Kyoto, Japan

Suiran Hotel, Kyoto

Style

Motorbike mogul's manse

Setting

Temple-strewn riverside

In Kyoto’s bamboo-clad Arashiyama district, the Suiran Hotel is an intimate stay on the banks of the Hozugawa River, set close to Unesco-protected shrines and heritage sites. Once the private residence of 19th-century industrialist Shōzō Kawasaki (who revved up the motorbike brand), the hotel’s original Meiji architecture makes this a thoroughly traditional stay in the City of Ten Thousand Shrines. Manned by kimono-dressed staff, the hotel has a host of authentic details: Masayoshi Matsukata’s calligraphic prints, shoji screens and the fresh spring water in the cedar- and bamboo-encased onsen bath.

Smith Extra

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One set of Hisui rice-jelly balls each at Café Hassui

Facilities

Photos Suiran Hotel, Kyoto facilities

Need to know

Rooms

39, including four suites.

Check–Out

Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.

Also

Suiran’s concierge team are an imaginative bunch, they can organise an array of unique activities, including sake tasting and chakra cleansing, as well as frequent dinner nights focusing on the delicacies of Japanese cuisine, such as kinshu, where chefs sculpt edible art.

At the hotel

Spring-water-filled onsen baths, spa treatment rooms, gym, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Bose sound system, Nespresso coffee machine, tea-making facilities, minibar, air-conditioning and Remede bath products. The Yuzunoha Deluxe Room and higher categories have a private onsen bath too.

Our favourite rooms

Traditionally Japanese but with cloud-soft, western-style beds – with full mattresses rather than tatami mats – the Gyokuto Garden Terrace rooms have tranquil little gardens and private onsen baths, as well as gold-accented artwork splashed across the walls. Within the cavernous, clean-lined bathroom of the Shirosumire Premier King, staff will set up a massage table. After you’ve been pummelled into peacefulness, make use of the suite’s open-air bath, which is nestled into a rock-lined courtyard. The style in rooms is ryokan-lite: mat flooring, black-lacquer furniture and cedar wood-clad walls, but enhanced with contemporary comforts like flatscreen TVs and lightning-fast WiFi.

Poolside

There’s no pool, but those in higher category rooms can soak and soothe in a personal onsen bath filled with fresh spring water and sheltered by bamboo and volcanic-rock walls. If you don’t have your own, two baths can be booked for private sessions. Dubbed Raku and An, they're kept cool by cypress trees overhead and are built using traditional cedar wood.

Packing tips

Line your suitcase with linen for day-wear, structured tailoring and pared-back separates for night.

Also

Spa treatments can be enjoyed in two private treatment rooms, or in your hideaway if you prefer.

Children

Children can stay, but they may disturb the temple-like tranquility of the place.

Food and Drink

Photos Suiran Hotel, Kyoto food and drink

Top Table

Saryo Hassui has leagues of riverine charm – nab a table on the terrace to ogle Japan's natural splendour.

Dress Code

Ditch your biking leathers and go for geisha-kimono-inspired colours and origami-esque tailoring.

Hotel restaurant

The hotel’s two restaurants each reside in the original buildings, which have been painstakingly restored to create understated dining rooms offering varied Japanese-fusion fare, such as miso-marinated butterfish topped with a smoked soft-boiled egg. Formal dining at Kyo Suiran is a mix of French-inspired dishes and washoku – traditional Japanese cuisine – set within Kawasaki’s well-preserved summer villa; book in advance for your own private teppanyaki table. Café Saryo Hassui is set overlooking the water. Reserve a table on the terrace – the ideal setting for Japanese afternoon tea, an elegant affair with unique sandwich options (winter melon with mustard, spring onion and orange…) on rice-flour bread accompanied by sashimi slices, pickles, rice balls and traditional Japanese confectionary. 

Hotel bar

There’s no bar, but you can scuttle back to your room after dinner and order sake by the flask or a bottle of local craft beer to drink in your outdoor tub. 

Last orders

Breakfast is served between 7am and 10am, lunch from 11.30am to 2.30pm and dinner from 5.30pm to 9pm. The café is open between 11am and 5pm.

Room service

In-room dining is served 24-hours a day, with bountiful American-style breakfasts and Japanese fish dishes, vegetables and pickles on the menu. Drink choices are ample too, if you can’t bear to leave your room.

Location

Photos Suiran Hotel, Kyoto location
Address
Suiran Hotel, Kyoto
12 Susukinobaba-cho, Saga-Tenryuji, Ukyo-ku
616-8385
Kyoto
Japan

Planes

International hub Osaka Airport (www.osaka-airport.co.jp) is the closest, just 27 miles from the hotel (around an hour’s drive); frequent flights arrive here from Tokyo and KLM flies from London Heathrow via Amsterdam; arrivals from the US stopover in Hong Kong. You could also fly into Kansai (www.kansai-airport.or.jp), a 90-minute drive away from Suiran, whose claim to fame is that it’s never lost a single piece of luggage. The hotel can arrange charged transfers on request.

Trains

The hotel’s a 30-minute drive from Kyoto Station or a 10-minute walk from Randen Arashiyama Station; hotel transfers from train stations are free – just let the concierge know when you’ll be arriving. The speedy Shinkansen bullet trains will get you here from Tokyo in around two-and-a-half hours.

Automobiles

Outdoor parking at the hotel is JPY1,000 a day. If you’re driving from Tokyo, the journey takes around five hours; you may need to factor in tolls. If you want to visit Kyoto’s lively centre during your stay, a taxi to Gion takes around 20 minutes.

Other

Some local train stations have a line of waiting rickshaws outside if you want to arrive in unique style.

Worth getting out of bed for

Arashiyama, the hotel’s eye-catching country ‘hood, is Kyoto’s second most important cultural enclave (after Higashiyama), packed with shrines and blessed with the scenic backdrop of the Katsura River, Hozu Gorge, and hills that alternate between pink, green and russet coats, depending on the season. All of the district’s best bits are within walking distance of the hotel; the sprawling Tenryu-Ji temple complex is the district’s star attraction as an important seat of Zen Buddhism; however, fellow complex Nison-in, entered through a cherry- and maple-lined arcade, is peaceful and picturesque too. In Kameyama-koen Park, a five-minute walk away from Suiran, monkeys play in the cherry-blossom trees. Book a taxi and in just 20 minutes you can reach Gion, one of Japan’s few remaining geisha districts. Hanamikoji-dori street is lined with historic institutions, while you have the best chance of spotting a maiko (trainee geisha) or a geiko (fully-fledged geisha) on Shirakawa-dori street. Gion’s also home to tea shops and renowned Japanese restaurants.

Local restaurants

Arguably the most famous street in Kyoto, Ponto-chō is the place to go for Kyoto’s best dining experiences, whether you’re yearning for yakitori (chicken skewers) or keen to dine on a kawayuka - stilted terraces that appear when the weather’s warm. Chao Chao Sanjo Kiyamachi (117 Ishiyacho Kiya-Machi) is reliably good for gyoza, while Chojiro has the freshest sushi in town. In Arashiyama itself there are few restaurants more attractive than restored tea house Hiranoya; entering the moss-covered building via a ruby-red torii gate - the tea house moonlights as a proper restaurant. 

Local cafés

Simple noodle and rice dishes are served up riverside at Arashiyama Yoshimura.

Reviews

Photos Suiran Hotel, Kyoto reviews

Anonymous review

Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this luxurious hotel in Kyoto, and unpacked their matcha-tea-flavoured Kit-Kats and oil-paper umbrella, a full account of their city-side getaway will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a glimpse inside Suiran Hotel, Kyoto in Japan…

There are 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto. The naturally beautiful Suiran Hotel sits pretty amid these places of worship, so you're near guaranteed a soul-revivifying stay within this Meiji-era abode, formerly 19th-century industrialist Kawasaki’s summerhouse. Original artwork and gracefully looping Japanese calligraphy line the walls, and Suiran overlooks a musical jungle of swaying bamboo grasses and a twisting ribbon of water – the Hozugawa River – which adopts an emerald sheen when the light hits it. Just a short walk from these natural treasures, there are temples – ornate ones, bijou ones, temples as far as the eye can see. 

Inside the hotel itself, winding pathways, knotty trees and softly pattering waterfalls evoke a living Hokusai silk-screen print. Rooms’ walls are painted with pastoral scenes that mirror the rural views, with a hint of gold leaf – not dissimilar to Japan’s kintsugi craft (where broken objects are fused together with gold). Comfort trumps culture when it comes to snoozing – bouncy Western-style beds replace traditional tatami mats in most rooms – but the robust of spine can request one for an authentic experience. More in keeping with tradition: the restaurant’s teppanyaki dishes and informed-by-the-seasons tasting menu, and the spa’s soothing open-air onsen bath, which is sheltered by a wall of rocks and bamboo screens – we’d happily make the pilgrimage here for either…

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