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 from the start, with 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 beautiful 300-year old Japanese garden with bonsai, cherry and maple trees. 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 rooms are a delight. There are four categories which differ only in the view. 'City view' rooms actually look out onto a bamboo grove and give glimpses into the grounds of neighbouring Myoho-in temple, giving a great sense of place. Deluxe and Balcony rooms look over the charming garden. No expense has been spared in creating friezes that depict the four seasons, washi paper lanterns, and beautiful cushion covers made by Nishijin - the most historic producer of textiles in Kyoto. Baths are a compact Japanese size but all rooms also have rainshowers, 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 making further use of Nishijin textiles for sofas and other funishings. 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 - it is run by Mr Masuda who is a former apprentice of sushi guru Jiro's. Relax by the pool in a Balinese style cabana, and sample some of Kyoto's finest French-influenced creations at their patisserie. It is a beautifully curated hotel incorporating many of Kyoto's finest elements, and we cannot recommend it highly enough.
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.Bill Bryson