Don't expect the facilities and style of the Four Seasons or the Sheraton as you will be sorely disappointed if that's what you are looking for. But if you want to experience an authentic Japanese Ryokan, this place is sensational. This is not somewhere simply to wash up, brush up, refuel and rest your head. It is a cultural experience from the moment you leave your shoes at the door. And it is not designed for the tourist. 2/3 of the guests are Japanese.
The bedroom: We chose a room in the original 200 year old building (of the Ryokan's 28 rooms, some are in a sympathetically constructed "new wing"). Our large room was straight out of Japanese inn central casting: sliding screens, tatami mats, low tables and futons, with the windows on two sides overlooking the Japanese-style garden. During the day - from breakfast until dinner, the centre of the room is take up by a low table and two chairs. Once you have had dinner, the table and chairs are replaced by a futon...so there is not much of a chance of an afternoon nap if that is your style. BTW, the futon was surprisingly comfortable.
Bath time: Although our room had its own bathroom, we chose to use one of the inn's two family bathrooms. Before you panic, it is not open house. You pick a time and make a reservation. Both nights we stayed at Hiiragiya, we bathed for 30 minutes before dinner. Tthe bathing convention is to wash thoroughly (sitting on small stools and using a combination of the showers and large bowls to throw water over yourself) before easing yourself into the large plunge pool full of soporifically warm water. After drying yourself, you put on a yukata (Japanese cotton robe) and head up to your room for dinner.
Food: Breakfast and dinner are served in your room, although I believe you could choose to eat in a public space. Our meals were served by an impeccably courteous and solicitous lady beautifully turned out in her kimono. Our 12 course dinners were both outstanding. Small, marvellously presented courses served in a bewildering array of porcelain and lacquerware - proving that how food looks can be as important as how it tastes. Just one of the twelve dishes on our first night was rice dumpling with sea bream wrapped in bamboo leaves sushi, Japanese yam and okra with sea urchin, simmered tiger prawn and lily bulb and deep fried lotus root. Simply astonishing attention to detail. And while youy are at it, try the Japanese breakfast.
Service: outstanding and friendly. Always willing to explain the customs and help more broadly.
It is quite expensive. It is worth every penny. You'd be mad to miss it
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- Also Known As:
- Hiiragiya Hotel Kyoto