Luxury Hotels

JAPAN – 13

And yet and yet…. Aman Kyoto is all about privacy.  You can be completely alone here but the power of nature pulls you out of your shell. There’s no gym, there’ no need for one. Climb the mountain to watch the sunrise, take a guided garden walk with a very knowledgeable and polished young lady. Book the spa’s therapeutic hot springs for an hour, or merely climb up a bit of the oversized cobbled walkway a couple of times.

One-bedroom Takagamine Suite, #25 (165sq m) was two-thirds of the two-bedroom Takagamine Pavilion, one of 2 multi-room accommodations that complement the 24 standard villas. #25, was big enough to be its own exercise provider. Polished ash lined the whole thing, prayer room, sitting room, dining room and bedroom. The bathroom could be opened up to allow views over the bedroom and though the all-wall window into nothing but Japanese maple, especially beautiful after a night of rain. The bathroom’s two basins were in one of the longest-ever granite surrounds. The tub? A rectangular Hinoki open box of hinoki cypress, large enough for at least two. Simple plugs on chains, hooks for towels and unattached and no-push big size toiletries were a hankering yet again for the past (as was the simple but absolutely impossible shower controls, though to the hotel’s credit someone arrived two minutes after sending a Whatsapp at 5.15am for help in turning the shower off). The Toto washlet, well-set USBs and USCs evoked, by contrast, a thank goodness for today. There was a Bose alarm radio and who cares if there was a television or not? Girlahead was mesmerised by the view from the windows.

Many of the flat wall panels did subtly open. Spare pillows were found, as was the minibar (the coffeemaker, kettle and a gorgeously-bound sake bottle stood on top, for all to see. There were pyjamas and the house slippers that all Japanese slip on when at home.

The Living Pavilion, eatertainment hub of this extraordinary place, is basically hotel guests only. Sit out,  in a recessed firepit area, on the raised terrace, looking out at the all-green Kerry Hill Garden, below. Sit inside, where there’s a central fire. The menu’s gourmet up to a simple sandwich. We started with G&Ts, Kyoto Distillery, started by a Brit and his Japanese wife and sold on to Pernot Ricard. That went well with Atssumi smoked salmon. On an exquisite ceramic plate. Next came a simply-superior dish, spaghetti a dente, spare that ghastly tomato sauce in favour of the most delectable wagyu mash, with parmesan grated at table (Hideo Morito, Girlahead’s hockey-playing date, chose udon broth, with wagyu strips cooked tableside). The wagyu demanded a strong red, which came in the form of  Torreo de Paredes Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Chile.

So many touchpoints. The black box in 25’s bedroom, a black sculpture on its lid, to hold be-quality stationery. The hotel map, annotated on arrival to show where breakfat would be. On departure, seeing the black electric BMW i7 xDrive60 being lovingly swished with a real feather duster. ‘Thank you for waiting’, and, at all times, 130 staff who reacted immediately