Four Seasons Kyoto
Beautifully curated and seamlessly combining Japanese traditions with modern luxury, Four Seasons Kyoto is difficult to fault. It is located in the historic Higashiyama area, just a walk or short taxi ride from the Geisha quarter and some of the key historical sites. It impresses upon arrival, as guests are welcomed into a bright, wide open-plan atrium framed in warm cedar woods reminiscent of a Japanese ryokan. Flower arrangements by Nicolai Bergmann complement the views over the brasserie and terrace to the exquisite 800-year old Japanese garden. This beautiful spot, including a serene pond, is the focal point of the hotel and comes alive with various foliage, flowers and colours varying with each season. In every part of the hotel, traditional Japanese elements and modern innovations exist in harmony, such as the traditional lakeside 'sukiya' where tea is served during the day and champagne flows in the evening. One can sit out on the terrace and enjoy views of the beautiful pagoda at Kiyomizu temple further up the hill, and at weekends Maiko (trainee Geisha) mingle here with the guests.
The 123 rooms are a delight. There are four categories, differing only in the view. 'City view' rooms actually look out onto a bamboo grove and glimpse into the grounds of neighbouring Myoho-in temple, giving a great sense of place – whereas, Deluxe and Balcony rooms look over the charming garden.
No expense has been spared in creating friezes that depict the four seasons. Cherry blossom or autumn leaf prints adorn the tasteful wallpaper and beautiful cushion covers made by Nishijin – the most historic producer of textiles in Kyoto – decorate the rooms. Dashes of vivid colour also compliment the décor – usually, Imperial purple or fresh green. Baths are a compact Japanese size, but all rooms also have rain showers and other modern luxuries, such as an iPad for ordering room service and ambience control. Suites are all garden-facing and have luxurious living spaces that make further use of Nishijin textiles for sofas and other furnishings. Unlike most hotels in Japan, the Four Seasons has a clear focus on its foreign visitors: all staff from the bellboy to the bartenders speak English, and the rooms are mostly king doubles (historically Japanese hotels have mostly twin rooms).
While staying at Four Seasons, dine at ‘Sushi Wakon’ – a ten-seat counter restaurant, run by Mr Masuda, a former apprentice of sushi guru Jiro – and sample some of Kyoto's finest French-influenced creations at their patisserie. Their breakfast spread is impressive as it offers a great mixture of local and international cuisine.
Their beautiful pool and spa are the perfect spots to relax in after a day sightseeing in this temple-packed historical city, rest in a Balinese style cabana poolside or treat yourself to a treatment along the likes of a gold-leaf facial. More active guests can choose between swimming laps in the 20-metre pool or using their fully-equipped fitness centre, which is open day and night.