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A review of Suiran Kyoto and what to do in the Arashiyama area.

Tokyo was quite an experience, it was a melting pot of quirkiness and character.

Consequently, after the buzz of Tokyo, I wasn’t sure what would await me following my 3 hour Shinkansen bullet train ride to Kyoto.

I was expecting to see an older, more traditional aspect of Japan, with quaint little streets, filled with kimono clad Geishas and temples.
Gion, near where this beautiful orange red shrine was located, was packed with tourists, numerous shops and restaurants. So, it wasn’t as quiet and traditional as I had envisaged.

However, I did experience that unique sense of tradition and history, when I strolled around the peaceful grounds of this Yasaka shrine. As you can see, I managed to capture images of kimono clad ladies. However, they weren’t Japanese ladies, but were Chinese tourists who have hired their outfits for the day.

This was apparently ‘the thing’ for tourists to do whilst visiting Kyoto.

Even our taxi driver tried to sell us a kimono hire and Japanese hair styling package. But hey, I’m not complaining, because it was such a privilege to see these beautiful kimono fabrics and capture the images in a historical setting. I was curious what all these Sake barrels were doing at the shrine, at a cordoned off area.

After some research, I found out that these were called Kazaridaru or “decoration barrels”.

They were empty barrels on display, a symbol of bringing the gods and people together.

I also found out that there was a symbiotic relationship between the shrines and brewers. The shrines would conduct rites for the brewers, praying for their prosperity, and in return, the brewers would provide the wine needed for ceremonies and festivals. Here’s another part of the Yasaka shrine. We were lucky to have been invited to stay at Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel .

The hotel was located in the Arashiyama district, to the West of Central Kyoto.

It was wonderful to be away from the crowd and noise of Central Kyoto, yet still have the city centre accessible, only a 30 minute train ride away.

The name Suiran came from the two Chinese characters: Sui “jade green” representing the area’s verdant hills and sparkling waters, and ‘ran’ was short for Arashiyama.

The land which Suiran stood on also had a rich and interesting history, dating back to the year 794.

It used to be the residence of an Emperor, then later designated as part of the historic Tenryu-ji temple complex and then became the Summer residence of Baron Shozo Kawasaki ( owner of the known Kawasaki motorcycle industry). It felt like a place we could properly unwind.

Suiran was located on the banks of river Hozu, with views of Mount Arashi and the famous Togetsu bridge. Here’s a view of the bridge at sunset. Suiran has 39 rooms, from Deluxe, to Premier, to Suites. 17 of their rooms had open air baths (Onsens) with natural warm spa water.

This is the Gyokuto Garden Terrace Japanese suite, with Tatami mats, a tea ceremony table and purple chairs.  I was in awe of the gold artwork on the sliding door. The painting represented the four seasons of Arashiyama. This cushion covers on the bed were made out of Nishijin textile, one of Japan’s oldest textile company. In the centre of the suite, was this Japanese tea ceremony table.

On its side was the hotel’s crest in gold, depicting the moon, a symbol of Arashiyama, encircling a dragon’s claw and Japanese maple leaves.

The dragon symbolised authority and the Maple leaves represented the trees, a dewy green in Summer, and brilliant red in Autumn, that greeted guests at the hotel gates. Let’s head outside. How cute are these Japanese clogs? This was the 90sqm Japanese private garden of the Gyokuto suite.  Adjacent to the garden, was this wonderful Japanese Onsen outdoor spa bath. We got to stay at the Kyo-Tsukikoto premier Japanese style room. It was noteworthy for being the only Japanese Ryokan style room in the hotel.

We slept on futon styled beds on the Tatami mats.

I was apprehensive about sleeping on the Tatami mat, but it was actually very comfortable. You can see the paper screens leading from our room towards a private wooden deck garden.

We also had our very own Japanese onsen bath filled with Arashiyama hot spring water. The Onsen bath was a huge highlight for the family. We really enjoyed it morning, noon and night. On our first day, we got to sample the Japanese afternoon tea at the hotel’s Cafe Hassui. We enjoyed our afternoon tea with a view of the mountains and also the river Hozu.

The cafe was in a 100 year old building erected for 19th century poets. Many of these poets’ original artwork remained, along with a collection of calligraphic poems that adorned the walls. I really enjoyed this eggplant and soy bean curd quiche.  This Japanese traditional dessert served with Cacao nibs tasted so good. This was the Beef, Burdock salad, Cheddar cheese sushi roll. It was delicious, all washed down with bottomless Champagne. We also sampled the hotel’s restaurant Kyo-Suiran for dinner.  I had a delicious steamed sea bream with Spring vegetables. If you fancy wandering out of the hotel for a meal, then I highly recommend Arashiyama Yoshimura. They did the most amazing hot and cold buckwheat soba noodles that came in a set with Tempura and soup. Finally, if you love Tofu, then you have to try out Yodofu Sagano for their specialist tofu menu.

I never knew there was so many ways to eat tofu. We ate whilst sitting on Tatami mats and a low table.

The restaurant was only a few minutes walk from Suiran hotel.

If you are visiting Kyoto, I highly recommend staying in Arashiyama for its beauty.

You should visit the Buddhist Tenryuji Temple, now a World Heritage site too, with its beautiful gardens.  Alternatively, head out to the very Instagram worthy Bamboo groves, just a 10 minute walk away from the hotel.

It’s advisable to get there before 8am, to capture the image before the area becomes flooded with tourists.

If you have a chance, you should visit the Golden temple and Fushimi Inari shrine too.
Finally, I hope you have enjoyed the glimpse into Kyoto, and most of all, found out what you could do in Arashiyama.

I highly recommend staying at the Suiran Kyoto for the luxury and unparalleled service you get.

I would definitely love to revisit Suiran again during the Spring Cherry blossom season. ( All photography are by Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell. I was a guest of Suiran Kyoto . All opinions are my own).

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