Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI

Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI

What kind of luxury ryokan is Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI?

I visited Kyoto in early August for a business trip during the intense heat wave. Kyoto is hotter than Tokyo, and I don’t like Kyoto in summer, but it is work, so I had no choice. Kyoto in summer is not in the holiday season, so the atmosphere is calm. On this day, the high temperature was 38 degrees Celsius. Walking around Kyoto during the day, I felt as if I would suffer from heat stroke. Kyoto is a basin surrounded by mountains, so the hot air tends to stagnate and the humidity is high, making it feel even hotter.

I finished work around 17:00 and took a cab from the cab stand at the Karasuma exit of Kyoto Station. It was a clear day with blue skies and cirrus clouds. After about 15 minutes in the cab, listening to the chirping of cicadas, the Higashiyama mountains came into view. Then I crossed the Nanzenji-mae intersection, passed the Nanzenji bridge, and followed a narrow side street until I saw a lantern with the name “Kikusui” written on it. The ryokan where I would be staying tonight, nestled in a quiet corner of Higashiyama, was in a perfect location near Nanzenji Temple. The Nanzenji area is a particularly special place where many villas built from the Meiji period to the early Showa period by famous politicians and businessmen, wealthy Kyoto merchants, and the emperor’s family still remain. Many of these large mansions are surrounded by magnificent walls and spacious Japanese gardens, creating a special atmosphere.

To get straight to the point, I visited during the extremely hot summer and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful Japanese garden and sophisticated French cuisine. The ryokan, with its century-old interior, buildings, and Japanese gardens still intact, was a place where tradition and culture are inherited, but are beautifully blended with new contemporary values and worldviews.  It is truly a ryokan that is a must for Kyoto lovers.

The tiled-roofed gate structure like a samurai mansion with an elegant white noren curtain bathed in the summer sun was impressive. This place had been used as a villa of the owner of a wealthy merchant more than 100 years ago. I got off the cab, walked along a cobblestone street, passed through the noren gate, and entered a well-kept Japanese garden. I walked along the stone-paved approach from the entrance to the front door, listening to the chirping of cicadas. Lanterns were spaced several meters apart along the stone-paved path. After a short distance, I saw the entrance to a sukiya-style building with a beautiful sliding door made of glass and lattice.

Then I pulled open the sliding door and entered, and was greeted by a staff member. Out of nowhere I could smell the aroma of incense burners. Here, I entered with my shoes on. The wooden floor had been polished superbly. The reception desk was at the far right side of a small lobby, and next to it was a Japanese-style room about four tatami mats in size. The room’s alcove was decorated with purple bellflowers, and a window with a shoji screen had a blind made of bamboo hung from above, through which one could view an elegant Japanese garden.

Then, in the center of the small lobby, there was an artwork of stainless steel material representing a carp on white stones. To the left was a small lounge in a wonderful sukiya-style architecture. Elegantly designed tables, chairs, and lamps created a serene ambiance. One wall was made of glass with sliding shoji doors, allowing sunlight to gently penetrate the lounge, and it was built in harmony with nature, allowing one to experience the four seasons at any time. The ceiling was constructed using a traditional technique of weaving bamboo and cedar bark to improve ventilation. The interior of this place was not flamboyant, but had a sense of quality, delicacy, and refined beauty.

Immediately, I was shown around by the staff. I stayed in a room located on the first floor next to the Japanese garden. I opened a door and entered, and here I took off my shoes and changed into slippers provided. To the right was a bathroom with modern gray tiles on the floor and walls, and further on was a bedroom with fine tatami mats. The feel of the tatami mats was comfortable as they wrapped my feet after a long day of walking. The bed board with twin beds was decorated with Japanese paper made with wonderful texture and three-dimensionality, and at night, the uneven shadows cast by the indirect lighting created a different kind of art than in the daytime.

From a large window in the room, I could see a Japanese garden, a pond, and a small Sukiya-style building that was probably used as a tea room. I was deeply moved to think that the owner of a wealthy merchant who lived here more than 100 years ago enjoyed the scenery from here while feeling the four seasons.

Then, on the window side, chairs and a table of modern design were placed. Furthermore, on the right side of the window, a small terrace with a chair made of rattan was built. Unfortunately, I did not use the outside terrace because it was hot and humid outside and I was afraid I might be bitten by mosquitoes.

Then, on the left side of the room, there was another window with a shoji door and a writing desk in front of it. When the shoji door was opened, there was a lattice made of bamboo, and a gate leading to the Japanese garden could be seen.

For a while, I took out a bottle of Ruinart champagne from a mini-bar and sat in a chair by the window in the air-conditioned room, quenching my thirst with a glass of chilled champagne and looking out at the traditional Japanese garden at dusk. As I listened carefully, the cicadas that had been chirping so vigorously earlier quieted down, and I could hear the chirping of korogi and bell bugs. By the way, beverages in the minibar were available free of charge, including champagne, beer, oolong tea and water.

When I came to, it was already past 18:30. I went to a dining restaurant on the first floor. I was really looking forward to the French cuisine that I could enjoy while looking at the wonderful Japanese garden spread out in front of me. I was shown to a table by the window on the far left side of the dining room, which offered the best view of the illuminated Japanese garden. I was particularly impressed by the dynamic red pine trees, which were over 200 years old. I ordered a seven-course meal and enjoyed the refined and artistic Kyoto French cuisine. From the amuse to the desserts, the menu was a series of exquisite dishes full of surprises and far exceeded my expectations. For dinner, I had a choice of Japanese or French cuisine. The restaurant was also open to non-guests for dinner, and was fully booked when I visited. Reservations are required in advance as the restaurant is popular with locals.

After dinner, I wanted to go to the illumination of Kodaiji Temple, a 25-minute walk from here, but it was still hot and humid outside, so I ended up relaxing in my room. When I returned to my room and looked out the window, the Japanese garden was subtly lit up, creating an ethereal mood reflected in the dark night. I sat in front of the large window for a while, sipping whiskey and fresh chocolate from the mini-bar, and never got tired of the view. It was as if I had entered the world of Japanese folktales.

The next morning, I woke up a little after 5:30 and decided to go for a walk at Nanzen-ji Temple, a few minutes away on foot, a little after 6:00. At that time, the morning temperature was already over 30 degrees Celsius, but it was cooler than in the daytime because the sun was shining less and there were many large maple trees around the temple. The chirping of birds and the sound of water flowing from Lake Biwa Canal to a stream in the temple grounds were pleasant to my ears, and I felt refreshed as I strolled around the temple, which was still almost empty of people.

Back at the ryokan, I was getting hungry, but decided to take a stroll in the Japanese garden until it was time for breakfast. The garden was designed to resemble Lake Biwa, with the Higashiyama peaks in the background, a pond filled with bright red and yellow Nishikikoi swimming gracefully in the water, and the large dynamic red pine trees. The sukiya-style building, a sophisticated chic of Japanese architecture, was in perfect harmony with the beautiful Japanese garden. As I walked through the Japanese garden, I heard the chirping of insects, frogs, and cicadas. By the time I looked at my watch, it was past 7:30. The sun’s rays were getting stronger and stronger, and the temperature was gradually rising. I still wanted to enjoy the Japanese garden, but it was hot and humid in the morning, and there seemed to be mosquitoes, so I decided to return to my room to rest. The Japanese garden offers weeping cherry blossoms in spring, kakitsubata in early summer, autumn leaves in fall, and snow in winter, but during the hot summer season, it would be best to enjoy the garden from the cool air-conditioned rooms and dining restaurant.

I returned to my room, showered, changed into a yukata, and headed for the dining restaurant. I was shown to the same table where I had had dinner yesterday. It was truly special to have breakfast while enjoying the view of the graceful Japanese garden spread out in front of me. The breakfast was Japanese, and included yutofu, rice cooked in an earthen pot, bean curd called yuba, dashimaki egg roll, and sea bream, all of which are common items for breakfast in Kyoto, but all were carefully prepared.

After breakfast, I brewed coffee in a Caffitaly coffee maker and sat by the window until check-out at 12:00, again looking out over the Japanese garden, reading a book while lying on the bed, or falling asleep, and relaxing as much as I wanted. I wanted to visit Ginkakuji Temple, Eikando, and the Philosophical Path near the ryokan after checking out, but it was also extremely hot, so I took a cab back to Kyoto Station, bought a boxed lunch and beer to eat on the Shinkansen, and boarded the Shinkansen before 13:00, arriving at Tokyo Station at around 15:30.

If I were to dare raise a drawback, it would be that it is a small luxury ryokan with only five rooms, so there is no gym, sauna, pool, or onsen. However, the location is great as there are many wonderful tourist attractions within walking distance and the Gion area is only a 5 minute cab ride away. I would like to visit again in a different season.

Check Availability and Pricing for the ryokan on Agoda 

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Is the location easy to access?

The location is near Nanzenji Temple.  It takes 10min on foot from Keage Station. Alternatively, it takes around 15min by TAXI from Kyoto Station and costs around 2,000JPY.

Most cab drivers will not know this ryokan. They can confirm the destination by entering the phone number into their car navigation systems, so please give a driver the address and TEL number in the Japanese below.

南禅寺参道 菊水
〒606-8435 京都府京都市左京区南禅寺福地町31
電話番号 075 771 4101

Then it is a little distance from the parking lot to the ryokan. If you have a lot of luggage, you may want to unload your luggage in front of the ryokan and then park it in the parking lot.

Where is the best accommodation for anniversaries in Kyoto?

If you are looking for a good place for a special occasion, the property is one of the best.  The staff arranges flowers and cakes to celebrate an anniversary at additional charges if you request in advance.
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How about toiletries & in-room amenities?

All of the amenities are taken care of including enough toiletries, bathrobes, pajamas, yukatas, chocolate, English tea bags, green tea bags, a Nespresso machine with capsules, etc. Skincare products, blankets, and humidifiers, etc., are available if you request. The free WiFi reception was good in our room. Room service is available. An Android TV is available. There is no convenience store within 5min walking distance. You may want to buy your necessities before coming here.

Then this ryokan is child-friendly.  Staff provides amenities, yukatas, and tableware, etc., for small children.

How about In-house Facilities?

The ryokan including the restaurant is almost a universal design. Wheelchairs are available for borrowing. There is a lift.  If you bring someone with weak legs, you may want to inform the staff in advance as they can arrange a room near the entrance.

Have a nice trip!  Welcome to receive any questions about Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI from the below space. Check Availability and Pricing for the ryokan on Agoda 

Info about Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI

Style Luxury Ryokan
Check-in and out times
Estimated Price 80,000 JPY for 2 adults per room
Contact E-mail
Fill the form in
Internet Connection Free wifi in the ryokan
Facility Information Wheelchairs are available
Pets are not allowed
The free parking lot is available 
Location Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI’s MAP
Access 15min by TAXI from Kyoto Station
10min walk from Keage Station
Address and TEL 31 Nanzenji Fukuchichō, Sakyō-Ku, Kyōto-shi
Kyōto-fu 606-8435 
Tel +81 75-771-4101
Official Homepage Nanzenji sando KIKUSUI’s HP

*All information above is as of the date that I posted on my blog.

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