Sowaka has recently become part of the distinguished Ryokan Collection and we are thrilled; not only does this property offer both a great location and a luxurious feel, but it also adds a breath of fresh air to the ‘ryokan’ scene in Kyoto. Several modern twists have been sensitively blended into the traditional inn model thanks to the young artists and artisans behind the innovative aspects of its design, from the architecturally unique annex with its atmospheric bamboo forest to the contemporary décor.
Best described as a boutique luxury ryokan, all the 23 rooms here are individually designed and have their own distinctive features. The minimalist rooms are mostly simple and understated, while little touches of colour add some character, like the greenery outside and ‘Naguri’ carved wooden headboards. Our favourite room has to be the 108 Garden View Suite, which comes complete with delicately shaped 'katomado' windows, a particularly comfortable living area and a private terrace - not to mention, a beautifully crafted wooden bathroom. The maisonette-style Room 104 also makes for a wonderful retreat to return to after a busy day sightseeing in the Imperial city, and even has its own tearoom.
The tatami-mat lobby lounge has a welcoming air, as does the cosy bar nearby (where we recommend taking one of the four seats and enjoying a celebratory drink to mark your arrival in Kyoto!). The property’s elegant restaurant, ‘La Bombance Gion’, serves ‘kaiseki’ delicacies with French influences and draws foodies from near and far (as its sister restaurant in Tokyo is famed for its Michelin-star). This hotel also has a rooftop balcony, where you can join your fellow well-heeled hotel guests out in the elements and soak up the views over the ancient city to the rolling hills beyond.
Sowaka lies in a prime position in the fabled Gion district, which is one of our absolute favourite areas to stay within Kyoto, as you are likely to pass exquisite ‘geisha’ as they flit down the cobbled streets on the way to their appointments at dusk. Also, Sowaka lies just a stone’s throw away from the UNESCO-protected temple, Yasaka Shrine, (which is arguably most impressive in the dark when its lanterns cast their soft glow around), and a short wander up the hill will take you to one of Kyoto’s most celebrated temples, Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Travelling is like flirting with life. It's like saying, 'I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.
Lisa St. Aubin de Teran
- Mr David Wallace, North India
- Anonymous, India
- Leslie Siben, India
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
- Jaime Benitez, South India