By Cathy Cawood
When I travel alone I usually bring a book or newspaper when I am eating at the hotel restaurant. But when I saw the beautiful Japanese breakfast at the Westin Kyoto, I threw that habit out the window. The beautiful crockery combined with the clarity of the soup, and the various condiments were a visual and sensory delight.
Each dish was to be savored in its own right, with the textures, smells and taste all special in its own way. The fish was succulent and the clarity and tang of the pickles was a super healthy and delicious way to start the day.
There are a number of restaurants where you can partake in breakfast at the Westin, from the western buffet to the more subdue and peaceful Japanese restaurant. Here there are two tiers of seating, from the lower window seats, to the higher more comfortable seats against the wall, both of which offer views of the hills and suburban Kyoto
The western buffet breakfast is a good selection if you prefer, but at 3500 yen is quite expensive, unless you have it discounted as part of your accommodation package. In my opinion the Japanese set breakfast is a better experience. There are also restaurants and cafes and convenience stores nearby too if you wish.
The Westin has gone all out to pamper you in every way. From beautiful food, comfortable beds, to peaceful Japanese gardens, to well stocked gift shops where you can have your items gift wrapped.
As the resort is quite spread out, take your time to make your way between the various facilities. For 500 yen guests can try the gym and swimming pool. The outdoor pool has a nice lounge area and quite a high view of the green hills surrounding Higashiyama.
On the other hand if you are after free wi-fi, this is available only in the lobby area. Just ask the concierge for the password if you are stuck. The lobby is also a good place to people watch Kyoto society, from kimono clad brides to business conferences.
What I really liked were the pleasant garden and walking / hiking course at the back of the resort. It was a great way to start the morning with a walk and experiencing the wildlife awakening. The garden blends Japanese elements into nature, and even when it rains there is a certain sense of peace just watching the raindrops trickle down the water pipe in the Japanese Pavilions. If you like to experience a more authentic and serene Japanese inn (ryokan) experience, they have Japanese tatami rooms available, some in the garden wing. Especially for a first timer to Japan who just wants to experience Japanese hospitality rather than just ticking off all the sightseeing, and one who likes the familiarity of an International hotel like the Westin, this could be a good option.
The rooms are very comfortable and spacious by Japanese standards. While there are over 500 rooms, you rarely hear the other guests from your room, as the hotel is quite spread out.
The resort is also a minute’s walk from the subway station and walking distance to the many gardens and attractions in East Kyoto. While it is a fair way from the bullet train station, there is also a hotel shuttle bus every half an hour which goes to JR Kyoto with two drop off stops at Higashiyama and Gion along the way.
Also, the route 100 Bus from the Silver Pavilion to the train station stops 2 blocks from the hotel
1. If you have breakfast included in your accommodation package, try the breakfast in the Japanese restaurant. It is a visually stunning and a healthy way to start your morning
2. Go for a walk in the surrounding gardens and hiking course. It will rejuvenate your mind and body.
3. Go for the Japanese rooms with you like to experience the tranquility and simplicity of a tatami mat and futon room.
4. If you like a western room, try one with a city view. Parts of the hotel have older decor, so if that is any issue clarify your requirements during the booking. The executive club lounge is also great.
5. This is one of the few hotels in Kyoto that has an outdoor swimming pool, with a great view to boot.
6. The hotel shuttle bus service is an easy way to get around, especially for first timers. They also have a “Satellite Concierge” at Kyoto station and you can go sightseeing without heavy luggage. At 300 yen per bag they can look after your luggage while you go sightseeing before checking in at the hotel. They will also transport your luggage from the hotel to Kyoto station. As this hotel is a bit hard to get to from the airport, compared to the ones at Kyoto Station, this service can be a lifesaver.
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I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us.