Finding our way out of busy Kyoto train station was swift and problem-free, and we were soon aboard the complimentary shuttle bus to the ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto. The driver, with pristine white gloves, loaded all luggage and we waited in the cool airconditioned van for other passengers to board. Convenience and ease-of-use is pretty much a requisite in all things ‘design’ and ‘customer service’ in Japan, and this hotel was no exception.
On the 15 minute drive to the hotel, the video playing on a loop with Diana Krall providing soundtrack prepared us for the delights on offer at our accommodation – from numerous dining choices to onsen bathing. So, even before our arrival, we knew what services and facilities would be at our disposal during our four-night stay, and were already making mental notes as to what reservations needed to be made.
In the light and airy lobby we were greeted at reception by women wearing traditional Japanese attire in floral pastels, a thoughtful and authentic touch. Their angled head nods, discreet smiles, tinkling laugh and gentle voices were allusions to the manner of the geishas, for which Kyoto is famous the world over.
Once again we had arrived at our new hotel an hour or so before check in time. This element of our planning was not with the aim of being difficult guests, but due to us wanting to get on with seeing our new city as soon as possible! Unlike many other countries, in Japan check in time is check in time – there is no ‘we’ll have a look to see if you room is ready’, none of that. So we left our luggage with the porters and headed straight to the Cosy Café in the lobby of the hotel for some lunch. This dining option at the hotel offers ‘international all day dining’, and at lunch we had a choice of the buffet with a solid array of selections and an a la carte menu. We went a la carte and savoured the rare opportunity to indulge in serves of roast vegetables!
At check in we discovered that we had been upgraded to a castle view room, which provided a delightful aspect once the heat had gone out of the day and we could perch and watch the sun set over Nijo Castle, glass of wine in hand and snacks at the ready. While some rooms on higher floors were being renovated, this room still provided classic warmth and comfort with its textured papered walls, latte silk bolster cushions and soft armchairs. The bathroom displayed classic design choices in the ivory coloured marble benchtops, white thirsty towels and plenty of amenities at the guests’ disposal.
In our tour of the hotel, we were able to view the newly refurbished rooms on the 7th floor (half of that floor was out of action at the time of writing, as was all of the 8th floor). The décor showcased contemporary sleek lines and blonde wood tones with light floor coverings and plush accents, revitalising the rooms in the move away from the darker chocolates and taupes of the previous design. A highlight was the bathroom sink, now a ceramic bowl, volcanic ash in colour, on a slatted wooden bench covered with glass. The remote control blinds were a step up, too, and helpful with the west-facing windows gracing views of the castle.
There is a diverse range of dining options in the ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto. The Rose Room offers French Cuisine, providing a regally decorated and romantic dining experience, all gilded table settings, crisp white linen and deep red roses. The Karin Chinese Restaurant and Unkai Japanese Restaurant are suitably adorned with hues and design elements unique and relevant to the culture they represent, and all provide excellent examples of that culture’s cuisine.
The breakfast was the best we had sampled in Japan, fitting for our last hotel! We loved the full array of western and Japanese choices, and while we were tempted to make a reservation for a traditional Japanese breakfast in Unkai restaurant, we were too enamoured of the wide selection in Cosy Café each morning (and we had sampled an excellent one in our traditional ryokan in Takayama). It is great to have the option for that traditional experience, though, and I would definitely partake next time.
Through the expanse of glass spanning the lobby lounge and Cosy Café, the external wall of rock dominates. Strewn with lush creepers and ferns and complete with a cascading waterfall, it makes this hotel a popular wedding spot, especially when all that nature can be enjoyed from within air-conditioned comfort. In fact, a shiny tiled path serves as an aisle leading to a stepped marble dais equipped with a discreet altar for the ceremony. There is even a small pipe organ to the side to provide the ambience of a European church wedding. When not in use as a wedding venue, the lobby lounge entices you with its light-drenched, white leather armchairs to relax with a book or partake in high tea, with live music enhancing the evening as aperitifs or nightcaps are sipped.
The ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto completely lived up to our expectations of this world-wide brand, but also demonstrated an extra cultural finesse in their customer service that appears to be unique to Japan. It was an excellent base for both exploring the city of Kyoto, as well as doing day trips to places like Nara and Osaka.
Accommodation: ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto