Jonathan DeLise travels to the imperial capital of Japan and the hotel that captures the city’s elegance and timelessness to perfection.
Doubtless, the rich imperial history of Kyoto inspired the Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel, which opened in 2015 in the city’s Arashiyama neighbourhood. Just fifteen minutes from downtown Kyoto, the compact neighbourhood best exemplifies what one might imagine when asked to describe Kyoto. Arashiyam affords visitors vistas of the four seasons, from lovely snow-capped pines in the winter to lush and verdant hillsides in the summer; as well as centuries-old temples, and pristine bamboo-lined hiking paths. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown while still being a short distance from the halcyon imperial capital, Suiran is your match.
Echoing omotenashi, the Japanese concept of anticipating a guest’s needs, the Suiran provides a complimentary one-way taxi ride from Kyoto train station. New arrivals are greeted by a muted gateway that reveals stony trails bordered by lush flora and wiry trees. Much of the property overlooks the Hozo River, across which maple trees bountifully crowd the hillside. It’s fitting that the hotel’s name is derived from sui, or jade, referring to the leafy hills and pure waters, and ran, an abbreviation for Arashiyama.
The Tsukinone Superior Room is spacious (not a word commonly bandied about in Japan), and presented in both Japanese and Western motifs. The aesthetic in the bedroom features a mix of tatami and wood, with a massive bed, and beautiful tea set presented on the dining table. The sophisticated bathroom consists of surfaces finished with smooth stones, and excellent lighting throughout. The Western shower also overlooks the open-air bath, also known as a rotemburo, which is located beside the room’s private and serene garden. The Tsukinone is one of only 17 rooms that has its own open-air bath, further enhancing the intimate appeal of the Suiran’s nearly soundproof rooms.
Following a long day of sightseeing, you may want to enjoy two larger spas located on the third floor of the hotel. Raku has been created using cypress trees, and An with elaborately placed stones. They are both year-round, all-weather baths, and come with exquisitely chosen treatments in accordance with various phases of the moon. Impressively, both spas can be reserved for private occasions.
Suiran has two restaurants; Café Hassui, situated right along the Hozu River, is located in a Meiji-era building erected for 19th century poets (or 21st century bloggers). It’s a quiet spot for local teas, light snacks, and desserts, as well as for afternoon tea sets that reflect the changing seasons. The riverside outdoor patio allows for a relaxed cup of tea, and is perfect for spring or autumn mornings. Kyo-Suiran is the more formal of the two options, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as kaiseki, or the traditional multi-course hâute dinner which traces its roots to Kyoto, and indulgent teppanyaki sets replete with wagyu, foie gras, and Japanese paella. Whereas the main dining room overlooks a beautiful and serene garden, there are also private teppanyaki and dining rooms, excellent for end of the year get-togethers, or bounenkai, and luxurious formal dinner meetings.