Riverside Sanctuary: Hoshinoya Kyoto

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Courtesy of Hoshinoya Kyoto

The Hoshinoya is a thing of beauty

In the travel business, a sense of arrival counts, and Hoshinoya Kyoto, in Japan's old imperial capital, doesn't disappoint. Instead of heading up a concrete driveway, guests board a boat in town and slip up the Oigawa, the sleepy river flowing through the Arashiyama district on the city's outskirts, before glimpsing the hotel perched in the trees above. One thousand years ago, this mountainous area was a summer retreat for the nobility — a tranquil place to escape the heat. That link with the past is something Hoshinoya Kyoto strives to sustain. The buildings — once home to a traditional ryokan and, centuries before that, the residence of a prominent merchant — feature walls and sliding doors adorned with woodblock-printed paper in the local style, as well as artisanal furniture and hinoki-wood bathtubs.

Exquisite gardens snaking through the property encourage you to sit and contemplate. Those hankering for more can make the short climb to the ramshackle Daihikaku Senkoji temple to sip tea and take in the view of the hills and central Kyoto. You can also venture onto the river at night and watch men fish with cormorants by firelight. But perhaps the most memorable experience happens at dawn, when guests can take part in a prayer ceremony led by a monk from one of Kyoto's most prestigious Zen temples. Talk about heavenly getaways.

For more details, visit kyoto.hoshinoya.com.