Hotel review: Hotel Kanra, Kyoto

At the beating heart of Japanese heritage, the old imperial capital of Kyoto is one of the country’s most captivating destinations. Forming a cultural crossroads where East meets West, the past meets the future and tradition meets modernity, Kyoto offers something for every kind of visitor. And perfectly striking this same delicate balance is the sublime Hotel Kanra; a thoroughly modern design hotel that’s deeply rooted in Kyoto’s local traditions.

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Taking design inspiration from the traditional wooden ‘machiya’ townhouses so prominent in Kyoto, this gorgeous boutique townhouse offers a taste of old Japan brought up to date with the very best in modern, five-star luxury. Tatami mats, sliding shoji doors and natural materials combine with high-tech facilities, spa-style bathrooms and international standards of service to provide guests with a completely unforgettable experience.

Entered down some steps off a quiet side street, the hotel’s exterior is simple and unassuming – almost secretive in its lack of external signage. Its subtle exterior belies an opulent core, however, and once through the doors into the LED-lit basement lobby, you’re rewarded with an exquisite haven of super-cool modernity; a space cleverly lit by colour-changing light panels that respond to sound and movement like a living art installation.

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Easily one of the most unique hotels you’ll ever visit, the Kanra manages to achieve the perfect balance between homely comfort and high-end luxury. All guests receive a personalised, concierge-style level of service from the extremely friendly staff, with nothing being too much trouble for them. And should you be able to tear yourself away from your bedroom to explore Kyoto, the hotel’s electric-assisted bicycles are just the thing for negotiating the city’s many ups and downs without breaking a sweat.

There are 29 bedrooms over five floors, arranged courtyard-style around beautifully crafted indoor rock gardens. Each abode has been individually designed and is accessed via its own lantern-lit anteroom and traditional wooden shoji door. The hotel’s architects in fact based their vision on Japanese homes before adding hotel elements into the mix – this means the atmosphere is certainly cosy and, despite their undeniably luxurious feel, the rooms and suites are incredibly welcoming.

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The Superior rooms here consist of a long apartment-style lodging, with a traditional tatami living area at one end and a sleeping platform with two double beds on the other (complete with bamboo blinds for extra seclusion). Diffused lighting seeping softly from underneath the beds give the atmosphere of a peaceful sanctuary, a million miles away from the busy city streets outside. Glass doors lead to a spa-style bathroom with a rock garden, stone-floored walk-in shower and fragrant cedar bathtub for a personal onsen experience.

There are several types of suites available at the Kanra, each one completely unique and made to feel like a home from home – albeit an extremely pampering one. Some suites resemble maisonettes with split-level accommodation, some have courtyard areas, and the expansive Kanra Suite even has its own secluded outdoor bathtub.

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As tempting as it may be to spend the mornings lounging around your room or suite, guests would be well advised to head downstairs to the sleek restaurant to partake in breakfast – which is something of a speciality at the Kanra.  There’s no menu to speak of – besides a choice between Japanese or Western style – with the chefs instead drawing on seasonal produce to create a personalised selection of tapas style morsels designed to set you up for the day. We’d heartily recommend opting for the traditional Japanese breakfast for the full Machiya experience.

Hotel Kanra’s room rates start at around 25,000 Yen (approximately £134) per night. For more information on the hotel, click here.

Words by Jayne Robinson

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