A first overnight stay at a Ryokan at Kanamean Nishitomiya by Relais & Chateaux  |  Kyoto, Japan | One of my all time travel bucket lists and dreams, was to stay at a traditional Japanese Ryokan. So when I planed my visit to Kyoto, I made sure that my first night would be spent at one. The one I chose was the Kanamean Nishitomiya by Relais & Chateaux, one of the ryokans which have survived in the modern surroundings of downtown Kyoto. This is the report of my overnight stay indulging in Japanese tradition of hospitality. You may see all my photos and videos from my recent trip to Japan at my Instagram @carlosmeliablog 

I arrived passed 6PM into Kyoto by Shinkasen High-Speed train from Tokyo, after a day that included a stop at Fujiomiya, where I spent the day exploring Mount Fuji. As soon as I arrived I was stricken by the beauty of this city, the region of Ponchoto District and the Kamo River, with the mountains as a backdrop.

As I arrived to the Honeyanocho district and Kanamean Nishitomiya Ryokan, I was greeted by Mrs Nishida, owner of the Ryokan and fifth generation of hoteliers, welcomed into an epic experience, respecting the Japanese tradition of hospitality. For those of you not familiar with the term Ryokan, it is a type of traditional Japanese inn that has existed since the eighth century A.D.

Quite frankly, I was a bit timid. I did not know what to expect nor how to react or where to go. Japanese culture is so much about respect and detail, and being my first time at a Ryokan, I decide to go with the flow and let my hosts show me the way. Ryokan experiences are very private, and most of you stay takes place into the comfort of your own room or suite. There were very few common areas, and during my stay, I did not see anyone other than my two lovely ladies into their traditional kimonos.

The Kanamean Nishitomiya is one of the ryokans which have survived in the modern surroundings of downtown Kyoto. The wooden architecture hosts only seven suites which lead to a little Japanese garden with seasonal flowers.  A two-story Japanese style house with 7 suite guest rooms. A small luxurious hotel with high quality services, which opened its doors over 140 years ago.

I was hosted at the Kanamean Suite Wanaka. Traditional Japanese suite room 70sqm / 753sqf. Located on 1st floor with views of 2 different Kyoto style garden. Two Living area and separate bedroom (10+8 tatami mats). Access to 2 private garden. Bathroom with Japanese cypress wooden bathtub, shower and garden view plus a Western shower and toilet.

Staying at a typical ryokan is a traditional Japanese cultural experience, and it is not like staying at a Western-style hotel. So keep this in mind. But based on my own experience, I would recommend it to anyone, at least for one night, to truly immerse in the local tradition. Guest rooms are constructed using traditional Japanese methods: flooring is tatami, and doors are sliding doors. Most rooms and suite, and Japanese houses host a “tokonoma” like the one above. Basically a wall space where scrolls are hung and a raised dais in front of this would be for setting an incense burner, vase for flowers, and candle holder.

It was time for my to get ready for dinner. This would take place at the privacy of my own suite. So I decided to get comfortable and wear my Yukata. An unlined kimono-like garment for summer use, usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp.

Was time for dinner and these two lovely ladies took amazing care of me, guiding me through this unique Japanese Gourmet experience of a 9-Dish dinner at their in-Suite Two Michelin Star Restaurant, helping me pair the best Sake options with each course. Traditional cuisine, flavours, dishes, pottery, and seasons makes Kyoto’s cuisine even more than wonderful.

While my dinner was being served, housekeeping was transforming my second Living Room into my bedroom, adding the so called futon. The fear of most daring to try a traditional ryokan, but in my experience was totally comfortable allowing me a great night sleep. Futon is Japanese-style mattresses and bedding spread out over the tatami mats.

After a very quiet and relaxing night sleep, was time for an early wake up call. Today was my first day to fully explore Kyoto, and there was plenty to see. But I was not going to rush nor miss my traditional-Japanese breakfast at a Ryokan. So I woke up with plenty of time for that.

First tea was served as I got ready for my day, took a shower and enjoy my cup of tea overlooking at my private gardens.

Breakfast was served, again at the privacy of my Suite. For breakfast, you may choose either a Western style meal (with bread) or a Japanese style meal ( with rice). Of course I went with the Japanese option as you can see.

Unfortunately was time to check out. I would have loved to stay for an extra night, but it was time for me to move on and explore Western-style options in Kyoto. I would strongly recommend an overnight stay and experience at a Ryokan, as a way to immerse, embrace and better understand the local culture and tradition.

Special Thanks to Japan Airlines for being my official airline for this trip, flying Business Class non-stop from New York City to Tokyo. Carlos Melia Luxury Travel Curator – www.carlosmelia.com

(*) To book your own travel experience, do not hesitate to contact me either by email carlos@carlosmelia.com or phone # 917.754.5515. Bespoke Travel Agent with over 25 years of experience, member of VIRTUOSO, First in Service Travel, TZELL Travel Network. www.carlosmelia.com

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