Over two decades ago, one of Kyoto’s most renowned obi (ornamental sash for a traditional Japanese kimono) collectors owned 80 acres of land at the foot of the symbolic Hidari Daimonji mountain in the city’s northwest. The next and current custodian of the secluded site is Aman Resorts, a group of hotels, that has transformed the space into a luxurious, serene sanctuary just a stone’s throw away from the city’s numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The luxury Aman Kyoto resort, the group’s third in Japan, has been seamlessly designed within the secret garden it is situated in, keeping in mind Japanese concepts such as a ryokan (traditional inn) and onsen (hot spring). Built on multiple platforms on the side of the mountain, bordered by a stream on one end and the woods on the other; the resort is nestled within a forest canopy that transforms from greens to oranges to browns as the seasons change. The hillside terraces, each, have their own purpose, and are divided as the Arrival, Living, Dining, Spa and Guest Pavilions.
Guests are housed in 24 rooms with garden or stream vistas, as well as a pair of two-bedroom villas overlooking the woodlands. Keeping Japanese design sensibilities in mind, Kerry Hill Architects (who also designed the Aman Tokyo and Amanemu), created minimalistic rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows that perfectly frame the resort’s fairy-tale environment while flooding the spaces with natural light. Traditional Japanese rush grass tatami mats cover the floor, while walls have little alcoves called tokonomas to appreciate art pieces. Fixtures such as bathtubs, tile panels, and décor pieces like Japanese lanterns have all been custom-made using indigenous materials.
The resort’s Dining Pavilion features Aman Kyoto’s signature restaurant that boasts the world famous Japanese haute cuisine; course after course of spectacularly presented dishes made from premium local produce. Guests can head to the Living Pavilion for a laid back, communal setting with a central fireplace and all-day dining, featuring home-cooked Kyoto obanzai-style cuisine. Picnic hampers or afternoon tea are best enjoyed al fresco in the zen (stone garden). The picturesque garden and forest areas are also ideal for yoga sessions, and celebrations from small functions to weddings.
Nothing describes the Japanese onsen experience better than being one with nature, and Aman Kyoto is right in the lap of it. The natural stream that flows through the property allows the spa to get as close to a traditional onsen as you can get, which is rarely seen in the region. The pools of healing water, au-naturel skincare range, an intuitive Japanese massage technique of shiatsu, and hilltop meditation and mindfulness sessions; a true sense of calm is what you will achieve.
All the tree-lined, mossy pathways converge at the formal lawn in the resort’s centre, which is defined by large granite boulders that set a powerful tranquillity in the space. That, along with the continual melody of the breeze blowing through maple and cedar leaves, perfectly describes the stay of any guest at the Aman Kyoto. A place of understated opulence; the kind that leaves an impact on you long after you have walked out of its gates. And from the first day of November, this year, these gates will open for one and all.