Experience historical Japan with unprecedented luxury at the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto at the foot of Higashiyama Mountain. The 800-year-old pond garden at the center of the hotel sets the stage for a quiet and relaxing stay in one of Japan’s best-preserved historical cities. (Rumor has it that the gardens belonged to a 12th-century lord and son of a samurai.)
We checked into this newer Four Seasons, marveled at its stunning interior design, and felt right at home for nearly a week. This hotel is very modern but also uses fabrics, metalwork, and more from local renowned artisans that have been in business for centuries.
We dined on regional specialties and international dishes sometimes paired with a nice Japanese wine or matcha tea. It’s a good base for families and those who want to stay outside of the hustle and bustle but still in a convenient distance to major sights.
This Kyoto luxury hotel is one of the best in the entire country and you can use my status as a Four Seasons Preferred Partner advisor to book in.
Be a Four Seasons Preferred Partner Guest
Booking in as a Four Seasons Preferred Partner guest adds these benefits (and more) at no extra cost to you:
Full program details are below.
WHAT I LOVE
- An 800-year old Japanese pond garden at the heart of the hotel
- Summertime shave ice at the teahouse
- Extensive breakfast buffet with made-to-order items
- Flowers by Nicolai Bergman throughout
- The calendar of hotel activities including origami, koi feeding, maiko performances
- Beautiful zen spa with fulsome lounging facilities and indoor pool
- Exquisite attention to detail and service throughout
GOOD TO KNOW
- A handful of sights are within walking distance but you’ll need to taxi to most places
- The car ride to Kyoto Station is about seven minutes
- Connecting rooms are available (three-person occupancy per room or suite)
- Concierge desk has extensive, helpful itineraries to study before arrival
- Kyoto is large with a lot to do so be sure to plan a long enough stay
Shakusuien is the 100,000-square-foot garden at the center of Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto. Legend has it that it was part of a mountain residence of Shigemori Taira (Lord Komatsu), eldest son of the 12th-century samurai Kiyomori Taira.
The garden was renovated in the 18th century. It remains of historic importance as one of the few gardens created at the end of the Heian Period, the peak of Imperial Japan.
The hotel’s designers also incorporated work by artisan shops who have been in business locally for centuries into the modern design.
Rooms, Suites, and Residences
The in-demand Four Seasons Kyoto Hotel stays true to its historical surroundings. Accommodations feature a traditional Japanese aesthetic complemented by modern amenities. The interiors have a Zen-inspired ambiance with wood paneling, bamboo, and paper screens.
Rooms offer either private balconies or floor-to-ceiling windows that provide breathtaking views of the hotel’s 800-year-old Japanese pond garden, or glimpses of a nearby 12th-century temple. Other features include wood floors, comfortable seating areas, and remote-controlled drapes.
Live like an emperor with luxurious amenities. Bathrooms are fitted with rain showers, and deep soaking tubs. Slip into thick terry bathrobes and enjoy a cup of tea or espresso in-room. Your accommodation comes with basic Wi-Fi, in-room tablets, daily newspaper delivery, and Lorenzo Villoresi amenities. You can also customize your bedding with a choice of plush, signature, or firm mattress toppers.
The 570-square-foot standard guest rooms sleep three adults, or two adults and one child. You can choose a king or two double beds, plus a rollaway or crib. King rooms can connect to two double bed rooms for families and friends who need even more space.
Floor-to-ceiling windows provide breathtaking views of Kyoto or the surrounding courtyard and Japanese gardens. Premier guest rooms are slightly larger.
Ranging between 764 and 1,108 square feet, the Suites at Four Seasons Kyoto offer more space with high-end marble bathrooms, and separate sleeping and living spaces.
Windows overlook serene pond gardens. Suites sleep three adults, or two adults and one child.
Residential Suites make families feel at home while still enjoying luxury hotel amenities.
These suites come with fully equipped kitchens, living rooms, and washing machines. You can choose from one-bedroom suites ranging from 893 to 1,400 square feet, and two-bedroom suites ranging between 1,615 square feet and 1,937 square feet.
Let your personal Guest Experience Ambassador tailor your stay to your needs.
Experience unprecedented luxury with touches of Japanese aesthetic in the hotel’s Specialty Suites. Located on the 4th floor, these 2,637-square-foot rooms represent the city’s largest hotel suites.
The balcony alone is 107 square feet. From here, you’ll enjoy views of the 12th century Myoho-in Temple from the privacy of your room. The Presidential Suite sleeps up to four adults, or two adults and two children.
Culinary Experiences at Four Seasons Kyoto
Four Seasons Kyoto has multiple dining options conveniently located on the grounds at which guests may savor Michelin-star sushi and dishes native to Kyoto in addition to international favorites. As you might expect, the food is outstanding throughout the property.
A highlight of the hotel is Shakusui-Tei, the teahouse situated on stilts over the historical ikeniwa (pond garden).
Tea drinking is elevated to an art form in Japan, and you can experience a proper tea ceremony here without leaving the hotel. Tea ceremonies require a reservation.
Indulge your palate with Japanese sweets that are almost too good eat paired with matcha teas.
In the summer, desserts can include delicious shave ice like this Yuzu Citron Shaved Ice topped with yuzu syrup and spiced with ginger and cinnamon. Pour ginger syrup and condensed milk on top for extra flavor. My daughter ordered it every day.
Sitting on the terrace in the evening (wear bug spray in the summer), is a perfect way to unwind. If you prefer more lively libations, the menu contains sake and champagne as well.
The kitchen at Brasserie serves up European-style cuisine made from local ingredients across breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Executive Chef Nicholas Owen creates dishes that honor tradition but still offer a modern flare.
The waterside outdoor terrace provides Zen-filled views of the surrounding pond garden. During our visit, a Perrier Jouet champagne garden made an appearance on the terrace in the late afternoons.
Back to breakfast, the buffet offerings feature morning favorites from around the world from dim sum to cured meats. You can also choose from a menu of made-to-order dishes such as brioche french toast, omelets, pancakes, and more.
Lunch and dinner menus feature a mix of Western and Japanese dishes. The “Discover Dinner Course” takes you on a tour of local ingredients sourced from different regions of Japan.
We also enjoyed Tamba chicken teriyaki (a local specialty), Kyoto Hirari beef filet, and the sashimi made from fish flown in from the Toyosu market in Tokyo paired with fresh ginger and grate-your-own wasabi.
Delight your palate with signature dishes like the crustacean blanc-manger served with caviar and hazelnut oil. If you’re hungry in the morning, don’t miss the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet served daily.
The Lounge & Bar
What better way to unwind during a trip to Japan than sipping handcrafted cocktails inspired by the flavors of Kyoto? Perhaps you’d rather start your day or perk up in the afternoon with a hand-dripped cup of coffee instead.
Whichever you fancy, the Lounge & Bar located in the Four Seasons Kyoto lobby offers comfortable, yet sophisticated surroundings and some fantastic desserts on display in the glass case.
Afternoon tea takes place every day with colorful confections from the Far East created by Executive Pastry Chef Yoshihide Hamamoto. Live jazz entertains guests on Friday evenings.
Experience world-class sushi created by Master Chef Rei Masuda. This Michelin-starred restaurant brings to you eye-catching dishes made from ingredients flown in daily from Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market.
Discover the delights of premier handcrafted sushi rolls while seated at a 200-year-old Hinoki counter. Sushi Wakon also has private dining rooms available.
Whether away on holiday, work travel, or a family affair, sometimes you just want to enjoy room service in the privacy of your hotel accommodation.
If you have a hankering for in-room dining, Four Seasons Kyoto has a 24-hour menu, including offerings from the Brasserie menu and overnight menu selections.
Fun Food Amenities
Each day a culturally relevant food or drink amenity was placed in our room. This was our welcome amenity as we were three people including my daughter.
On other days, we received matcha tea, wagashi, and more with a detailed description of each item’s meaning.
Four Seasons Kyoto Pool & Fitness Facilities
Enjoy a fully-equipped gym and 65-foot swimming pool with underwater lounge chairs. Guests have access to these facilities including the spa’s cold bath, steam room, and whirlpools.
The 24-hour fitness center also hosts group classes, including yoga classes. The Zen Yoga Flow class brings peace to the mind, body, and soul with Zen-inspired meditation and movement. You can also open your chakras through Kundalini Yoga. Private yoga sessions are also available.
You can treat yourself to a complimentary glass of juice or a piece of fruit on the way out of this fabulous facility linked with the spa.
The Spa at Four Seasons Kyoto
For the ultimate Zen reset, book a spa treatment. The Four Seasons Kyoto has massages, facials, and even a chance to soak in a bathtub full of sake.
Sightseeing in Kyoto involves quite a bit of walking, so I booked in for a fantastic Four Seasons Signature Massage to reset. My muscles also benefited from a deep soak in the whirlpool first.
Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, and its culture is infused with wellness routines worth experiencing during your visit. Many travel far and wide to Japan for its incredible wellness programs, but you’ll have all that at your disposal at the Four Seasons Kyoto.
To give you an idea, Kyoto is home to the ancient healing art of Reiki. During your stay, you can experience this popular healing practice by booking a Jikiden Reiki Treatment at the hotel spa. You can even combine Reiki with a massage.
The spa also has a range of standard treatments like nail services, body scrubs, facials, specialized treatments for men, and body wraps.
Children at Four Seasons Kyoto
Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto welcomes guests of all ages. The hotel concierge works with families to create an unforgettable group experience with pre-planned and completely customizable itineraries.
Tip: Ask for these itineraries in advance as they’re divided up by region. This will help you forward think how to plan each day.
Services include babysitting, so parents can have their much-needed adult time too. If you’re traveling with toddlers, childproofing for rooms, strollers, and high chairs are available upon request.
This hotel considers all the details, even for its smaller visitors. Kids will delight in Koi Fish feeding, complimentary children’s activities, child-size bathrobes, games, books, toys, and video games.
Kids who need to blow off steam will like wandering around the pond’s pathways and looking at koi.
Nicolai Bergman Floral Design
At Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, like other Four Seasons properties, flowers are art. Nicolai Bergmann’s innovative designs can be seen throughout the hotel.
You can take home a box of preserved flowers as a souvenir from his shop in the hotel.
The Surrounding Kyoto Neighborhood
At the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, you’ll experience Imperial Japan’s golden age while staying in one of the country’s best-preserved historical cities.
The hotel puts you right in the middle of the Higashiyama temple district of Kyoto. Located at the bottom slopes of the eastern mountains, the neighborhood transports you back in time with narrow streets, historic monasteries, and wooden homes. It’s mostly residential and quiet.
There are handful of attractions to explore by foot including nearby temples and Kyoto National Museum. As Kyoto is quite large, you will find yourself using taxis and public transportation to see most of the famous sights which are spread out across the region.
The hotel is located just 10 minutes from downtown Kyoto and seven minutes from Kyoto Station which makes it easy to take day trips to places like Uji and Nara.
Four Seasons Kyoto Reservations
The best way to book in is as a Four Seasons Preferred Partner guest. This is how I make my own Four Seasons reservations. The benefits you receive include:
- Daily breakfast for two in the Hotel restaurant
- Hotel/Resort Credit* (based on room category booked):
• Guest Rooms: USD 100 credit per stay
• Suites and Specialty Suites: USD 200 credit per stay
• Private Retreats: USD 200 credit per bedroom per stay
- Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in**
- Welcome note at check-in acknowledging you and your travel agency and the benefits that are being extended
- Complimentary standard Internet in all guest rooms and premium Internet in all suites
*Hotel/Resort Credit may be applied to select incidental charges incurred at the Hotel or Resort. Must be used in conjunction with the initial stay and will be applied at check-out. May not be applied towards the room rate, taxes, resort fees, service charges, conference fees, or any charges from outside vendors. Exclusions may apply; contact the Hotel/Resort for more details.
When a suite is reserved in connection with another guest room or suite, the cumulative credit (based on room category booked) value applies.
The Private Retreats credit applies to Villas and Residences with a minimum average rate per night (before Resort fees and taxes) of USD 1,000.
**Category upgrade based on availability at time of check-in excludes Specialty Suites, Villas and the Private Retreats collection of Villas and Residences.
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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