Sowaka effortlessly blends Kyoto’s heritage with modern luxuries

It’s been more than two years since Japan closed its borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as of October 11, travelers can once again roam the island nation without restrictions. As the country nears its reopening, many are eager to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, and Kyoto is one city that continues to attract tourists.

The former capital of Japan is a favorite destination for its history, temples and food. But what also makes Kyoto highly desirable is the opportunity to stay in a ryokan. Before the pandemic, Sowaka was one of the city’s most recent luxury openings, offering guests a modern interpretation of a traditional Japanese inn.

Located in the Higashiyama district, just steps away from Yasaka Temple and the highly popular Ninenzaka Avenue, Sowaka combines Kyoto’s heritage with modern luxury. Formerly a high-end restaurant, the cutlery-style building has been meticulously restored and you’ll still find a few traces of its past spread throughout the intimate property, including ovens in the courtyard and a water pump that still serves the hotel.

There are 23 rooms in total spread throughout the original building and a new annex with a more modern aesthetic. Each accommodation has its own unique features and all are individually designed, filled with the work of skilled craftsmen. Expect touches like tokonoma alcoves, shoji screens, tatami mats, low-profile furniture, cypress tubs and woodwork galore. Some even have private gardens, but two of the most fantastic rooms—103 and 104—offer front-row views of the hotel’s main oasis.

All rooms feature a complimentary minibar stocked with soda, beer and water, as well as premium amenities such as a Dyson hair dryer. Guests will also enjoy toiletries and skin care sets from Kazurasei, a beauty company dating back to 1865 that specializes in products that use camellia oil, an ingredient prized for its moisturizing properties. In addition, to ensure a good rest, all accommodations are equipped with plush Iwata Larkowl mattresses made from natural fibers.

During your stay, guests are invited to relax in the lobby lounge. Have a drink at the four-seat bar where local sake, shochu and spirits are highlighted. and head to the rooftop balcony for excellent views of the surrounding area. But one thing you shouldn’t miss is dining at La Bombance. Overseen by the team behind the award-winning Tokyo outpost, the all-day restaurant not only offers great food, but is also visually stunning. In stark contrast to the rest of the hotel, the dark space features black walls, high ceilings, large windows overlooking a lush green backdrop, and a 36-foot-long bar counter made from a single piece of African cherry.

While you will certainly have the opportunity to enjoy breakfast at La Bombance, the real star is the dinner service. A multi-course affair that showcases a creative interpretation of Japanese dishes, it is one of the most innovative meals in Kyoto. The menu changes monthly to highlight what’s in season, but expect to focus on local ingredients and enjoy traditional dishes like chawanmushi (salted egg custard) with truffles and foie gras. The main courses end with a rice dish, but the best part for those who can’t finish the whole pot is the onigiri (rice ball) made from your leftovers.

In addition to these offers, Sowaka wants to make your visit to Kyoto unforgettable and offers a number of customized experiences that can be booked through their team. Whether you’re taking part in a private tea ceremony, exclusive garden tours or even something as simple as renting a bike to explore the city on your own, they’ve got you covered.

For more information, visit the Sowaka website.

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