Hotel Life: Hiiragiya

At Hiiragiya, there were the traditional signs of welcome – entryway stones splashed with water, a bowl of matcha green tea and a simple grouping of unopened peonies to greet you hello...


Since it encompasses many aspects of Japanese ritual and culture I learned to love, I thought I’d begin my Japan diary with the ryokan we treated ourselves to for one night while visiting Kyoto. We chose Hiiragiya because of its reputation and history. Even though original 200-year-old rooms remain there, I wanted to stay in Hiiragiya’s new wing of modern rooms. I loved the sparse interiors; sliding shoji paper screens filtering the daylight, glass walls that open up to your own outdoor garden and the little tokonoma with a customary flower arrangement.


One tradition I definitely could get used to is the evening bathing ritual before dinner. Each room at Hiiragiya has its own handmade cedar tub that releases an amazing woodsy scent as it's used. It’s pre-filled all the way to the top with the hottest spring water, perfect after a long day of adventure in Kyoto.


After bathing a kaiseki dinner is served in your room by a Nakai-san who looks after you during your stay. Always wearing a pretty kimono, later she switches the dining table out with a bed. The next morning, we ended our stay with one last dip in that tub and tried a traditional Japanese breakfast; a different taste but also a new experience visually.


When we left, the peonies had fully bloomed and the Hiiragiya family came outside and waved goodbye as we got in a cab. They stood waving as we drove away; we waved back until beautiful Hiiragiya disappeared from our view.


All photos taken by me, except for the two black and white interior photos, courtesy of Hiiragiya. Handwriting and illustrations by me. More about Kyoto soon.