Checking in: Noku Kyoto, Japan – Explore Japan from its cultural heart
Japan is one of the most pulsating countries in Asia, known for its high-tech gadgets and its award-winning cuisine. For a taste of this, most people head to Tokyo or Osaka to experience the mad, non-stop rush.
However, a quick three-hour bullet train from Tokyo, or an even shorter, 30-min train ride from Osaka, and you’ll find yourself in Kyoto, Japan’s culture capital and the ancient seat of power. Kyoto, has remained wilfully and proudly traditional, and while there’s no denying its place in Japan’s modern world, it still keeps one foot firmly in the past, having lovingly preserved many of its World Unesco Heritage site temples and gardens.
Because of its popularity and never-ending tourist trail, naturally the city would be a popular place for hotels. With the Four Seasons planning a new hotel in the area soon, another new hotel on the block is the recently-opened Noku Kyoto, built by Singapore’s Roxy Pacific Holdings Limited, the new boutique hotel has been designed to pay tribute to Kyoto’s artisanal culture and Japan’s personalised services.
Nestled in the heart of Kyoto, Noku Kyoto is adjacent to the Kyoto Imperial Palace with over 1,000 years of Japanese history. It is also a stone’s throw away from tourist hotspots such as the Shimogamo Shrine, Kyoto Botanical Garden, Nishijin Textile District and Teramachi Street.
The exterior of this boutique hotel has a quaint Japanese charm, with traditional window panes and traditionally-inspired roofing. The friendly concierge are more than equipped to suggest itineraries and places to see, eat or visit during your stay. There’s also much-appreciated wifi access in the lobby, cafe and guest rooms.
Noku Kyoto has 81 rooms that are spread across six floors with five different types of rooms. Noku Suite, Premium Luxury Room, Luxury Room, Deluxe Room and House Room. The upper floors boast scenic views of the Kyoto Imperial Garden (imagine waking up to that) and each room is tastefully adorned with local handcrafted and curated art pieces illustrating the finest Kyoto craftsmanship that pays tribute to the city’s rich 1,200 year history.
We stayed in the Premium Luxury Room which includes an additional day bed so you can look out into the gardens. The beds are furnished with Airweave mattresses which are extremely comfortable (we had trouble leaving our beds in the morning) and soft. The room included a 40-inch TV and complimentary, locally-sourced coffee and tea and mini-bar refreshments.
Foodies can look forward to quality dining within the area which includes Michelin-starred Kanei (known to serve the best handmade soba in Kyoto) and the peculiar Sarasa Nishijin café that used to be a public bathhouse.
There are also two dining options available within the hotel itself that provides a relaxing change of pace after lots of temple-visiting and travelling around Kyoto. Noku Café – Maeda Coffee features coffee roasted by Takahiro Maeda, who founded his company in 1971 in Kyoto. The blend is specially created and called Ryunosuke.
Guests can also dine at the hotel’s steakhouse — Restaurant Kyou — which only uses locally-sourced ingredients. Savour the best of Kyoto specialty beef which is prepared in styles of shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, steaks and roasts to your preference. There’s also a variety of sake and wine to sample at Kyou Bar.
Visiting Kyoto allowed us to see a totally different side of Japan which was unexpected and welcomed. If you can get through the throng of tourists (all looking for the same tranquility as we were, we suspect), then there’s so much to see in the city. We highly recommend a visit to Temple Kitano Tenmangu to see plum blossoms in Spring, and the Kyoto Imperial Garden for a little bit of history.
Ultimately, the Noku Kyoto is a sweet, intimate boutique hotel which gives you great access to the city. While not lavish or extravagant, the hotel is the perfect point from which to explore a city which has so much to offer, you’ll want to spend as much of your time as you can walking around and seeing the sights.
A Premium Luxury Room starts at ¥40,392
Noku Kyoto, 205-1 Okura-Cho Karasuma-dori Marutamachi sagaru, Nakagyo-Ku Kyoto-city 604-0861, Kyoto, Phone +81 75 211 0222, www.nokuhotels.com
By Venkat Gunasellan