Kyoto is the heart of Japanese culture – imagine geisha wearing traditional kimono walking down cobbled streets, ancient temples and Zen gardens, colorful shrines, and rich culinary tradition. The city hosts 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites, more than 1600 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shintō shrines: you’ll have plenty occasions to appreciate the traditional architecture. Delve into the culture, admiring beautiful geisha dances, kabuki performances, and visiting the many museums and art galleries in town. Kyoto has a vibrant art community, thanks to organizations like Kyoto Art Box promoting Kyoto-based creatives, and longstanding establishments like the National Museum of Modern Art existing alongside independent art spaces.
Foodies will rejoice trying the delicious restaurants in town: the local food culture is diverse and includes everything from aristocratic kaiseki ryori course dinners to the vegetarian shojin ryori of monks and the simple obanzai ryori home style cooking. Fusion restaurants, combining ingredients and techniques typical of Kyoto cuisine with cooking styles from other parts of the world, can also be found in the city. Food fans should not miss a visit to the Nishiki Market in central Kyoto, which has been serving the city for many centuries.
Kyoto also features a unique mix of shopping, where modern, high end fashion shops can be found alongside stores with centuries of history selling traditional Kyoto crafts or specialty foods. This is well expressed in the city’s largest shopping district along Shijo Street at the heart of central Kyoto.
Once you’ve had your fill of beautiful Kyoto, jump on a train + ferry to reach Naoshima: located in Japan’s Setouchi Inland Sea, this fishing island has become increasingly renowned for its innovative art projects – countless contemporary artworks are scattered across shrines, rice fields and old wooden houses. The project started off with billionaire art collector Soichiro Fukutake who had the famous architect Tadao Ando design the Bennesse House and the Chichu Art Museum to dispay his private art collection. Nowadays half a dozen surrounding islands have also embraced the arts and are home to the Setouchi Art Triennale.
Wrap up your week in Japan treating yourself with a stay at Amanemu. Located on the shores of Ago Bay, Amanemu’s rustic ryokan-inspired retreat is where Japan’s ancient hospitality ritual finds its contemporary expression. Mineral-rich waters from a natural hot spring enable guests to embrace the tradition of onsen bathing – while nourishment in culinary form reflects a region famed for rare delicacies. Surrounded by Unesco pilgrim trails, sacred forests and the diving culture of the pearl-rich Pacific, here, rejuvenative stays and wellness experiences are imbued with a deeper cultural sensibility.