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Kyoto Hotels

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

Why stay?

An unexpected slice of calm amid Kyoto’s most well-known historic district, the Four Seasons delivers creature comforts galore in a setting that unites modernist style with traditional Japanese flourishes. The property’s focal point is Shakusui-en, a 12th-century ikenawa pond garden inhabited by koi, ducks, turtles, and the occasional heron. Another soothing attribute? Wellness-minded guests can unwind at one of the best spa facilities in town, while the resort-esque ambience is complemented by unfaltering hospitality that impresses from arrival to departure.

The neighborhood

Four Seasons Kyoto stands amid a not-so-touristed part of the Higashiyama area and borders Myoho-in, an ancient Buddhist temple whose halls are rarely open to the public. Nearby Sanjusangen-do (aka Rengeo-in) is well worth a visit for its collection of 1,001 life-size bodhisattva statues, some of which date back more than 800 years to the Heian period. A pleasant stroll to the north lies the Geisha district of Gion and the charming (if often-crowded) streets that meander up the hillside to the UNESCO-listed temple of Kiyomizu-dera. The hotel also offers easy access to the downtown area, with the city’s central train station a mere seven-minute taxi ride away.

Shakusui-tei, the greenery-ensconced teahouse at Four Seasons Kyoto.

The feel

Visitors arrive down a 120-meter bamboo-fringed driveway to pull up at a striking wood-and-steel porte-cochère inspired by a traditional wagasa Japanese umbrella. Beyond, the tranquil foyer of marble and cypress wood showcases seasonal ikebana displays in Shigaraki pottery (from one of Japan’s “six ancient kilns”); this overlooks French-Japanese restaurant Brasserie, whose floor-to-ceiling windows face the garden. Museum-worthy art pieces displayed throughout the dignified, minimalist interiors by HBA (Hirsch Bedner Associates) add to the sense of craftsmanship, as do the hand-chiseled walls and floors.

Guest quarters

Private chambers at Four Seasons Kyoto are undeniably capacious; entry-level Deluxe rooms start from 49 square meters. Hallways come adorned with wooden slats that emulate the facade of a traditional machiya townhouse, and other local touches range from cushions by locally based textile company Hosoo to washi-paper lanterns that hang over marble-clad desks. Generously sized bathrooms feature rain showers, double vanities, and deep-soaking stone tubs. Bedside iPads connect you to Four Seasons’ all-hours chat service. Selected rooms have a private balcony overlooking Shakusui-en, while the 57 apartment-style Residential Suites, complete with a kitchen, will suit groups of up to six people.

Food and drink

Beneath a soaring nine-meter ceiling, Brasserie acts as the culinary heart of the property. À la carte and set menus here change with the seasons; multicourse dinners might include squid ink risotto made with Kyoto-grown Hinohikari rice, chorizo, and basil. (Breakfasts, whether taken in-room or at Brasserie, are veritable feasts that will set you up for a full day of sightseeing.) Inside the lobby, The Lounge & Bar dishes up handmade pastries and savory afternoon tea treats accompanied by a diverse selection of top-tier infusions. Sushi Wakon, meanwhile, specializes in omakase meals of Edomae sushi using ingredients flown in from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market each day. Cocooned in lush greenery beside the pond, Fuju at the Shakusui-tei teahouse offers matcha and divine wagashi sweets during the day and champagne and fine sake after dark.

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto’s 20-meter indoor swimming pool.

Wellness factor

Four Seasons Kyoto’s subterranean wellness center spans two floors, and includes a 20-meter pool lined with plush wooden cabanas, two deep whirlpool baths, as well as a sauna and steam room. Designed around the concept of Kyo no Iyashi (“Kyoto healing”), the spa specializes in Japanese wellness rituals: think bamboo charcoal body wraps, facials applied with a gold-leaf massager, and a full-body Zen massage. You won’t need to skip your exercise regime either, as there’s a gym that outclasses most fitness centers with its advanced machines and yoga studio.

Family matters

Kids will be entertained through a koi-feeding activity and the wellness center’s dedicated playroom, which comes stocked with toys and board games. Staying in a Residential Suite gets you extra perks like indoor camping and DIY pizza-making for all the family. Child-sized bathrobes are provided no matter the room category, while babysitting can be arranged.

Sustainability cred

A stringent waste-reduction policy has seen Four Seasons Kyoto phase out single-use plastics in favor of bamboo toiletries, refillable Diptyque bath amenities, and on-site water filtration and bottling stations by Swedish brand Nordaq. On the culinary front, Brasserie champions local small-scale farms and suppliers that adhere to eco-friendly practices.

What else?

Exclusive maiko dance performances are held in the lobby twice a week, with in-house guests given a rare opportunity to interact with the apprentice geishas afterward. Other special activities range from the Japanese tea ceremony experience at Shakusui-tei to a guided tour of the hotel’s art collection and a private journey around Higashiyama by rickshaw.

Reviewed by Bryan Eastlake
+81 75 541 8288
445-3 Myohoin Maekawa-cho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan