A truly authentic experience, one which you feel reluctant to leave
Back up, and give us the wide-angle view of this place.
Set in the Arashiyama district on the western side of Kyoto (an area frequented by Japanese nobles of years gone by), Suiran sits seamlessly on the jade waters of the Katsura river. The original buildings, which now house the restaurants and lobby, are constructed around beautifully manicured Japanese gardens, and sunlight-dappled pebble-stone pathways lead the way to the more modern low-rise buildings that house the rooms. Yukata-clad staff welcome you warmly with a hot towel and tea whilst discretely whisking your luggage off to your room, leaving you to enjoy the serene surroundings, bathed in light and soothed by the sounds of flowing water. Here, chaotic city life is a distant memory and the deliberate and un-rushed pace is the catalyst for achieving a state of repose.
Um, wow—we feel more relaxed already. What’s the crowd like?
The crowd is a quiet one with a penchant for tranquility and tradition, seeking a setting that’s as sleek and sophisticated as they are.
Got it. Now, back to the hotel itself: how was check in?
Check-in is an immediately calming affair. Seated in the lobby, tea and sweets in hand, the hosts check your documents, allowing you the time to truly appreciate the understated beauty of the hotel and its setting. Luggage is removed and deposited in-room and, satiated with sencha and sweets, guests soon follow, guided by a smiling staff member.
Perfect. Now, onto the good stuff: Tell us about the digs.
In true Japanese style, rooms are entered through a simple sliding door and shoes are laid down at the entrance. They’re are spacious and elegant, enhanced with contemporary comforts like Nespresso coffee machines, flatscreen TVs, and an almost space-shuttle like TOTO toilet. (It’s frankly a little intimidating at first, but once the bilingual control panel is deciphered, you’ll be left wondering why every hotel doesn’t adopt them.) Check-out is equally effortless, with staff ensuring your stay was up to scratch before sending you on your way.
How about the little things, like the strength and speed of the WiFi connection, or the mini bar—did they impress, or disappoint?
A pleasant surprise in such a secluded setting, the Wi-Fi at Suiran is super fast and free. In room amenities from Laboratoire Remède were ample and beautiful, but a shame that the hotel didn’t opt for something Japanese; after all, in a country whose beauty products are as revered as its hospitality, there must have been a long list to choose from. Although there’s no dedicated bar at Suiran, the hotel’s minimal riverside retreat, Café Hassui, more than makes up for the fact, serving as the setting for the daily, hour-long complimentary Champagne reception from 5:30 p.m. They also have a carefully-curated selection of Japanese spirits, sakes, and beers, which can be brought to your room if the idea of parting with your private tub is too much.
Well, thank goodness for that. It all sounds lovely, though! How about the room service, or the food on-site? What’s on offer?
Two restaurants and 24-hour room service have you covered when it comes to food and drink. Kyo Suiran serves multi-course seasonal affairs in a formal setting overlooking the gardens. There’s a French inspiration on both the 10-course tasting menu and à la carte options, with the focus firmly on local produce wherever possible. Café Hassui is a much more relaxed setting overlooking the Katsura river offering exquisite views for sundown drinks or their uniquely Japanese take on afternoon tea (think Japanese rice balls with pickled plum and intricate wagashi sweets that look almost too good to eat). The included breakfast option is served from 7 a.m., with both Western and Japanese options served buffet-style and washed down by freshly squeezed in-season juices.
Yummy! How about the staff? Did anyone really go above and beyond?
All of the staff were the embodiment of omotenashi, Japan’s renowned hospitality that strives to anticipate guests needs before they even know what they need.
Perfect. Alright, last chance to shout out anything that really revolutionized your stay. Let’s have it!
The location couldn’t be better. The hotel, a peaceful setting, respectful of its surroundings, is within walking distance of all Arashiyama’s main sights. The proximity to Tenryu-ji temple (a UNESCO world heritage site), Sagano bamboo grove and the much quieter Saga Toriimoto, a preserved street from when samurai ruled the land, add to the appeal of this luxury hideaway with plenty of history. After a day exploring, guests can unwind in their private onsen (a feature of deluxe rooms and above), or can book a private session in the hotel’s two cedar baths, Raku and An. Why stop there? Spa treatments can be arranged in-room or in two relaxing treatment rooms overlooking an enclosed rockery style garden.
Jackpot! So, bottom line: worth it, and why?
Staying here is a truly authentic experience, one which you feel reluctant to leave.Reviewed by Rachel Tranter Davies
CNTraveler Readers Choice Awards 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021