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Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto

This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi
Exploring Tokyo – Part One
Exploring Tokyo – Part Two
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto
Souvenirs from Japan

For our last stop in Kyoto (and this Japan trip), we decided to stay at a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn. We would have loved to return back to our old favorite Shiraume, but it was closed for renovations. So instead we decided to stay in another one on our list – Hiiragiya.

Hiiragiya is a six generation ryokan established in 1818, and is probably one of the two establishments mentioned most frequently in relation to Kyoto (the other being Tawaraya). Both are famous for being old and having high profile guests – our host kindly let us know that we were right next door to – but sadly not in – the Elizabeth Taylor room.

Hiiragiya was located very close to Kyoto downtown, which was a nice change of pace from Shiraume, which was in the Gion district. Our taxi driver pulled up to a very unassuming building, right across the street from Tawaraya, and we were greeted at the entrance.

Hiiragiya Entrance

Inside, the decor was what we’d come to expect from a traditional ryokan – carefully selected pieces, spotlessly clean room. If you’ve never stayed in a ryokan before and are used to more traditional luxury hotels, you might find the decor sparse at first. After some time though, you’ll find the environment perfect for relaxation.

HIiragiya Common Areas

And…our room! There was a large open space where by day we dined, and by night we slept. Room attendants came in each evening and put away the dining set, and set up our sleeping mats.

We booked Hiiragiya maybe a month out or so, which in high season would be unthinkable (reserve as close to a year in advance if you want your choice of rooms). At the time of our booking, we still had a few rooms left to choose from,but they were quickly filling up due to Chinese New Year. I was worried that the room we chose would be too small as it was one of the ryokan’s smaller ones, but it was fine for the two of us. For a family, I would have selected something a little larger. Continue Reading

Asia Food Hotels Travel

The Ritz Carlton Kyoto

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi
Exploring Tokyo – Part One
Exploring Tokyo – Part Two
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto
Souvenirs from Japan

We started our stay in Kyoto at the newly built (opened in 2014!) Ritz Carlton Kyoto. I was very interested to try out this hotel because it was, and still is, the only “Western” style luxury hotel in Kyoto (ryokans of course are another matter). I have to admit that I haven’t had the best experience with Ritz Carltons in the past few years, and will almost always choose a Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental if I have the choice in any given location.

I am happy to report however, that the Ritz Carlton Kyoto ended up being one of my favorite city hotel stays, ever. It is such a beautiful property, and you can tell that an incredible amount of thought and attention to detail was put into it. Mr. Feather and I had such a great time here, and loved our stay. A warning – this is a picture heavy post!

When arriving at the hotel, we were immediately taken by how well it translated to its traditional surroundings in Kyoto. No tall modern skyscraper like structures here – very unobtrusive yet still elegant.

Ritz Carlton Kyoto Opening

We were greeted at reception and after a welcome drink, were walked up to our room to do check-in in the room. I loved the details on each of the doors  – there were thoughtful touches like this all over the hotel.

Ritz Carlton Kyoto Hallways

And then, our room. So pretty! And, quite a nice size! The couch was super comfortable to lounge on and the perfect place to perch while the other person hung out on the bed.

Ritz Carlton Kyoto Living Room

My favorite aspect of the room – the view. There was a gorgeous sitting area that looked out onto Kyoto’s Kamo River. Often we’d just sit and have tea and look out over the water and people watch. And then when we walked back to the hotels ourselves, we’d head down the same riverbanks!

I loved that there was an individually selected bonsai tree for each room, and it was switched out each day.

Ritz Carlton Kyoto Bedroom

Little details all throughout the bedroom/living space – individual robes which were hung in the closet, and Tivoli alarm clocks. I don’t know how many times I’ve entered beautiful, super expensive hotel rooms only to encounter cheapie and very old alarm clocks. No stone left unturned!

Ritz Carlton Kyoto Bedroom Details

There was also a lovely minibar area that not only had the ubiquitous Nespresso machine, but also a contraption for making the perfect tea via pod capsule. I had never seen this before, am I just behind on the times? Continue Reading

Asia Hotels Travel

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi

This post is part of my 2015 Japan series. For the rest, please see below.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo Marunouchi
Exploring Tokyo – Part One
Exploring Tokyo – Part Two
The Ritz Carlton Kyoto
Exploring Kyoto
Hiiragiya Ryokan – Kyoto
Souvenirs from Japan

Earlier in February, we took fairly spur of the moment trip to Japan. I’d been wanting to go for months and months now…I hadn’t been to Asia (not counting Australia) for over a year and was feeling antsy. Plus, Japan is always such an inspiring place…I could probably live there for years and find something new to admire every day.

I’ll be sharing some posts about the trip, starting with a hotel review. I hope you enjoy!

Four Seasons Tokyo Entrance

Our flight was a direct from San Francisco to Narita Airport, and we decided to spend the first half of our trip in Tokyo. Japan has so many nice luxury hotel options, and this time we ended up at the Four Seasons Tokyo Marunouchi. I’m usually a fan of the Four Seasons hotels, and wanted to try the Tokyo one due of its great location, and also because it has only 57 rooms. 57! That’s an incredibly low number for a hotel, especially one in one of the largest metropolitan hotel markets in the world. It was almost like a Four Seasons boutique hotel.

Four Seasons Tokyo Hallway

Our room was a Deluxe Premier, and was more than enough space for two. It could fit even a couple with a small child on a cot comfortably. There was a spacious bedroom, which opened up to an equally spacious living room and seating area.

Four Seasons Tokyo Living Room Bedroom

One of the great aspects of the Four Seasons was its proximity to Tokyo Station. We took the Narita Express in from the airport (super affordable, easy to use, and no risk of being trapped in Tokyo traffic), and hotel staff were waiting to greet us as we disembarked from our exact car, to walk us over to the property. Continue Reading

Hotels North America Travel

Metropolitan by COMO – Miami Beach

Last month, Mr. Feather and I spent a long weekend in Miami Beach for a wedding. I hadn’t been to Miami in years (when I want a beach destination I usually head for Hawaii), so I was excited for the trip.

When we were looking for hotels, I saw that the Metropolitan had recently opened in Miami Beach. I didn’t get a chance to stay at the Shambala Estate while we were in Bali (next time), so thought this would be a good opportunity to try out the COMO brand. Plus, the hotel had no nightclub or “scene” downstairs – a plus in my book as having come directly from some work travel in New York and Boston, I wasn’t in the mood for a loud hotel with a party atmosphere.

Como Metropolitan Miami Entrace

Inside the Metropolitan’s lobby, we admired the classic Miami style and colors used, including the beautiful original stone floors.

Como Metropolitan Miami 2

Each of the Metropolitan’s guest rooms had these floors (at least ours did). At first, I was a little taken aback, since I’m definitely used to carpet, at least in the bedroom. But the Metropolitan provided comfortable slippers to move around in.

The Metropolitan is a “wellness” retreat, in keeping with the COMO brand, and you could definitely see that sense of calm in the rooms. No ostentatious luxury – it was much more like a serene spa.

Como Metropolitan Miami Bedroom

Beautiful bathrooms, and of course the Como Shambala’s own house toiletries, which were great. The shampoo didn’t strip my hair like many hotel shampoos tend to do.

Como Metropolitan Miami Bathroom

Each evening, without fail, an employee would come by to deliver ice for the bucket (of course – this is Miami!) as well as a fabulous turndown tray of sweets. Usually, turndown sweets have been a few chocolates, maybe a few candies in my experience. The Metropolitan though, went above and beyond. Continue Reading