Thursday, September 19, 2019

Find Kyoto Tradition & Modern Convenience at Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi

Once a city found mostly on the itineraries of temple-lovers, Kyoto has changed into a go-to travel spot in the past couple dozen years. And it's no wonder; Kyoto's wonderfully historic streets and temples, largely unchanged for hundreds of years, alongside modern food and cafe culture, are all pretty tempting. Who doesn't want to stop in for a look at the glittering golden Kinkakuji Temple, the spectacular cliffside view of Kiyomizudera Temple, or the intriguing red gates of Fushimi Inari Shrine? With the incoming crowds, new hotels and transformed hotels are opening their doors around the city, including historical streets like Shinmachi, once a destination for kimono fabric wholesale. There are even hotels where you can return in the evening to experience Japanese tea ceremony, or even an entirely authentic performance from a maiko (Kyoto's geisha)!

Hotel Intergate Kyoto: immersed in Kyoto tradition

If you want to see flashes of Kyoto culture every time you look out your hotel window, the streets of the Shinmachi area might be just the place. Nowadays you'll mostly find narrow alleys lined with old Japanese architecture, but look closely and you'll see signs of the area's past, a marketplace for beautiful kimono silk.

Hotel Intergate Kyoto Shijo Shinmachi (ホテルインターゲート京都 四条新町)
Address: 387 Mukadeya-cho, Nishikikoji-agaru, Shinmachi-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Phone: +81-75-255-2221
Check-in/out: 15:00/11:00
Official Website (en)

Inside and Out, This Is Kyoto

Although the furnishing are nothing if not comfortable, the elegant flashes of kimono fabric and wooden decoration in the hotel bring touches of Kyoto style. 

Gaze at the lobby's compact Japanese garden, and you'll be able to admire the seasons' passing (Japan boasts all four), right from your seat.

Maintaining the simplicity often found in compact Japanese hotel rooms, Kyoto Intergate's rooms are spacious, but still have a warm, clean look to them. The Japanese aesthetic is especially reflected in the bed covers and traditional paper screen windows, but the beds themselves are as cushy and relaxing as you could hope for.

Truly spacious, this junior suite is the perfect room to plop down and stretch out in. After rushing around Kyoto all day and getting stuck in crowded trains and crowded temples, making yourself a cup of tea and settling down on a roomy sofa does just the trick.

If you're traveling in a larger group of friends or family, you might enjoy the experience of the hotel's connecting rooms.

Don't be afraid to get your feet wet when it comes to Japanese culture. Sure, you'll have to strip down with strangers, but the experience of a large Japanese communal bath called a daiyokujo (大浴場), is a bit like a giant, luxuriant hot tub. Before you know it, you'll be comfortably sitting across from the other guests, gazing at the little traditional garden outside.

Unfortunately, if you're heavily tattooed the bath may be off-limits to you. Relatively small pieces can be covered up with jumbo bandaid-like stickers (from the front desk), however, if you want to take a dip!

Visit the Hotel Lounge at Any Time of Day

This hotel lounge is way more than you might expect from first glance. It's the room where paid breakfast is served, but throughout the day you can stop in for some thoroughly impressive complimentary snacks and drinks.

6:00 to 7:00 | Coffee & Smoothies

Start your day right, and grab a cup of coffee during the hotel's hour of specialty coffee service. Each cup is made fresh, just for you.

The "Kyo Coffee" used is special to the area, a sign of Kyoto's burgeoning cafe scene.

7:00 to 10:30 | Breakfast Buffet

Last Order 10:00

Thanks to the wide variety of offerings, everyone will find a favorite part of Intergate Kyoto's breakfast buffet. From savory Japanese morning staples to a generous selection of baked bread; frittata, potatoes, sausages, even an original minestrone-style soup. The hotel recommends their delectable croissants.

10:30 to 21:00 | Tea & Snacks

The lounge is a comfortable space, free to use by the guests for most of the day. Get some last-minute travel plans decided, or just take a break in the afternoon.

Don't worry about a rumbly stomach or a parched throat as you relax in the lounge, though! Sip one of a variety of teas, and nibble on pastries and a stack of pancakes! There might not be maple syrup, but they do have multiple kinds of honey to try.

17:00 to 19:00 | Happy Hour!

Don't waste your time looking for the perfect wine bar to spend the evening in; it's right here in your hotel! Spend some time sampling the hotel's complimentary wine and cocktails in the lounge while you chat with your travel companions.

If wine isn't your thing, there are paid drinks available as well, like beer and Japanese sake.

21:00 to 23:00 | Late-Night Snacks

Sure, after a few drinks you could search out one of Kyoto's burger joints or a heavy bowl of ramen. It's certainly tempting. But you can make a choice that's intriguingly traditional, probably better for your stomach, and plenty tasty instead.

Try some Kyoto ochazuke (お茶漬け)! The basic form of the dish is rice and savory toppings, with a green tea-based broth poured over top. Call it Japan's fast food of the Edo era - you can choose which of the 15 toppings to try, and snack like the Japanese people have been doing for hundreds of years.

Japanese Cultural Experiences, Right in Your Hotel

Experience traditional Kyoto culture in the most convenient place possible - your hotel!

Ask the front desk, and they'll set you up with famous local Uji matcha, bowls, and utensils, and a teacher to help you learn (in English) about Urasenke tea ceremony

Hours: any time 15:00 - 20:00
Price: 500 yen

(More in-depth workshops available on occasion.)

You can make this unique Kyoto souvenir yourself. Ask a staff member, and you'll be brought everything you need to try traditional Japanese candle-painting. They'll teach you a bit about the tradition, and what designs are common, and then get you going on your own candle.

Hours: any time 15:00 - 20:00
Price: 1,000 yen/1,500 yen/2,000 yen (depending on candle size)

(More in-depth workshops available on occasion.)

The least common events, but perhaps the most impressive, are genuine maiko performances that occur about once a month at Hotel Intergate Kyoto. Even in this city that maintains traditional maiko culture, gaining access to a real performance is generally expensive or practically impossible. So if you're at the hotel during the performance, definitely don't miss out on the chance to see this tradition brought to life.

Lucky viewers might even be able to play a traditional Japanese game with the maiko.

Hours: 20:30 - 22:00
Price: Hotel Guests 3,500 yen/Outside Visitors 4,000 yen/Photos with the Maiko 1,000 yen each

(Check the hotel's website in advance for dates; reservations are necessary.)

Kyoto's Must-See Sightseeing

① Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷大社)

Stop by Fushimi Inari for a look at the famous vermillion torii (鳥居, shrine gates), a strikingly beautiful sight. The deity associated with the shrine, Inari, is associated with foxes, so don't be surprised if you see some pointy-nosed statues along the way.

② Kinkakuji Temple, The Golden Pavillion (金閣寺)

One look will tell you why Kinkakuji is the Golden Pavillion. All year-round, the temple shines in the summer sun, and glitters under piles of winter snow.

③ Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社)

If you're hoping for a raise, or perhaps a bonus to fund your next trip to Kyoto, stop by this famous shrine. The shinto deities enshrined there might just help you out.

Walk on past the Yasaka Shrine and turn south; as you start to climb up the hill you'll see the ancient alleys of Kyoto come to life. These quaint, narrow streets are home to Kodaiji Temple and Hokanji Temple (the 5-storied pagoda), plus myriad little shops along Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka Streets. Keep aiming up the hill, and eventually you'll find Kiyomizudera Temple.

▶ More on touring Higashiyama here.

Trendy Hot Spots

① Koe Donuts

Surrounded by shops on the covered Shinkyogoku Street, this donut shop sells sweets that are bound to be a hit with your tastebuds and your instagram followers. Plenty of customers are initially drawn in, though, by the dramatic interior decorations, made of local bamboo and designed by the well-known architectural designer Kengo Kuma.

▶ More on Koe Donuts here.

② Yasaka Koshindo Temple (八坂庚申堂)

As you walk from Yasaka Shrine up to Kiyomizudera Temple, if you make the right twists and turns, you'll stumble upon this little gem. Yasaka Koshindo is associated with Japanese folk religion, which is why they sell the colorful talismans that decorate the temple structures, but it's easy to see why people just like taking a few snapshots of the colorful scenery. It is certainly insta-worthy.

▶ More on Yasaka Koshindo Temple.

Explore Japanese Culture, Day and Night!

When you start your day on a historical street, leave your room to try a Japanese breakfast, spend the day touring Kyoto's beautiful temples and shrines, and then return to the hotel for a maiko performance, a soak in the Japanese bath, and a bowl of ochazuke, there's no doubt that you've had a truly Kyoto day. So why not give it a try?

⇩ See more of the hotel, and more of Kyoto. ⇩


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