Yes, there are new luxury hotels in Kyoto, and the city—and Japan in general—is a hot topic among travelers these days. But the current appeal of the country’s ancient capital lies precisely in the fact that it is not timely or trendy. In a world of increasing sameness, Kyoto is an island of quality and originality, a place where Michelin-starred restaurants outnumber McDonald’s. Where nearly 2,000 businesses are formally recognized for upholding traditional values—and being in continual operation for more than 100 years. Where simple strolls along cobblestone streets reveal temples, shrines, gardens, and geishas that don’t require an app to appreciate. “Kyoto is where Japanese people go to see Japan,” says Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, director and co-owner of the UK-based tour company Cazenove + Loyd (cazloyd.com). Foreigners are increasingly following suit. After almost shutting down following the 2011 earthquake, tourism to Japan has “bounced back incredibly,” Wilmot-Sitwell says. “With Kyoto in particular, a couple of good new hotels and pent-up demand have put it at the top of everyone’s agenda.” Keep reading to see why it should be at the top of yours.