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Boats, Beauty and Japanese Mystique

Some time ago I came to the conclusion that the most beautiful places can only be reached by boat. Or, in rare cases (Jurassic Park for example), helicopter.

But preferably not a helicopter because they are very loud and require an ugly blot on pristine landscapes to be built in the form of a helipad.

So let’s stick to boats and ban choppers.

My conclusion is based on entirely non-scientific reasoning. My reasoning being that roads are ugly, lakes/rivers/streams are lovely. Cars are noisy and brash, boats are serene and gentle. Water is the source of life on earth, roads are made of Tarmac. Plus, living in the UK I spend so much time driving on, looking at, crossing and cursing on roads that for a hotel to be truly relaxing no roads is a must.

HOSHINOYA Kyoto

HOSHINOYA Kyoto in Kyoto, Japan

So when I was looking for the perfect place to stay in Kyoto it wasn’t Hoshinoya Kyoto’s stunning looks (thanks to the mix of traditional Japanese ryokan design and 21st Century architecture) that made my decision for me. Although I must say it helped.

It was its position on the banks of the Hozugawa River in Arashiyama that made me reach for my oar and when they told me I could only get to it by boat I started merrily paddling.

HOSHINOYA Kyoto Kyoto, Japan

HOSHINOYA Kyoto in Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto has become a must-do addition to any trip to Japan and thankfully it’s very handily placed as a bolt on to a trip to Tokyo thanks to the country’s top notch trains.

It’ll take you 140 minutes. Not 139 and not 141. When the Japanese tell you a train journey time they mean it.

Once you’ve caught your train and then your boat and settled in to your luxury digs you’re not going to have much time to chill out I’m afraid. There’s far too much to see.

If you decide to go then I suggest you write down everything I’m about to say in a list format and when you get there cross them all off as you explore the very best bits of Japan.

Or you could print this out. If your handwriting is anything like mine then your list will look like it was scribed using your toes to hold the pen, while riding on a rickety rollercoaster. Blindfolded. My handwritten lists are about as useful as ancient Sanskrit when it comes to reading them back.

– The Heian Jingu temple is impressive from the offset with towering red gates.

– Contemplate the Zen beauty of the maple-shrouded Tofuku-ji temple.

– Marvel at the glistening gold roof of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) set in a traditional garden.

– From the balcony of wooden-pegged Kiyomizu-dera watch the teeming compact city below.

– Around the moat-ringed Nijo Castle, cherry and Japanese plum trees perfume the air with springtime blossom.

– Take a trip to the prize-winning Modern Art Museum and browse through avant-garde Nihonga (Japanese painting).

– Step into the steaming wooden baths at pine-timbered Funaoka Onsen and let the hot spring water melt your aches away.

– As night falls, the enormous bonfire forming Chinese characters on Mount Mandara is a bewitching sight during the Obon festival.

– Take a cruise up the Hozu-Gawa river and savour the peace of a traditional retreat.

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