In a world where change is inevitable, I often look to Japan for revered heritage and rarefied comforts that more or less stay constant. A visit to Kyoto over the O'Shogetsu invariably brings to the fore the best of Japanese culture and customs as the country celebrates the most significant festival of the year with cherished traditions passed down for centuries.
After 3 new years in Kyoto over the last 5 years, one naturally forms traditions of one's own over this special holiday - New Year's Eve dinner in Gion and Hatsumoude at the strike of midnight with more temple visitations on 1 Jan are just some of my new year routines. Whenever I am in Kyoto I try to walk along the Kamo river to get to places, which I find gives me great clarity and peace especially at the advent of the new year where wishes and resolutions stack up like snow on the summit of Fuji.
This year, I took a similar route across the temples of Kyoto, traipsing from Chishakuin to Kiyomizudera before ending up at Yasaka Shrine where throngs were out and about offering new year prayers at these holy sites and making merry at the food fairs nearby. By the end of 2 Jan, you could say that new year fatigue had more or less set in for me.
A delightful diversion popped up this year by way of an invitation to review at the fabulous Suiran, a luxury gem set by the banks of the Katsura River at Arashiyama. A stone's throw from the famous bamboo groves and spectacular garden of the UNESCO listed Tenryu-Ji, Suiran is quintessentially an abode of peace and tranquility with delightfully zen inspired rooms and wonderful outdoor onsen.
After the excitement and exertions of a Kyoto New Year, nothing quite beats checking into this traditional retreat that reflects Japanese hospitality at its evolving zenith.
The throng at Kiyomizudera on 2 Jan 2017. The crowd is not expected to abate until 10 Jan 17.
The shopping streets of Kiyomizudera, packed to the brim over the new year period.
Kitsune Udon and Amazake usually make up the first meal of the year for me.
Year of the Rooster and chickens of all shapes, sizes and forms pop up all over Japan.
The Suiran, a Luxury Collections Hotel.
The handsome old pines and moss covered stone lanterns of Suiran's garden add to the hotel's elegant milieu.
In-room onsen, a restorative treat few hotels can match in Kyoto.