When you check into HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO, A Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa’s Nijo Suite, you will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a UNESCO World Heritage Site up close.
Year-round, the luxurious and spacious suite has a one-of-a-kind view of the Nijo-jo Castle, a former Imperial Villa that sits across from the hotel. But now, guests have unprecedented access to usually off-limits sections of the 17th-century castle with an included guided fall tour to learn about its past, architecture and art. And during the private tour, they get to see the manicured gardens’ cherry, maple, ginkgo and white enkianthus trees turn bright shades of red, orange and yellow.
Completed in 1603, the castle boasts a long and storied history. It was the residence for Tokugawa Ieyasu — the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1603 through 1867 —when he came to Kyoto, the imperial capital. Later, it also served as the announcement site for the end of the country’s feudal rule and the forging area of the modern Japanese state.
From the suite, you can see the castle as well as the East Main Entrance Higashi Otemon Gate and the Sumi Yagura Watchtower. The more than 1,200-square-foot accommodation looks modern and minimalist with stone and wood. It comes with an expansive separate living room and a bedroom with an elegant silk headboard panel, both with big-picture windows overlooking the castle grounds. There’s also an inviting stone bathroom with a deep-soaking tub, a television and toiletries crafted by a Japanese perfume master.
Even if you don’t opt for a stay in the Nijo Suite, stepping through the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel’s front 24-foot yakuimon gate — itself a 300-year restored relic with a gabled roof and clay tiles — is like transporting yourself back into time. The landscape includes original structures, like the stone lanterns that dot the grounds and gardens, all carefully preserved by the hotel. After soaking in history, enjoy a soak in the property’s thermal pools and participate in a long tradition of relaxing in an onsen.
The Kyoto hotel’s programming often features opportunities for guests to sample local traditions, carefully preserved for centuries, such as tea ceremonies, curated art tours and morning meditation sessions at Japan’s largest Zen temple complex. Celebrate the beginning of the cooler months with the hotel’s Lantern Harvest Moon Tour: the glow of lanterns illuminates the path that weaves through the artwork and gardens to the traditional tea ceremony as the moon rises into the night sky. Running September 4 to 16, the moon-viewing event is exclusive; it’s only open to four guests a day. The HOTEL MITSUI KYOTO offers a harmony of modern amenities with ancient practices to give you an immersive experience.