By Bonson Lam
While Kyoto is an amazing open air museum with an millennia of high culture, there are times I would like to escape to the countryside and do nothing. With that in mind, Kameoka Keburikawa Onsen Ryokan was just what the doctor ordered.
At just an hour out of Kyoto Station, you can wake up in anywhere in central Tokyo or Kyoto in the morning and be here for lunch. There is a complementary mini shuttle bus from the stairs in front of JR Kameoka Station every half an hour, and soon you would be relaxing in the resort like strolling gardens, with its rolling lawns and natural rock formations, or soak your worries away in the hot spring (Onsen) baths. While the outdoor baths themselves are lacking in panoramic views, they more than make up for that with its intimacy and peace, even on a supposedly busy Saturday afternoon. Perhaps the day trippers are busy in the tatami inlaid function rooms belting out old time Karaoke favorites. Keburikawa is that kind of place, where you can be yourself, in a gracious yet unpretentious setting, one that whispers country comfort and healthy harvests but with modern lines and elegant, immaculate cuisine that sophisticated city dwellers will find inspiring.
Both the Western and Japanese style cuisines are exceptional, so if you are staying overnight or for a few meals, make the opportunity to savor the best of both worlds. Dinner can be served in your room, ryokan style, with a multi-course affair highlighting the best seasonal ingredients. With a vegetable garden on site, it brings the "farm to plate" or "paddock to plate" philosophy to life. Even in the heart of winter, you can enjoy Chinese cabbage, radish, and green onions freshly picked from the garden.
While there is an understated resort like atmosphere, the facilities here cater more for relaxation than activity (Karaoke sessions notwithstanding). The strolling gardens are a great place to read a book or to soak your feet in the foot spa after a day heading out to the nearby mountain hiking trails.
At night its isolation can be discomforting for those who thrive on constant activity. Being in the country, you will see the stars or the full moon at its finest, and an evening stroll may surprise you with the charm of fireflies or the fresh mountain air.
In many ways this resort is a careful balance between traditional ryokan comfort and modern four star hotel conveniences. Large ceiling to floor windows make the most of the views and give the place a grand airy feel. It is particularly pleasant in the even when it is lit up.
The lobby and the rooms are comfortable, immaculately clean and spacious, with a mixture of Japanese and Western furniture and a minimalist Japanese décor. Many rooms open out giving you a view or access to the gardens.
As there are not so many hot springs near the Kyoto area, the Kameoka hot springs are a great find. The Onsen and restaurants are also open to same day guests, and this makes a pleasant day trip from Kyoto.
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I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us.