Kyoto is two hours from Tokyo by bullet train, which is just enough time to downshift from the capitol’s manic energy to the serene pleasures of this green escape. Kyoto was once nicknamed the City of 10,000 Shrines, and now, it seems, it has one more. The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, which opened in 2014, is situated on the banks of the Kamogawa River, drawing the outside in whenever possible. The Japanese word for harmony is Nagomi, and the Gods are pleased. The soaps are local. The sauna has a picture window allowing natural light to pour in. And the service is predictably stellar. When the staff noticed it was a friend’s birthday, a small bottle of sake and an origami crane appeared in our room. Arigato!
After a soak in the cerulean-tiled pool, it’s time to step out into the world. About those 10,000 shrines: we’ve pared them down for you. Start with a visit to the Fushimi Inari Shrine, where you’ll walk under thousands of vermilion-colored gates on your way to a spectacular view up top. (If the scene looks familiar to New Yorkers, that’s because this same site inspired artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s 2005 instalation in Central Park, The Gates.) Then hop in a cab and make your way to the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, an Instagram-ready Zen Buddhist Temple and garden that screams #NoFilter. Don’t leave town without strolling through the bamboo forest in Sagano—a stellar walkabout.
On the way back to the hotel, stop into Brodism, the only cool-kid men’s shop we know that stocks an eclectic mix of Japanese flannel alongside gardening supplies and totebags from Tokyo’s excellent Cow Books. Hungry from a day of exploration, head over to Gion Yata for a nine-course tasting menu including an unforgettable bean tofu skin and scallop dish and perfectly executed Spanish mackerel. Don’t forget to take your shoes off.When you decide you want to stay longer in Kyoto, the concierge at the Ritz-Carlton will send someone to the train station to change your tickets.
Rooms from $600 per night. For reservations visit ritzcarlton.com