A sanctuary tucked in Kyoto, a garden landscaped by the forest
A staircase not of marble, but of stone and moss, leads into Aman Kyoto – open from 1 Nov 2019, sheltered under the canopies of the many trees that extended their branches into the sky and hide the 32-hectare haven below. The isolated grounds were home to the community that inspired the Rinpa school of art which blossomed four centuries ago, whose imaginative spirit still thrives in Kyoto’s many landmarks, easily reached by anyone venturing to wander by foot.
There is much quiet here—no loud honking or busy chatters. One may even listen to the sound of their heartbeats, to the placid rippling of the waters, and to the melodic cooing of the birds that monks often find their way to sit into the grass and hum their chants. In this Zen-like state, one is invited to lodge beside these personalities and follow their example, all while bathing into the light of mori (forest).
Washing out the stark views of greys and green is the delightful spring-enveloped Kamishichiken, perhaps the grandmother of all of Kyoto’s flower districts. There are rare robed geishas in sight within the day, but one can step into an ancient tea house and learn the process of gently mashing leaves to create a fresh concoction of tea.
There is an overall shade of calm and rest here, indulged by the atmospheric hotel that pays tribute to the original Ryokan inns. Aman Kyoto is charmingly minimalistic, a craftsmanship of lines perfect in geometry, where windows embrace the natural vistas, ceilings are lofty, and the soft palettes complement the tranquil colour of mornings with the cosy sensation of the tatami mat. This echoes the noble rooms of the old palaces, perhaps akin to the nearby Kinkakuji, whose sobriquet “Golden Pavilion” fits it perfectly as its walls reflect the dazzling gold colours at sunset.
Flowers and nature, it may be said, is at the heart of the journey here, and a hand at Ikebana fulfils one’s desire to become a native florist, one that manages miniscule landscapes with sheer skill and discipline, with gentle movements and control of the hand.After soaking in Kyoto’s hidden goodness, partake at the table and spoon a mesmerizing wagashi—or soft Japanese confections made of mochi—and thank the forests for this glorious hideaway. www.amankyoto.com ◼
© This article was first published online in Nov 2019 – World Travel Magazine.