Where is it?
The hotel lies at the foot of a mountain in the city’s Higashiyama district. The main entrance is on Onna-zaka hill, though this is closed from 8am-9am in line with Kyoto Prefectural Road Traffic Regulations, during which time guests must use the residential entrance along Higashioji Street. The hotel is ten minutes from downtown Kyoto, within walking distance of various temples, and a seven-minute drive from Kyoto station, where you can get the Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo. Osaka International airport is an hour’s drive by car.
What's it like?
Incredibly serene. The property has been built around the 800-year-old Shakusui-en ikeniwa (pond garden), believed to have belonged to a samurai from the Heian period (794-1185). The 10,000 sqm feature is traversable via stone and tempered glass bridges, with a pagoda at its core and a tea lounge on the western side. During my visit last October, hints of autumnal burgundy foliage were starting to emerge, the reflections camouflaging koi in the pond.
The low-rise hotel has just four floors (plus two basement levels) thanks to the city’s height rules. Interiors by Hirsch Bedner Associates are minimalist, with clean lines and calming neutral tones, along with Japanese touches such as cypress wood and local artwork.
The hotel’s 110 rooms, located on floors 1-4, range from 48-61 sqm, with some including private balconies. The 13 suites span 83-180 sqm. I checked into my Premier room just after midnight, and awoke to beautiful, sun-drenched views of the garden.
Much like the public spaces, rooms are sleek and minimalist. Dark hardwood floors are combined with neutral tones and splashes of purple in the furnishings, along with washi paper lamps, lantern-like light fixtures, fusuma screens and hand-painted panels depicting cherry blossom.
The bed is sumptuous, making jet lag that bit easier. Marble and granite bathrooms include a Toto toilet, bath and separate rain shower, plus beautiful kimonos.
The rooms are well-designed for remote work, with a coffee table area and large desk paired with a comfy armchair or swivel office chair, and inspiring garden view. On the tech-front, there is a 55-inch LCD TV, bedside and desk charging stations (which include a UK adaptor), and an in-room tablet to request services or chat with the team.
Amenities include a minibar with a Japanese tea set and complimentary local snacks, and a butler box enabling contactless delivery of same-day laundry, overnight shoe-shining and newspapers.
There are some good sustainable touches too – recyclable aluminium water bottles, bamboo keycards with beautiful engravings and a QR code to chat to the team, and water filtration/filling stations on-site.
Food and drink
All-day dining is available at the Brasserie, with seasonal Asian-European fusion dishes and breakfast served from 7am-10.30am. Enjoy pastry chef Reiko Yokota’s creations at the buffet or order the meticulous Japanese breakfast on the terrace. Fine dining takes place at the ten-seater Sushi Wakon.
The Tea House in the ikeniwa features the Fuji lounge area, which is used for entertaining purposes. Four Seasons can host evenings with charming geiko (the Kyoto term for geisha). Adjacent is the Shakusu-tei, a cosy tea ceremony room which fits up to five guests. Here, a tea master pairs matcha green tea with seasonally inspired Japanese sweets.
The hotel has 569 sqm of meetings and events space, including a ballroom and wedding chapel.
The hotel has a spa on level B1, and a 24-hour fitness centre, 20-metre indoor pool and ofuro (Japanese-style bath) on B2. Wellness sessions are held at Fuju – I partook in restorative yoga – and the hotel runs complimentary activities such as forest bathing in the mountains.
Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is a zen retreat nestled in the natural surroundings of Kyoto. The hotel’s manicured garden is a highlight and, as with all the Four Seasons properties that I have been lucky enough to visit, staff are warm and welcoming.
- Best for Tranquil stays in one of Japan’s oldest and most historic cities with superb facilities and locally inspired activities
- Don’t miss A Japanese tea ceremony at Fuji
- Price Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in May start from £1,150 incl. taxes and fees for a Premier room
- Contact 445-3 Myohoin Maekawa-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0932, Japan; +81 (0) 75 541 8288; fourseasons.com