. This iconic image of Japan was the inspiration for Bulgarian artist Christo’s Central Park Gates; the shrine grounds are home to tens of thousands of vermilion torii (gates) which create tunnels that run for miles up through the forest of Mount Inari.
Have a private dinner in the Gion neighborhood accompanied by traditional geisha performance and socializing. Kyoto is the birthplace of this time-honored custom, which began in the 17th century and typically includes songs with shamisen (a three-stringed instrument). Though once a central part of Japanese culture, today the art of the geisha is largely one of historical preservation.
Stop by the Ginkaku-ji, the “Silver Pavilion” to Kinkaku-ji’s gold. Like the Golden Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji was built to be the retirement villa of a 15th-century shogun and was converted into a Zen temple after his passing. Ginkaku-ji is renowned for its meticulously landscaped gardens, including a dry garden dubbed the “Sea of Silver Sand,” unique for its huge sand cone nicknamed the “Moon Viewing Platform,” and a sizeable moss garden with pond, islands and bridges.
Historic Noodle Restaurant
Have lunch at Honke Owariya, Kyoto’s oldest noodle restaurant (nearly 550 years old). During the Edo period (1603-1868), it served its famous dishes inside the Imperial Palace itself, and it continues to tout its status as the Imperial family’s noodle purveyor of choice in Kyoto.
The Kinkaku-ji, or "Golden Pavilion," is one of the iconic sights of Kyoto. Built as a pleasure pavilion by a 15th-century shogun and burned down by a deranged monk in the 1950s, it has now been rebuilt to is previous exquisite perfection.
One of the oldest temples of the city, Kiyomizu is built high on massive stilts in the eastern foothills, with excellent views of Kyoto. Kiyomizu means “pure water,” and the temple takes its name from the Otowa waterfall that flows within its grounds. The waterfall tumbles in three streams, said to represent wisdom, health and wealth. Visitors typically queue up to sip from ladels provided (first use one cup to rinse your hands, then a second cup to sip from, and finally a third cup to stand on the ladel’s end to allow water to flow down and rinse the handle). Please note that Kiyomizu-dera is an attraction of great renown, and as a result, it is often one of Kyoto's most crowded temples.
Take a day trip to the I.M. Pei-designed Miho Museum, located about 1 hour by car southwest of Kyoto. You will be met and guided on a private tour by a museum curator. The museum houses Koyama’s private collection of Asian and Western antiques, as well as other pieces with an estimated value of between US$300 million to US$1 billion. Each exhibit in the Miho Museum was carefully selected as much for its artistic beauty as its historical significance, and careful attention is paid to how the collection is displayed.
An imposing, quintessential Zen temple that made a cameo in Sofia Coppola’s film Lost in Translation, the Nanzen-ji contains an enormous two-story sanmon, or main gate, that is one of the largest in Japan. The ascent up steep stairs to the second-story balcony rewards visitors with breathtaking views. In the main temple building, pause and enjoy a cup of green tea; savor the sound and sight of a waterfall emptying into a pond, and you will understand why Nanzen-ji has been a Zen holy place since the 13th century.
Explore Nishiki market, where myriad food stalls serve yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), fried fish, oshinko (pickled vegetables), and much more. Nishiki is where many residents of Kyoto do their grocery shopping if they have time; it is similar to wet markets in Hong Kong, except they are much cleaner and more dedicated. Generally, each storefront only sells one thing: bonito fish flakes, root vegetables, fresh fish, or locally made sake, for example.
Go on the “Philosopher’s Walk,” named after a Kyoto University philosophy professor, Nishida Kitaro, who trod this path along the Shishigatani canal daily. The route takes you past several temples and shrines within a park that is also home to coffeehouses, boutiques and craft shops. Cherry blossoms and maple trees line the walkways; this is indeed the perfect place to reflect and contemplate.
With its world-famous stone garden (karesansui) Ryoan-ji is another of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Zen rock garden, measuring 2,659 square feet (247 square meters) in area, is believed to have been originally landscaped in the 15th century. It consists of 15 moss-covered small boulders in a sea of raked white gravel, and is laid out so that when viewing the garden from any angle (other than a bird’s-eye view), only 14 rocks are visible – the 15th becoming visible, it is said, upon enlightenment.
In terms of shopping, Kyoto is famous for its traditional handicrafts, which be roughly divided into three categories – Buddhist art, tea ceremony accoutrements and everyday household items. The area around Pontocho Street in particular has high-quality wooden products, such as bowls and other dining ware crafted from local zelkova and cherry trees.
Traditional Japanese Arts
Have a private lesson or ceremony in one or more traditional Japanese arts, such as ikebana (flower arrangement), calligraphy, sushi-making, tea ceremony, sword-fighting, or kimono fitting.
Visit Shiga Prefecture
Surrounding the largest freshwater lake in the nation, Shiga Prefecture is a diverse and gorgeous region. From the white beaches of the west to Mount Hira’s Oku-Biwako Parkway road, from pristine Lake Biwa to the countless rice fields, one is constantly surrounded by natural beauty. Shiga is renowned for funa-zushi, or fermented crucian carp sushi, and wagyu, also known as Omi beef of supreme quality. For lovers of history, Shiga offers a number of impressive relics dating back centuries. Among these, Hikone Castle stands as a reminder of classic Edo architecture, one of the oldest castles in the nation and considered a treasure amongst Japanese people.
Explore in-depth information, experiences and highlights by navigating to specific regions using the links below on the right.
- Iya Valley
- Izu Peninsula
- Kotohira & Takamatsu
- Lake Shikotsu
- Lake Toya
- Matsuyama & Imabari
- Naoshima & Seto Inland Sea Islands
- Yakushima Island
- 13 days / 12 nights
- Price Per Person
- From $17,900
- 11 days / 10 nights
- Price Per Person
- From $27,400
- 11 days / 10 nights
- Price Per Person
- From $19,500
- 8 days / 7 nights
- Price Per Person
- From $17,400
- 13 days / 12 nights
- Price Per Person
- From $24,400
The highly anticipated Aman Kyoto brings an even higher level of luxury to the historic and cultural ancient capital. A blend of authentic, traditional ryokan hospitality and contemporary spaces, the Aman Kyoto offers travelers a respite in the heart of one of Japan's most visited cities. The secluded 80-acre property is situated in a hidden garden close to the Golden Pavilion at the foot of the Mountain of Hidari Daimonji, within easy reach of Kyoto's impressive collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Scattered among the grounds is a series of standalone pavilions. The four guest pavilions house 24 guest rooms (choose between garden or stream views) and a pair of two-bedroom villas overlooking the forest canopy. Each room captures a contemporary, minimalistic style with nod to the quintessential ryokan feel; walls of windows bringing the outside in to spacious, light-filled interiors. Facilities include separate Arrival, Living and Spa pavilions. The signature restaurant, Taka-An, showcases Japanese haute cuisine in the form of the kaiseki banquet - a multi-course dining experience made using the season’s finest local produce. The Living Pavilion offers an inviting spaces with a central fireplace for guests to enjoy home-cooked Kyoto obanzai-style cuisine and afternoon tea. The Spa Pavilion’s onsen bathing facilities use water from a local spring and the range of treatments highlight local, natural ingredients such as green tea, black beans, sake and cold-pressed camellia oil.
Inspired by the tranquility and contemplative calm of the region’s many temples and Zen gardens, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto features 110 standard rooms, 12 suites, 57 condos and a Presidential Suite, which at over 2,600 square feet, is the largest hotel suite in Kyoto. The restrained chic of designer Agnes Ng’s modern ideas, allied with traditional design elements such as bamboo groves and shoji paper-walls, create an extraordinary set of contemporary, yet classic, accommodations – with a peaceful vibe, enhanced and completed by the gentle crash of water from the Waterfall Garden. The hotel features two restaurants, bar, lounge and even a tea house where guests can find a range of tantalizing treats and refreshments to expedite their relaxation – set off to perfection by a team of expertly trained, confident and multilingual service staff.
Opened in December 2009, HOSHINOYA Kyoto is a brand-new private retreat located on the banks of the Oigawa River in the city’s Arashiyama neighborhood. The property’s 25 rooms, all with river views, reflect the heritage and modernity of Kyoto itself, combining traditional ryokan dwelling with contemporary western comfort. The Arashiyama area is a designated scenery protection area, regarded equally for its cherry blossoms in the spring and brilliant foliage in the autumn. With its famous Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama evokes “old Kyoto” at its best, as no new buildings are permitted. The property itself was the private vacation home and library of Suminokura Ryoui, a wealthy Kyoto merchant, until its conversion to an inn about 100 years ago. HOSHINOYA’s Library Lounge and bar, whose shelves hold many books on Kyoto’s history, looks out on the contemplative water garden, while its traditional landscape garden incorporates a view of Arashiyama Mountain using the ancient technique of shakkei, or "borrowed scenery." HOSHINOYA Kyoto has a sister property in Karuizawa.
The Hyatt Regency is centrally located in the city’s historic Higashiyama neighborhood, and blends Western luxury with Japanese decor, while displaying works by Hiroshi Sugimoto and other modern artists in its reception lobby. The Hyatt is located near some of the city’s iconic sights, including Kiyomizu-dera Temple (Kyoto’s “Notre Dame”), Sansujangendo, and the narrow streets of machiya (traditional townhouses) and ochaya (tea houses) within the historic geisha district of Gion. The property’s Riraku Spa offers a variety of treatments incorporating Shiatsu, acupuncture, moxibustion, aromatherapy, and reflexology. The Hyatt’s restaurants are Touzan, serving a variety of traditional Japanese cuisine; The Grill, specializing in meat and seafood dishes, prepared in an open kitchen with woodburning stoves; and Italian fare from Trattoria Sette, while Touzan Bar includes an extensive menu of boutique sakes.
Japan Goes Well With
With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.
An Asia-focused magazine brought to you by Remote Lands - a platform for adventure, luxury, and authenticity from experts and explorers around the continent.
As the major travel hubs in Japan look to reopenRemote Lands speaks to Alex Porteous of Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto on how travel has changed.
Japan readies for its third Aman destination with Aman Kyoto. Found a short walk from the Golden Pavilion, this resort was two decades in the making.
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