Kyoto, Japan: Four Seasons Kyoto

September 03, 2018
My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored



A SANCTUARY FOR EVERY SEASON: A LUXURIOUS, INDULGENT, & REFINED STAY AT THE FOUR SEASONS KYOTO


I've had the immense pleasure of being a guest twice at The Four Seasons Kyoto, the "Best New Luxury Hotel in Japan". Even on my second visit the experience was just as gratifying as the first. From the approach - through the historic Higashiyama district and her many temples, along walls of tall bamboo that line the entrance, giving one the feeling of discovering a secret garden - to the constant discovery of the tradition and artistry in every detail, the Four Seasons Kyoto wows from start to finish. All of that before one considers the exceptional level of hospitality. Even the most jaded traveller would feel utterly invigorated and inspired by a stay fit for an Emperor at the Four Seasons Kyoto. Don't just take my word for it, see for yourself...


FOUR SEASONS KYOTO



The centrepiece of Four Seasons Kyoto is the vast Shakusuien pond garden. The 100,000 square foot garden was built some 800 years ago at the foot a mountain, and believed to have been the villa of the son of an important 12th-century samurai. The garden has been described in epic poetry, and part of it has been compared to the “Island of the Immortals” in Japanese mythology, where they lived in harmony with nature. The garden is one of the few remaining created at the end of the Heian Period, the peak of Imperial Japan. Fringed with cherry blossoms in Spring and red maple in Autumn, the tree-lined paths across the pond make for a tranquil, ending in a charming structure that performs tea ceremonies by day and serves up sake (specially created for Four Seasons Kyoto) by night.


My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored

An Hermes rickshaw graces a seemingly innocuous corner in a hallway. No expense was spared in the design and fitting of the hotel.

AN ILLUMINATED SHEET OF WASHI PAPER (WORTH $50,000) ADORNS A CORRIDOR 
CYPRESS WOOD THROUGHOUT THE HOTEL CREATES A WARM ATMOSPHERE

My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored


The Four Seasons Kyoto is a study in contrasts, executed in the most seamless and natural manner. Take for example, the hotel lobby. By day, the elegant reception is a calm, almost sedate space of fragrant cypress wood decorated with shoji paper lanterns with a neutral palette throughout but for the bursts of colours from seasonal floral displays. Come evening, and the lobby becomes a dramatically-lit theatre, where a maiko performs (left) the traditional Japanese dance and music that is the preserve of this illustrious art form.


Then there is the perfect blend of traditional and contemporary styles throughout the hotel, unified by the Japanese enthusiasm for minimalist design. Astonishing and unexpected discoveries include the subterranean swimming pool (below), again a creation of Oriental meets Occidental. There are wooden cabanas and bubbling baths (West), pine saunas and ofuru showers (East) and a decadent spa, which specialises in Japanese wellness rituals including Zen massage and Sodashi gold-leaf facials.

My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored


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My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored

My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored




There are no shortage of culinary delights at Four Seasons Kyoto.The main restaurant, Brasserie, is just that - an international, French-style dining room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that lead to the sprawling gardens. The breakfast buffet is well worth waking up for, with an astonishing spread from dim sum to Continental classics. The best tables are by the glass walls, with a stunning view of the pond. 

For me, the most memorable gastronomical experience at Four Seasons Kyoto would be the Michelin-starred Sushi WakonWith just 10 seats at the bar for Edo (Tokyo)-style sushi (itself a rarity in Kyoto), the experience is as intimate and as rarified as you would expect. Helmed by renowned master sushi chef Rai Masuda, round after round of delectable, so-fresh-it's-practically still alive-seafood is meticulously prepared and presented in front of guests. Hokkaido scallops, bluefin tuna, uni, red clams, golden snapper; among others, are all flown in daily from the famous Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Chef Rei Masuda had already been awarded two Michelin stars for his Sushi Masuda in Tokyo, and by the time I arrived at Four Seasons Kyoto, Masuda-san had achieved the same for Sushi Wakon.The tasting menu at Sushi Wakon was exceptional, the experience of which was all the more special as we were celebrating its newly-earned Michelin Star with Masuda-san and his team.

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My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored

THE DINING AREA COMES WITH A KITCHEN INCLUDING NESPRESSO COFFEE MACHINE...
...OR YOU COULD TAKE TEA IN THE SITTING ROOM, WITH VIEWS OF THE GARDEN.

My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored


I stayed in a Residential Suite, a one-bedroom suite with a living room, a kitchen, a dining area and a separate bedroom ample enough for a family of four. The 123 rooms (110 guest rooms and 13 suites) of Four Seasons Kyoto are a study in understated elegance. Again, the modern design with touches of traditional Japanese interior design follows through. Panels, hand painted with blossoms, surround the beds; enhancing the feeling of a tranquil cocoon. Dark hardwood floors throughout add depth to the light that streams in from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Screen doors and rugs are decorated in imperial purple, adding splashes of vibrant colour to an otherwise neutral space. 


Closer inspection reveals an astonishing commitment to quality, heritage, and detail. The silk brocade on the bedroom cushions are locally woven by Hosoo, a Kyoto atelier that dates from 1688. The air-tight tea canisters were crafted by Kaikado, another centuries-old local artisan that makes the best in class. This attention to detail translates even housekeeping - I returned one evening to find a microfibre cleaning cloth under my glasses on the bathroom sink, adorned with the image of the pond gardens. My haphazard Macbook charger was neatly wrapped up and tidied with a Four Seasons-brand cable tidy.



My review of my luxurious and refined stay at Four Seasons Kyoto, the best new luxury hotel in Japan - Posh, Broke, & Bored


 The large bathrooms are well-appointed. Double sinks, huge soaking tubs, a separate shower area with monsoon showers, and that quintessential Japanese innovation - the smart toilet who greets you with a lifted lid and comes with an array of options including washing and drying for your, um, delicates. The bathroom, infused with the citrusy scent of yuzu fruit is adjacent to a large walk-in-wardrobe, which leads to the bedroom. The bedroom is another delight, with signature Four Seasons Beds customisable to your personal sleep style - your choice of plush, signature, or firm mattress topper. The bedrooms come with a view; either of the adjacent temple or the gardens. Intuitive panels for lights, drapes, and iPads offers full control.

As for the quality of service, well, the Japanese have some of the best manners in the world. Even by such exacting standards, the staff at Four Seasons Kyoto are exceptional - approachable, assured, knowledgable, and fluent in English. Needless to say, my stays at the Four Seasons Kyoto set the bar high, and should be the standard for every 5* hotel; Japanese hospitality or not. Truly, I can't think of a more memorable, more extraordinary place to stay when in Kyoto.

Doubles in low-season start from ¥60,000 (£443).

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