All Images Credit Four Seasons Hotels
For those who have never been, Kyoto is a mystical destination and the land of the samurai, geishas and center of Japan’s Imperial golden age. This is the cultural center of Japan, rich in history as well as natural beauty with countless unforgettable attractions to visit. In the heart of it all is one of Japan’s most luxurious hide aways, The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto.
Kyoto is a beguiling destination with UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, and palaces with gorgeous Japanese gardenss which is the reason it attracts over 50 million visitors every year. The must-see sites include the geisha districts, the ancient Imperial Palace, the Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Kinkaku-ji or Golden Temple. The nearby medieval Gion geisha district is a must visit area as well with traditional maniya townhouses and low-lit streets where many tourists go to experience a formal traditional tea ceremony or dinner at the many restaurants there.
The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is in the center of it all and a short walk or taxi ride away from most of the city’s main attractions. Yet as bustling and exciting as Kyoto may be, the Four Seasons is a haven of tranquillity. Upon entering, guests will pass the long archway of bamboo that leads into the entry courtyard and a massive abstract wooden structure created to resemble a tree. It is the first indication of the detail and elaborate décor that awaits within the resort. The resort makes a statement of the avant-garde design while respecting traditional Japanese culture and architecture. Throughout the resort guest will admire the exceptional collection of fine paintings and curious objects d’art that enhance yet never clutter the Zen-like open spaces.
The resort’s most compelling feature is the divine 800-year-old Shakusui-en or pond garden created in the 12th-century Heian period when Imperial Japan was at its peak. Guests will find an utterly relaxing haven as they explore the park-like grounds on slate stone paths through the pine, cherry, and maple trees and lush foliage while taking in the sites of a soaring pagoda and temple. The pond’s most common inhabitants are the large orange, red and white Koi fish as well as the occasional herons and storks waiting patiently for their meal of the day to swim by.
At the end of the trail is the resort’s second most enchanting location, is the Fuju Lounge which is a quaint tea house made of wood and bamboo with a terrace suspended over the pond. The Fuji Lounge is a peaceful respite to partake in a private traditional ryurei-style tea ceremony performed by a local Tea Master or in the evenings for an aperitif of Kyoto sake or Champagne before dinner.
Beyond the pond garden and throughout the resort is a serene natural setting with ubiquitous birdsong, lovely rock gardens, walking paths and benches to contemplate, and tranquil spaces to just be.
The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto was developed to be in harmony with nature with capacious and sleek interiors that pay homage to traditional Kyoto design and décor. The impressive lobby is opulent yet welcoming with fawn colored marble floors, elaborate floral arrangements, and an atrium of three-story teak rafters and a 30’ tall wall of windows offering decadent views of the pond garden beyond. The aesthetic segues in the resort’s calming atmosphere of meticulous and uncluttered spaces, intricate design elements, and engaging artwork from local renowned artisans.
In addition to the physical attractiveness of the resort the service only adds to the unsurpassed beauty of the stay with a genuinely attentive staff and the butlers and concierge who go above and beyond to satisfy the needs of their guests, no matter how big or small the request.
The 110 guest rooms and 13 suites at the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto are, in a word, impressive. Accommodations are an exercise in modern opulence while honoring the rich traditions of the Kyoto design with wood paneling, bamboo, and fusuma screens and well as bespoke hand-painted shoji panels, Washi-paper lamps and Urushi lacquerware by Japanese artisans. Each room is comfortably furnished with every modern convenience, including a high-tech iPad that controls everything in the room from the drapes to the lights, 55-inch smart television or spa treatments and room service.
Bathrooms offer a wet room with a rejuvenating monsoon shower, relaxing marble soaking tubs and designer bathroom amenities. The rooms also have an externally accessed butler box so that guests can conveniently leave their shoes for a complimentary overnight shoeshine service or get the daily newspaper delivery.
The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto offers even more luxurious and emperor sized suites with separate bedrooms and living areas as well as large balconies or patios with access to walking paths and gardens. For another experience the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is also a residence where guests can buy into the location and lifestyle. The residences offer one or two bedrooms and with fully equipped kitchens, living rooms, and washing machines.
The dining experience at the Four Seasons Kyoto does not disappoint with offerings from gourmet international to haute Japanese. Evenings typically begin with pre dinner drinks outdoors on the terrace overlooking the pond garden or indoors with the three-story high atrium lounge which feels more like a living room with comfy sofas and a crackling fireplace.
The Brasserie is the all-day European restaurant that serves a sumptuous breakfast buffet each day. In the evening the eatery segues to a romantic venue with comprehensive international and French fare served at cozy curved banquets and low-lit tables.
The signature restaurant is the Michelin starred Sushi Wakon from Master Chef Rei Masuda. This is an interactive experience as guests take a front row seat at the 200-year-old, 10-seat Hinoki wood counter to see the creative edomae or Tokyo-style sushi dishes go from ingredients to preparation to plate.
When it’s time to rejuvenate the body, the spa at the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is one of the top spas in Kyoto, if not Japan, with seven treatment rooms, expert therapists and a comprehensive menu of signature treatments. For a unique signature spa treatment, guest will love the 150-minute Zen Mind and Spirit spa journey which includes a full body massage, head massage followed by a bath in sake.
Beyond the decadent spa experience, guest will enjoy the comprehensive facilities including steam rooms and saunas, and a state of the art 24-hour fitness center. The hotel’s cavernous indoor pool is gorgeous with a beautiful Italian grotto styled space, compelling modern art works and cabanas draped with white muslin. The pool area is ideal for lazing the day away relaxing in the submerged stone beds, the gurgling whirlpool bath or swimming a few laps in the 65-foot pool.
Many of us travel to enrich ourselves and seek to learn, see and immerse ourselves in the exotic and unfamiliar. For the switched-on traveler the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto offers an authentic holiday experience that is rich in culture, cuisine, and service as well as the stunning design and natural beauty that envelopes the resort.