JAPAN Inspiration Gallery 11 Japan
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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.

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To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
Bill Bryson

Client Testimonials

So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka

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