IKIMASHO!

IKIMASHO Luxury Stays: Sowaka, Kyoto

Sowaka

Ethereal elegance deep in the heart of Kyoto’s ancient streets / 京都の古い街並みの奥にある優美なたたずまい


With the world’s travel plans currently affected by COVID-19, Kyoto is understandably quieter than usual. While this is a challenging time for the tourism industry, it is also an excellent opportunity to help support local businesses and see the city in its natural state. Winding alleyways, usually filled with tourists, now offer a nostalgic glimpse of what Kyoto must have felt like 100 years ago.

新型コロナウィルスで国際旅行が大きく影響を受けていることもあって、京都はいつもより静かに感じられます。これは観光業界にとってはとても困難な時期ですが、地元の産業を支援し、京都本来の姿を見る絶好の機会でもあります。通常は観光客で溢れる曲がりくねった路地が、今は100年前の京都を偲ばせる佇まいです。

Wanting to experience this nostalgia for ourselves, Mrs IKIMASHO and I headed down to Kyoto for a few days after Japan’s State of Emergency was lifted. Our stay was to be at Sowaka – an elegant property in Kyoto’s Gion district, and a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. As soon as we stepped through the traditional noren curtain into the hotel’s peaceful inner courtyard, it was immediately apparent that this was a hotel unlike any other we had stayed in before.

この古都の情緒を体験したかったため、緊急事態宣言が解除されて数日後、Mrs IKIMASHOと私は京都に行きました。私たちが滞在する場所は京都の祇園にあるエレガントなホテルで、「Small Luxury Hotels of the World」のメンバーである「SOWAKA」でした。伝統的なのれんをくぐりり抜け、ホテルの静かな中庭に足を踏み入れた瞬間、このホテルがこれまでに滞在したホテルとは異なることにすぐ気がつきました。

Sowaka outside

SOWAKA blending in with Gion’s traditional surroundings

Noden Curtain Sowaka

Stepping through the noden curtain…

IMG_3019

And into the inner courtyard


Old & new, living in harmony / 新旧、調和のある趣

From a design point of view, Sowaka has two distinct areas: its main building that was once a Japanese restaurant dating back 100 years; and its new annex that was built to complement the main building’s original design, but with a more modern approach. The result is a hotel space that flows naturally, with both traditional and contemporary elements living in harmony.

We stayed a night in both the main building, and the annex, allowing us to enjoy both experiences. Throughout our stay, the staff were attentive without being intrusive. It was clear to see how passionate they were about the history of the hotel, as well as the comfort of the guests.

デザインの視点から見ると, 「SOWAKA」には2つの特徴があります。それは100年前には日本料亭だった本館、そして本館の当初のデザインを一層引き立たせるために、よりモダンな趣きで建築された新しい別館です。生み出されたものは、伝統と現代の要素が調和して何の違和感もなく流れるようなホテルの空間です。

私たちは本館と別館で一泊ずつし、どちらも満喫することができました。滞在中、スタッフの皆さんはとても親切で丁寧でした。ホテルの歴史を熱心に語り、お客さんが快適に過ごせるためにご対応して下さったスタッフの皆さんはとても印象的でした。

Sowaka Lobby

Once we arrived, we were escorted into the lounge area for checkin. It was painless, literally just signing our name.

Sowaka welcome drink

While we were waiting, we were offered a welcome drink. My parents will kill me, but since Mrs IKIMASHO and I don’t drink, we turned down the champagne. But we were just as happy with the hotel’s homemade sudachi lemonade.


The Main Building, Room #104 / 本館のお部屋 104号室

Our room for the first night, #104, was labelled as the Maisonette with Tea Ceremony Room. At 60m2, set across two floors, it felt more like a self-contained period house than a hotel room. With its mysterious nooks and crannies, original wood flooring and a serene view overlooking the garden, as soon as we stepped inside the space we simply looked and smiled at each other. This place was something else.

最初の夜に泊まった104号室は「茶室付メゾネット」と表示されているお部屋でした。二段フロアー造りで60平米の広さはホテル ルームと言うよりはむしろその時代を彷彿とさせる家屋のようでした。隅々まで神秘的な雰囲気、当時の床、そして庭園を見下ろす静かな眺め。その空間に入るや否や、私たちは互いに微笑みました。想像もつかない素晴らしさでした。

Quiet escapism / 喧騒からの逃避

Downstairs, a separate tea ceremony room adjacent to the bedroom allowed us to enjoy the sounds of the garden: birds hopping between the trees, and the steady-but-gentle trickle of a water feature. In the bedroom itself, traditional features such as clay walls and period antiques mixed effortlessly with modern appliances and controls. In line with the hotel’s philosophy of quiet escapism, there are no TVs in any of the rooms, but there is a small tablet beside the bed should you wish to go online and watch NETFLIX etc.

階下には、寝室に隣接した茶室もあり、庭からは木と木の間を飛び回る小鳥たち、また絶え間なく静かに流れる水の音を楽しむことができました。寝室においては伝統的な土壁や年代物の骨董品がモダンな電化製品やリモコンと調和していました。ホテルの「喧騒からの逃避」の理念に沿って、どの部屋にもテレビはありませんが、お望みであればベッドの横にインターネットに接続してNetflixなどを見れる小さなタブレットが提供されています。

sowaka tea ceremony room door

Inside the tea ceremony room that was separate from the main bedroom. The traditional screen doors opened to reveal a circular frame, picturing the scene outside.

sowaka bedroom

Room #104: the Maisonette with Tea Ceremony Room

welcome chocolates sowaka

Welcome chocolates in an engraved box from Dari K, a chocolatier in Kyoto. The hotel makes a point of sourcing as much as it can from the the city itself.


Upstairs, a Japanese cypress bathtub was the centerpiece of a room that also featured a modern rainshower. Airy and spacious, period windows stretched across two of the four walls meaning light flooded into the room. This tatami room was a nice way to see the garden from a different perspective, and I couldn’t help but wonder what those Japanese maple trees would look like during autumn. I’m sure it is an explosion of red.

2階には、モダンなシャワーヘッド付きのヒノキ風呂が呼び物として備えられていました。明るくて、風通しの良い広々としたお部屋の4つの壁の内の2つの窓は当時のガラス窓であり部屋中に光が溢れていました。この和室からは違った視点で庭を見下ろすことができ、紅葉の時期には庭の楓はどんな感じなのか想像せずにはいられませんでした。真っ赤な素敵な景色が頭に浮かびます。

sowaka 104 upstairs bathroom

The upstairs tatami room and cypress bathtub

sowaka amenities

Amenities, again sourced locally from Kazurasei Shinise, which has been selling beauty products and hair accessories since 1861.


A walk through Room #104


The Annex, Room #209 City View / 別館の209号室街の眺め

Despite the annex having an undeniably more modern feel than the main building, great care has been taken to ensure certain elements of the design carry over. The huge cypress bathtub is still there, as is the use of wood throughout the room. One thing I found interesting about the annex is that because of its design, no rooms are adjacent to each other. To get to any of the rooms the guest walks down a common corridor, then enters through a short passageway leading from the corridor, as if walking down a narrow alley in Kyoto.

間違いなく本館よりもモダンな雰囲気のある別館ですが、デザインの特定の要素がしっかり取り入れられるように細心の注意が払われています。大きなヒノキ風呂のみならず、部屋全体に檜が使用されています。別館で感じた興味深い点は、建物のデザイン上、どの部屋にも隣接する部屋はありませんでした。どの部屋に行くにも、お客さんは共通の廊下を歩き、京都の狭い路地を歩くかのように廊下から続く短い通路を通ります。

sowaka annex 209sowaka annex bathroom 209sowaka annex cypress bathsowaka tea set in room


A burst of colour to start the day / カラフルな一日の始まり

Breakfast was served in the hotel’s restaurant, La BOMBANCE: a modern, minimalist space with huge floor-to-ceiling windows. We were asked our meal preferences during check-in: Japanese or Western, with both of us opting for the Japanese. But, being nosey, we ordered one Western meal for our second morning to see what it was like.

朝食はホテルのレストラン「La BOMBANCE」で提供されました。床から天井までが窓のあるモダンでミニマリストな空間でした。チェックイン時に朝食として和食、洋食のどちらが良いか尋ねられ、私たちは和食を選びましたが、洋食も気になり、二日目の朝食は一人は洋食、もう一人は和食としました。

sowaka diningsowaka dining 2sowaka dining 3

As I have mentioned before on this blog, breakfast is often what sets high-end properties apart from their competitors – something that Sowaka seems to understand fully. On both mornings, the presentation was flawless and the food tasted great.

以前にもこのブログで述べましたが、多くの場合、高級ホテルが他の競争相手と一線を画す特徴は朝食にあり、「SOWAKA」はこの点をしっかりと把握しているようです。どちらの朝も食事のプレゼンテーションは完璧で、料理もとても美味しかったです。

Sowaka breakfast

Japanese breakfast

sowaka breakfast 2

Western breakfast…

sowaka breakfast 3

Which even featured a toaster filled with hot coals brought to the table…


Around the hotel / ホテルの近辺について

Unassuming from the outside, Sowaka is tucked away on a quiet street in Gion Higashiyama. From the hotel, we were within easy walking distance of Kodaiji Temple and Kiyomizudera, as well as Yasaka-jinja Shrine and the geisha district of Hanamikoji-dori. Besides that, it was nice to just get lost among the many alleyways that snake around the neighbourhood. So if you are looking for an immersive Japan experience, a stay at Sowaka offers exactly that.

外見も気取らず、祇園・東山の静かな通りにたたずむ「SOWAKA」ですが、徒歩圏内には高台寺、清水寺、八坂神社、そして芸者街である花見小路通りといった名所があります。更には、その界隈をくねくねと取り巻く多くの路地を誘われるままに散策するのも楽しかったです。このような日本探訪を希望する方には「SOWAKA」での滞在はまさにそれにぴったりです。

Sowaka starbucks


Follow in our footsteps / 興味ある方へ

Sowaka currently has a seven-night promotional offer, allowing guests a total discount of up to 65%. To find out more, check out their website below.

https://sowaka.com/

Images and text © IKIMASHO! 2020. All views expressed here are my own.

❤ IKIMASHO! on Facebook ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: