Set in a ‘secret garden’ at the heart of a 32-hectare forest, the Aman Kyoto is an intimate, secluded and otherworldly retreat with just 26 guest rooms
Aman Resorts has unveiled its third destination in Japan with the opening of ryokan-inspired Aman Kyoto today. Set in a ‘secret garden’ at the heart of a 32-hectare forest, the resort is a secluded, otherworldly retreat set amid lush forest undergrowth, winding footpaths, tranquil forest glades and flowing streams.
The new resort is not far from the centre of Kyoto, recognised by many as Japan’s cultural capital, and within walking distance of the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinkaku-ji Temple and houses just 26 guest rooms in six Guest Pavilions.
Positioned within a hidden valley formed by a series of manicured platforms, the ethereal landscape is the hero of the retreat, and with moss-covered stone pathways and stairways snake around the mature Japanese cedar, cypress, camellia and Japanese maple trees peppered around the property.
There is also a formal lawn within the gardens named the Kerry Hill Garden in honour of the late Australian architect who designed Aman Kyoto and the two other Japanese properties – Aman Tokyo and Amanemu – among many other Aman properties around the world.
The three-hectare garden is cleverly designed to self-irrigate through the collection of rainwater via the site’s numerous caves and water tunnels.
True to the Aman aesthetic, Aman Kyoto’s buildings have been designed to complement their verdant surroundings and create a sense of place. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the spectacular natural surroundings and bring the outside in, ensuring nature is always the focal point at the retreat.
A minimalist, contemporary beauty, a neutral colour palette flows throughout the interior, with local artisans’ crafts such as handmade raku tile panels and custom-made ceramic tiles found throughout the spaces. All furniture, including traditional Japanese lanterns, have been custom-designed and are exclusive to Aman Kyoto. Carefully chosen artefacts, whether vases, artworks or antiques, have been individually selected for each space and celebrate the refined aesthetic and creative values of Japan.
Six room categories are on offer, with all accommodation offering leafy seclusion with garden views and utmost privacy. Two ‘presidential suites’ located in the Washigamine and Takagamine Pavilions – located at the highest, most secluded point of the property – boast extensive views over the surrounding forested landscape, two en-suite bedrooms, separate living and dining areas, a kitchen and tatami room.
The Aman Spa embraces Japanese wisdom and holistic wellness traditions inspired by nature. Guests can experience guided yoga and meditation, as well as Shinrin-yoku, the healing art of forest bathing or ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’.
The retreat is also located above a natural spring, something of rarity in the region, and traditional onsen bathing facilities using the water from a local spring are available along with a range of treatments that tap into Japan’s apothecary traditions. Bathing, breathing practice, Zazen meditation, consuming green tea, the physical practice of shiatsu, acupuncture and moxa are part of the Aman Kyoto experience.
Aman Kyoto has two restaurants. The Living Pavilion by Aman is located at the heart of the resort and opens onto an ornate terrace overlooking the Kerry Hill garden. With beautiful views of the surrounding gardens and forest, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, both to guests of the resort and non-residents (with advance reservations).
Taka-an, the resort’s Japanese restaurant, honours the legacy of artist Honami Koetsu (1558-1637), who helped shape the culture and creative life of Takagamine, the area in which Aman Kyoto resides, by creating an artist’s colony there.
The cuisine is strictly seasonal, with chef-selected ingredients prepared and served with meticulous precision to serve dishes that transform Kyoto’s local produce into works of gastronomic art. This restaurant also houses two private dining rooms.
Daily afternoon tea and personalised picnic hampers to be enjoyed in the gardens and forested grounds are available.
The resort offers various local experiences to its guests, including trips to any of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites located nearby and privileged access to an abundance of temples and transformative cultural encounters such as:
- Exploring the life of 16th-century master calligrapher, craftsman and artist Honami Koetsu at the nearby Koetsuji Temple
- Visiting the gardens and gilded architecture of Kinkakuji, the ‘Golden Pavilion’, a 20-minute walk from Aman Kyoto
- Visiting the tea fields of Uji, one of Japan’s largest tea-growing regions, during picking season to discover age-old traditions surrounding the planting, harvesting, brewing and drinking of the culturally integral beverage
- Visiting a traditional ochaya (teahouse) and spending time with a geiko (the Kyoto term for geisha) or a maiko apprentice, playing ozashiki, drinking tea and enjoying a dance performance and dinner in the Kamishichiken district, the oldest of Kyoto’s hanamachi – the ‘flower towns’ of the geiko and maiko
- Learning and practising the principles of Zen meditation from a local monk.
- Spending time with an ikebana expert, transforming seasonal flowers into magnificent arrangements in an ancient hall overlooking a beautiful Japanese garden
Aman Kyoto is located a one-hour drive from Osaka International Airport (ITM), a two-hour drive from Kansai International Airport (KIX), and a 30-minute drive from Kyoto Station.
Banyan Tree announced in March it would also be opening a resort in Kyoto in 2022. Japan has been experiencing a boom in tourism ahead of the 2020 Olympics, with more luxury hotels expected to open in the capital of Tokyo and around the country to cater to goal of 40 million international arrivals next year.