21 Oct Aman Kyoto, A Secret Garden Sanctuary, Opens 1 November
Set in a secret garden at the heart of a 32-hectare forest, Aman Kyoto, Aman’s third destination in Japan – opens on 1 November 2019. The resort is a secluded otherworldly retreat: moss-covered boulders glow emerald-like in the lush undergrowth, winding footpaths link tranquil forest glades, and streams provide a soothing soundtrack broken only by birdsong. From this peaceful haven, where gardens, forest and healing waters rejuvenate body and mind, guests can explore all that Kyoto has to offer on uniquely curated, behind-the-scenes Aman Journeys.
Aman Kyoto is nestled in forested grounds, within walking distance of the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kinkaku-ji Temple, and close to the centre of beguiling Kyoto.
Within a hidden valley, formed by a series of manicured platforms, the garden is enclosed on one side by a small stream, and on another by a wooded hill. An ethereal landscape of mature cedar, cypress, camellia and Japanese maple trees (to name just a few) changes colour through the year, transporting the garden from one season to another. The platforms, originally intended as locations for the buildings of a textile museum, are the unrealised dream of the site’s former owner, who was one of Japan’s most respected collectors of the obi (the ornamental sash for a traditional Japanese kimono), and now provide the foundations for the sensitively designed pavilions of the resort. The tranquillity and drama of this setting inspired the respectful architectural design of Aman Kyoto.
Moss-covered stone pathways laid down by the creator of the garden, some edged in large cut-stone borders traverse the site. Graceful garden stairways and pathways lead guests to the upper platforms, bordered with colourful yama momiji maples and kitayama-sugi (Japanese cedars). The garden is cleverly designed to self-irrigate through the collection of rainwater via the site’s numerous caves and water tunnels.
Within the formal lawn of the gardens, in the peaceful centre of the site, large granite boulders, originally selected as sculptures by the former owner, define and hold court over the space. Named the Kerry Hill Garden in honour of Kerry Hill, who designed Aman Kyoto, amongst many other Aman properties around the world, the flourishing landscape stands as a living tribute to the iconic architect.
Exemplary in its simplicity, the resort is an architectural masterpiece brought into being by Kerry Hill Architects, who designed both Aman Tokyo and Amanemu. True to the Aman aesthetic, which is very much inspired by Japan, Aman Kyoto’s structures – including its Aman Spa – have been designed with characteristic elegance and sensitivity to complement their verdant surroundings. The colour palette for interiors is neutral, complementing the work of local artisans: handmade raku tile panels grace the Living Pavilion and custom-made ceramic tiles decorate the restaurant.
Strikingly minimalist in their design, the rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows framing the spectacular natural surroundings, tatami mats covering the floors, and tokonoma (alcoves where items for artistic appreciation are presented) providing subtle focal points. The spacious and light-filled interiors are ingeniously crafted to foster peace, relaxation and contemplation. All furniture, including traditional Japanese lanterns, have been custom-designed and are exclusive to Aman Kyoto. Carefully chosen artefacts, whether vases, artworks or antiques, have been individually selected for each space and celebrate the refined aesthetic and creative values of Japan.
Consisting of a series of standalone pavilions, Aman Kyoto has six Guest Pavilions housing 26 guest rooms.
Aman Kyoto’s latticed pavilions are a contemporary homage to the traditional Japanese ryokan inn, minimalist in their geometry, and each serving as a window onto their spectacular natural surroundings. Offering six room categories, including two ‘presidential suites’ located in the Washigamine and Takagamine Pavilions, all accommodation at Aman Kyoto offers leafy seclusion with garden views, and supreme privacy.
The Washigamine and Takagamine Pavilions are named after two mountains in the surrounding national parks of Kyoto and are located at the highest, most secluded point of the property. Offering extensive views over the surrounding forested landscape, each pavilion, houses two en-suite bedrooms, separate living and dining areas, kitchen and tatami room.
The Susuki, Nara, Kaede and Hotaru pavilions all encompass 60 square metre rooms, with floor-to-ceiling windows that frame the beautiful garden and forest views. The large ofuro bathtubs in each guest room have been crafted from hinoki cypress wood, native to central Japan.
Spa and Wellness
The 29 hectares of permanent forest and three hectares of exquisite gardens surrounding Aman Kyoto serve as a serene setting for the Aman Spa. Even a simple immersion – such as walking through a forest – has a powerful effect on wellbeing. This has long been recognised by the Japanese, and Aman Kyoto embraces this wisdom, alongside other Japanese holistic rituals, with a wellness offering defined by nature in every way. Guests can experience guided yoga and meditation, as well as Shinrin-yoku, the healing art of forest bathing or ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’.
The natural spring water that flows underneath Aman Kyoto is central to the philosophy at the resort’s Aman Spa, and something of great rarity in the region. Traditional onsen bathing facilities, using the water from a local spring, deliver relaxation and healing in their purest forms, while a range of treatments tap into Japan’s plentiful natural apothecary – including Kyoto green tea, Tamba kuromame (black beans), local saké, and cold-pressed tsubaki (camellia) oil. Bathing, breathing practice, Zazen meditation, consuming green tea, the physical practice of shiatsu, acupuncture and moxa are part of the Aman Kyoto experience. However, it is the natural landscape that surrounds the resort that plays the starring role.
Resting at the heart of the resort is the convivial Living Pavilion by Aman with its central fireplace and floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto an ornate terrace overlooking the Kerry Hill garden. With beautiful views of the surrounding gardens and forest, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, both to guests of the resort and non-residents (with advance reservations). At the helm is Executive Chef, Kentaro Torii serving home-cooked Kyoto-style cuisine, and innovative Western dishes. With 16 years of experience in Japan and internationally, Chef Kentaro uses only local and ‘in season’ ingredients, many of which are sourced from the hotels very own garden, giving guests the experience of being at one with nature with his cuisine.
Taka-an, the resort’s Japanese restaurant, honours the legacy of artist Honami Koetsu (1558-1637), who helped shape the culture and creative life of Takagamine, the area in which Aman Kyoto resides, by creating an artist’s colony there. Honami Koetsu was considered a national treasure of his time and was a craftsman, potter, lacquerer, and calligrapher and whose work is considered to have inspired the founding of the Rinpa school of painting.
Taka-an is a culinary homage to this heritage and serves as an invitation to experience the authentic Japanese art of hospitality, in which every element – atmosphere, design, and cuisine – work in harmony and are in perfect balance. Strictly seasonal, chef-selected ingredients are prepared and served with meticulous precision, to serve dishes that transform Kyoto’s local produce into works of gastronomic art. This restaurant also houses two private dining rooms.
There are also several other gastronomic experiences to be enjoyed at Aman Kyoto. The property’s daily afternoon tea introduces flower-like Wagashi, traditional Japanese confections made of mochi, anko and fruits, amongst a variety of delectable creations inspired by the setting of the resort. Kyoto matcha is freshly prepared and served as a finale. Guests are also encouraged to enjoy a personalised picnic hamper in the gardens and forested grounds, which are full of serene spots.
The hidden gardens of Aman Kyoto serve as a springboard for countless inspiring journeys into the secrets of Japan’s ancient Imperial capital. Aman Kyoto is surrounded by no fewer than 17 awe-inspiring UNESCO World Heritage sites, all within easy reach. With privileged access to an abundance of temples and transformative cultural encounters, which are out of reach for most travellers, Aman Kyoto offers its guests an insight into the history and wonders of the city like no other.
Guests can explore the life of 16th-century master calligrapher, craftsman and artist Honami Koetsu at the nearby Koetsuji Temple, and admire the glorious gardens and gilded architecture of Kinkakuji, the ‘Golden Pavilion’, just a 20-minute walk from Aman Kyoto. A visit can be arranged to the tea fields of Uji, one of Japan’s largest tea-growing regions, during picking season to discover age-old traditions surrounding the planting, harvesting, brewing and drinking of the culturally integral beverage.
With a personal invitation to enter, Aman Kyoto guests can visit a traditional ochaya (teahouse) and spend time with a geiko (the Kyoto term for geisha) or a maiko apprentice, playing ozashiki, drinking tea and enjoying a dance performance and dinner in the Kamishichiken district, the oldest of Kyoto’s hanamachi – the ‘flower towns’ of the geiko and maiko.
For those looking for more mindful experiences, guests can learn and practise the principles of Zen meditation from a local monk. Taking place in an ancient hall overlooking a beautiful Japanese garden, guests are also invited to spend time with an ikebana expert, transforming seasonal flowers into structurally magnificent arrangements of colour and form.
Set within easy reach of Kyoto’s most important sites, Aman Kyoto is a one-hour drive from Osaka International Airport (ITM), a two-hour drive from Kansai International Airport (KIX), and a 30-minute drive from Kyoto Station.
Recognised by many as Japan’s cultural capital, a visit to this beguiling city is a must on any journey through the country. Now with Aman Kyoto sensitively allowing guests to glimpse the inner workings – both past and present – of Japan’s ancient Imperial capital, guests will have an authentic yet contemporary sanctuary true to the roots of its historic setting, in pristine natural surroundings.
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