Emily Levine checks in to Nazuna, Kyoto Gosho

Our favorite globe trotter Emily Levine checks in to the beautiful Nazuna Hotel in Kyoto, Japan.

Japan has been a lifelong dream trip of mine ever since I was very little. I stumbled upon old photos of my parents first trip there which was a VERY long time ago, So long ago, that NYC didn't even have a single sushi restaurant yet (hard to believe or image NYC without a sushi spot at every corner) A few years ago, that dream had become a reality and from then onward has been one of the most inspiring and fascinating places that I keep going back to and never wanting to leave. Luckily there are direct flights from Milan - Tokyo :)

Being that it was my honeymoon, we wanted to stay in one place for longer and really enjoy it as a local would. After spending a few days in Tokyo, my husband and I took the bullet train (Shinkansen) to Kyoto. Upon arrival to our beautiful modernized ryokan which at the time was only a month or two old. I was initially so impressed and excited to see Nazuna seemed to be right off the bat, a hotel like non other that I had ever stayed in before. With mud walls called "Tsuchi kabe" in Japanese, its entire feel was very wabi-sabi and I was loving every detail. With random, but artfully placed furniture filling the common areas and a small stone walkway to a private bath or the lounge where you had an endless array of Japanese treats and teas. My husband and I had stayed in the room called Kuzukiri which had a private garden and a "hinoki" wooden bath that filled our bathroom with the most amazing and calming smell. It also opened up completely into the garden area with giant sliding glass doors.


Every morning we had the Inori Japanese breakfast which was so amazing! The staff was so attentive/beyond helpful. By far the best and most comfortable stay.


Apart from the fact that our room was a dream, the hotel design, food and ambiance was everything and more, the staff really made our stay that much more special. Their website also explains beautifully how they renovated and transformed it into what it is today.


I was trying to detach and relax from work since it has been such an exciting, but also very intense first year since I had launched my brand, but of course for me, Japan is nothing but endless inspiration so I really couldn't help myself :).


If you can, I would stay for three days at least. This is because if you are traveling to a few places, you are usually not in your hotel much because you want to see everything that location has to offer and explore, but this one should definitely be a place for you to also get a chance to unwind and enjoy.


To be honest this trip we really just let ourselves get lost for the most part! We explored a lot of ceramic studios, art galleries and local markets. Kyoto is a very traditional city rich in culture, cuisine and architecture. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. Here are a few spots I make sure to go back to every time I go.


Coffee break:

You can find tons of small coffee shops along your travels in Japan, but her are a few of my favorites.

  • Weekenders coffee: you might walk in circles for a few minutes and think the place doesn’t exist, but once you finally realize it’s tucked away behind and technically inside a parking lot...you will be happy you did. With just one small sitting area and a bar area for ordering, I always get their iced latte. The beans are roasted in house. It’s heaven for coffee lovers and a delicious pick me up to keep you going.

  • % Arabica: only serving coffee, this one has a few locations. My favorite is the glass cube along the river in Arashiyama. Head to the bamboo forest early to avoid the crowds, bike along the river to lunch, but don’t forget to try a strawberry daikuku along the way!

To eat:

  • Have lunch at Shoraian which is perched on the side of the river with amazing views, the place has you feeling like you’re in a treehouse/tofu heaven. After your tofued out, bike back down to order a cold cup of coffee to cool you down at of course, % Arabica where you can take a seat and enjoy.

  • A kaisaki dinner to remember would be at Jiki Miyazawa. Their tofu dish with kudzu, polished sesame and kombu tastes like melt in your mouth warm peanut butter that I dream of everyday! (That’s just one of many dishes they serve, I swear both places serve more things than tofu, but it’s honestly SO good)

  • For the best soba head to Honke-owariya.

  • For the best ramen Ichiran is a chain but is amazing every single time! Otherwise I love going to River ramen, tiny cute and absolutely delicious.


  • Ginkaku-ji is one of my favorite wabi-sabi temples!

  • For shopping it’s best to just get lost on side streets where you’ll find tiny antique and vintage shops and specialty boutiques.