Memoirs of the Geisha District- in collaboration with Kyoto Yura Hotel - MGallery
Updated: Feb 28
Located just 10 minutes walk from Yasaka Shrine and Kyoto's ancient Geisha district is the most beautiful hotel we've ever had the pleasure of staying in: Kyoto Yura Hotel- MGallery.
The first MGallery property in Japan, this 5 star boutique hotel only opened in April 2019, and it's absolutely exquisite. You enter from bustling Sanjo through a hidden sliding panel door, walk past a metallic silver bonsai tree and come face to face with a real life swaying bamboo grove, stretching up into the lobby from the restaurant below. Our jaws dropped.
In Japan's ancient capital, a city with 17(!) UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Kyoto Yura Hotel inspires guests to feel as if they are travelling through time from modern Japan back to the Samurai age. The idea behind Kyoto Yura Hotel's decor is to combine traditional Japanese elements with Accor's European style, and it's the perfect blend of East meets West. We loved details such as the use of kimono fabric and Japanese seating areas in the bedrooms, minimalist dark wood, lamps shaped like paper lanterns and the beautiful pillars in the restaurant made from antique Japanese chest drawers.
The 2nd key theme of the hotel is "Inspired by her", which feels both intrinsically chic and French (Accor) and classically Japanese. As well as complimentary nail polishes (using ingredients taken from traditional Japanese painting) and aromatic oils inspired by Kyoto to take to the bedroom (such lovely ideas!), the welcome drink is a luxurious and healthy detox water, prepared by the hotel chef with fruits selected fresh each day. The hotel's signature cocktail, Lady in Bloom is a celebration of the improvement of women's lives during the Meiji Restoration. But more on that later.
After having been warmly greeted by the front desk, we were shown to our room, a Superior King, with quite possibly the biggest double bed we've ever seen. Everything about the room was absolutely beautiful, from the soft grey pyjamas to the Japanese tatami mat window seat, plus luxurious touches like a coffee machine,soft bathrobes, complimentary mineral water, the ring light around the bathroom mirror and the fabulous rainfall shower.
After settling in, we went to check out the 1867 bar for happy hour. Named after the year that the Meiji Restoration began (the birth of modern Japan when power was handed back from the Samurai to the Emperor), the bar is simply gorgeous. It reminded us of 19th century Japan meeting 1930s America, the perfect mix of east meeting west: dark wood, paper screen walls and a black and caramel marbled countertop, a latticed back bar well stocked with immaculately presented spirits, shining glasses, small drawers and cabinets that hearkened back to an old medicine shop in old Gion. You could imagine Hemingway relaxing here, or a beautiful Geisha entertaining her business clients.
The cocktail menu is very impressive. All the classics are available (David had an excellent vodka martini), and they also have a list of all new creations designed especially for the hotel by their award winning bartender. These all have an twist of the Orient, such as the Matcha Latte Speakeasy (sherry and matcha powder), the Espresso Martini (Houji tea) and the Kyoto Margarita (shiso leaf and ginger infused tequila). The Maiko looked lovely and suitably Kyoto-esque; inspired by the famous white makeup of an apprentice Geisha, complete with a dash of bright red across the middle for her painted lips.
I decided to try the hotel's signature cocktail, the Lady in Bloom, a name which links to the hotel's theme of "inspired by her", and the bar's name 1867 - the first year of the Meiji Restoration when the move away from feudal shogunate to industrial modernity forced Japan to reconsider the role of women in society. It's funny, the drink literally summoned up an image of this Lady: classically feminine with smooth coconut, but bright and sparkly with Kurrant Absolute Vodka, lemon, apple juice and sea salt spray. A woman who can take care of herself!
Breakfast the next morning was equally impressive. Situated on the lower ground floor next to the bamboo (still can't believe the bamboo!) is the 54th Station Grill, named after the historic Tokaido coastal route between Tokyo and Kyoto. Here, breakfast is a sumptuous buffet of western favourites with a Japanese flair. Pork sausages, mushrooms and hash browns sit alongside tofu, egg roll, miso soup and seaweed. The fresh fruit selection also includes dragon fruit, and you'll find grilled salmon next to the continental cold meats. We tried absolutely everything, and David even had an omelette made to order. With several choices of juice and tea and coffee being refilled whenever needed, this was an hour long leisurely luxurious experience rather than a grab and dash refuel, and was easily the most enjoyable travel breakfast we've ever had.
If you're heading to Kyoto, we couldn't recommend this place more. Do everything you can to stay here, you won't regret it.
Thank you for having us, Kyoto Yura Hotel MGallery, what a fabulous stay!
Disclaimer - we were hosted by Kyoto Yura Hotel MGallery, but we were not paid to post and all opinions are ours!