Editor’s note: The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto provided TPG with a complimentary two-night stay so that we could get an inside look at the hotel and its amenities. The opinions expressed below are entirely those of the author and weren’t subject to review by the hotel or any external entity.

Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto remains the beating heart of the country’s cultural legacy. It has more than 2,000 temples and shrines, historic laneways, an imperial palace and gorgeous boutiques peddling handicrafts passed down from generation to generation.


Kyoto is also thoroughly contemporary, with cutting-edge artistic studios, fashion ateliers and innovative restaurants that have garnered international plaudits. It embodies an irreplicable blend of bygone prestige and forward-looking sophistication, which is, in turn, reflected at one of its finest luxury hotels, the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto.

Related: The 16 best Four Seasons in the world, according to travel experts who have stayed at them

It’s bordered by some of the city’s most significant cultural sites and predicated on time-honored traditions of Japanese hospitality. At the same time, it offers up-to-the-minute in-room technology and amenities that everyone from business travelers to family groups will appreciate. The hotel is like a version of Kyoto writ miniature.

Here’s everything you need to know about staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto and how to make the most of your time there.


Getting there

The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is close to the city’s historical center, many significant temples and the much-Instagrammed red Torii gates of hilly Fushimi Inari.

If you arrive via train at Kyoto Station, a taxi or ride-hailing service will take around 10 minutes and cost 1,350 to 1,500 Japanese yen ($9 to $10). If you’re traveling light, you can also catch several of the city’s buses, including the 206 line, for just 230 yen ($1.50); it takes about 15 minutes.

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The closest major international gateway is Kansai International Airport (KIX). To get from the airport to the hotel, you can take the Kansai Limousine Bus to Kyoto Station and catch a city bus from there for about 3,300 yen ($22). The total travel time should be around 90 minutes to two hours. You could also hire a taxi or car service, cutting the time to around one hour and 15 minutes, though the cost might be prohibitive, at around $250 to $300.

Booking details

The Four Seasons Kyoto has just 180 accommodations total, including 110 rooms (48 of which are interconnecting, making it a good choice for family groups traveling together), 13 suites and 57 residences; the residences have that spacious suite-like square footage but with added amenities like dining rooms, kitchenettes and washing machines.


Even base-level deluxe rooms start at nearly 530 square feet, though, and the Premier Garden View room I stayed in was even roomier, at 570 square feet. Certain accommodations also have balconies overlooking the historic grounds.

The Four Seasons Kyoto participates in Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts, so cardmembers with The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express who make a booking through AmexTravel will receive benefits like complimentary daily breakfast for two, room upgrades based on availability, a $100 on-property credit to use during their stay and guaranteed late checkout.


The hotel is also part of Chase’s new The Edit, which is a rebranding of its Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection. So, if you have an eligible card and make your booking through Chase Travel, you can expect perks like daily breakfast for two, availability-based room upgrades, early check-in and late checkout based on availability, a $100 property credit to be used during your stay and a welcome gift. Those with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® can even redeem Ultimate Rewards points for stays booked at The Edit properties.

Other eligible cards for The Edit bookings include:

Rates at the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto over the next several months start at around $1,160 per night, while the Premier Garden View room I stayed in starts at $1,350 per night.

Standout features

  • It’s in an excellent location near the city’s main historical sights but removed from the tourist crowds.
  • It has a gorgeous historical ground anchored by a 12th-century garden and pond
  • The bi-level spa and fitness facilities have uniquely Japanese touches, including ofuro tubs for a soothing soak.
  • There are next-level cultural activities like a traditional tea ceremony and evenings in the city’s geisha districts (which have historically been off-limits to foreigners).


  • The breakfast spread is lavish with both Western and Japanese fare; however, the other food and dining experiences are in transition.
  • The hotel grounds are serene, but there are still visual and auditory reminders that you’re in the heart of the city.
  • Although well worth it for the level of service and refinement, high nightly rates make this a rarefied experience for the wealthy few.

The vibe

Tucked away beyond a bamboo-lined driveway straight out of an Ang Lee film and overlooking Shakusui-en ikenawa (a beauitfully preserved 12th-century garden and pond complete with a slender pagoda, believed to have once been part of the mountain villa of a powerful samurai), the Four Seasons Kyoto is an enclave of historical charm with just the right soupçon of present-day polish.


Guests can book private tea ceremonies (or sake tastings) at Fuju, the picturesque pondside teahouse, and watch exquisitely choreographed musical performances by a maiko (an apprentice geisha). They can also partake in avant-garde smoked cocktails in the Lounge & Bar or indulge in a facial incorporating state-of-the-art Kotoshina skincare products made from organic Kyoto green tea at the spa.


Is that a one-of-a-kind Hermes rickshaw in the lobby? Why, yes, it is. And do those adorable souvenir teddy bears wearing handmade kimonos in the boutique cost a relative fortune? Sure.

But are the cream-filled taiyaki fish-shaped waffles at the breakfast buffet a hit with the kids? Also yes. And it doesn’t cost extra to use the spa’s locker facilities, complete with ofuro-style hot tubs, or to take a dip in the serene underground pool.


So whether you want to soak up Kyoto’s cultural riches or simply take the family on a luxury vacation set in the present day, the Four Seasons Kyoto should fit the bill…if you can foot the substantial bill.

The room

My Premier Garden View room was on the same level as reception (third floor) and a few doors past the guest elevators. It was almost 600 square feet with panorama windows overlooking the garden and pond.

Just inside the front door was a small seating area where you could remove your shoes before proceeding into the rest of the room.


Along one wall, the wooden paneling was reminiscent of Kyoto’s famous Arashiyama bamboo grove; it held the closet with a safe and hanging area, as well as a spacious surface for storing luggage.

The main room held the king-size bed dressed in Four Seasons’ signature white linens with a small bench at its foot as well as a semi-separate living area with a sofa, ottoman and work desk.

Shielded by privacy dividers reminiscent of Kyoto’s famous decorative washi rice paper and painted with tree-like patterns, the sleeping area felt like a room unto itself.


There was a nightstand to each side. One had a decorative lamp, plugs, USB ports and a tablet with hotel information; the other had a Bluetooth speaker and switches to control the room’s lights, shades and curtains, which automatically lowered and closed to create a cocoon-like space.

Though the couch in the living room was upholstered in taupe fabric, the decorative pillows were quite colorful with purple and orchid-patterned accent pillows. There was also a round ottoman to rest one’s feet.

The stone-topped desk had a chair to either side, plus plugs and USB ports and controls for the shades and curtains.

On the wood-paneled wall next to the desk, the high-definition flat-screen television was 55 inches across.


Next to this, the minibar area had a hot water kettle plus a traditional teapot with two hand-painted porcelain cups, a Nespresso machine and a variety of snacks, including complimentary soy-glazed rice crackers and chocolate-covered gluten puffs.

Wine and Japanese gin, vodka and whiskey were also available, along with water and soft drinks.

The bathroom suite was enormous, taking up at least a third of the room’s footprint. It had sliding paper-screen doors separating it from the entry corridor and the bedroom (which also had a glass-door partition).


The main area had a sandy-colored marble floor and wall tiling with dual black granite sinks at the vanity. A drawer was stocked with amenities in case you left any toiletries at home, along with lavender-scented Diptyque soap and lotion.

The water closet had an automated Toto toilet with all the usual functions, including a heated seat.


Through a swinging glass door, the bathing area held the shower and the bathtub. The open shower had both an overhead and wall-mounted showerhead that you could also detach to hold in your hand, and the space was stocked with full-size Diptyque products.

The bathtub was rectangular and quite deep, with its own handheld spigot. It had both a bar of soap and a cloth for scrubbing yourself as well as sachets of yuzu-scented bath salts for a relaxing soak.

Both opulent and understated, the room, like the rest of the hotel, blended contemporary luxury sensibilities with a sense of place and past that felt like just the right combination of elements.


Food and drink

The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto has four main restaurants. Adjacent to the lobby (yes, just past that Hermes rickshaw and the ceramics from local studio Tohgoro on the nearby shelves) is the Lounge and Bar. It is open daily from noon until 11 p.m.

Though casual, the space feels upscale thanks to glossy black marble flooring and low-slung, tufted velvet chairs and banquettes. There’s plenty of natural light through the enormous windows.

The daytime menu features assorted pastries, including seasonal buches, coffee drinks, Jing teas and bar bites such as Japanese beef fillet sandwich bites ($20), calamari fritters ($22) and hummus with vegetables ($17).


In the evenings, you might find fellow guests sipping theatrically presented cocktails. The Yuzu Mule has chamomile and tangy yuzu and peach juice mixed with ginger ale and citron vodka ($26); the Smoky Old Fashioned truly lives up to its name with its melange of Japanese whisky, maple syrup, homemade cinnamon and orange bitters, and a cherry wood-smoke floater that wafts over the highball to intoxicating effect ($26).


The hotel’s fancy Edomae-style sushi restaurant, Sushi Wakon, was unfortunately closed during my visit but serves lunch and two set evening seatings (at 6 and 8 p.m.).

The menu changes daily depending on fish flown in fresh that day from Tokyo’s Toyosu Market and is served at a 26-foot, 10-seat counter crafted from 200-year-old hinoki wood. (There are also two private dining rooms for separate parties.) At lunch, you can have a simpler nigiri menu ($163), but dinner is a chef’s choice omakase feast with a panoply of dishes that can number well over a dozen ($222).


On my first afternoon, I ambled through the ancient grounds, feeding the friendly koi and ducks from a bridge over the pond. I then stopped by the hotel’s teahouse, Fuju, for a waterside sake tasting that included a dram of the hotel’s own Kyoto-made special cuvee ($40 for a tasting of three sakes).

The hotel also serves afternoon tea ($44 per person) with sweets like kumquat chiffon cake and Kyoto black bean panna cotta that vary seasonally. Guests can also order Champagne and cocktails or book a private tea ceremony or a romantic private dinner experience.

Finally, the hotel’s main restaurant, Brasserie, is one level down from reception via a grand staircase. It seems to be in a state of flux at the moment, and the lunch and dinner menus are not currently available.

However, I did enjoy the sumptuous breakfast buffet on both mornings of my stay, which is included in most nightly rates. It was too cold to eat on the outdoor terrace, but those are the seats to snag if you’re here in good weather. Otherwise, the nest-like booths along one side of the space feel private but accessible.


Guests can peruse the offerings along the bar. They range from sweet and savory pastries like matcha muffins and taiyaki waffles to DIY soba, various cheeses, cold cuts, fresh fruit, yogurt and daily special smoothies (the yuzu lettuce one was surprisingly refreshing).

Among the hot a la carte dishes available with the American breakfast were truffle free-range onsen (soft-poached) egg with creamy truffle and chicken jus and avocado toast with poached eggs. Go for the elaborately presented Japanese breakfast set, though, to enjoy broiled fish of the day, sweet tamago-style omelet, seasonal pickles, steamed rice and homemade tofu with ginger sauce — among other hearty bites.

Amenities and service

Aside from its spectacular grounds, part of what sets the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto apart from the city’s other luxury hotels is its cultural offerings. There are many paid activities, such as a private tea ceremony at Fuju ($135 per person) and a kimono experience where an expert helps dress you in traditional Japanese garb before a photo shoot around the property (from $54 per person). Two women I met at Fuju were participating in and enjoying immensely by their own account.


Guests can also take in a maiko (apprentice geisha) dance performance on certain evenings. A concierge team can assist with recommendations for the city’s best fan shops for unique souvenirs, last-minute reservations at hard-to-book restaurants like Tan and more.

The rest of the hotel staff members were likewise accommodating and helpful. They offered everything from suggestions on the breakfast and cocktail menus to an impromptu fitness center tour to bread for feeding the fish and ducks in the garden pond.

The restaurant waitstaff remembered my coffee order on the second morning of my stay and proactively replaced my cappuccino with a hot one after I’d left the first one to chat with someone away from my table for several minutes. In short, no need — great or small — went overlooked.


The hotel’s boutique sells everything from stylish hanao sandals from Whole Love Kyoto to kimono-clad teddy bears and decorative metal ornaments from Kazari Kanagu Takeuchi.

Its wellness complex, meanwhile, occupies two floors (B1 and B2). On one level, the expansive gym is equipped with Matrix cardio equipment, various weight machines and free weights, and a stretching and yoga studio. There are men’s and women’s locker rooms with bathrooms, showers, white-granite ofuros alongside traditional washing stations, steam rooms, saunas and resting areas.

It’s adjacent to the 65-foot indoor pool, which is a cavernous but beautifully lit space tiled in gray granite. It features plenty of loungers and daybeds, plus jacuzzis set under skylights for some natural illumination.

Up one level, the salon and spa have their own set of full locker rooms with the same amenities. The spa has just seven treatment rooms with decor inspired by Kyoto’s traditional machiyas or wooden townhouses. The services incorporate well-known international brands like Biologique Recherche from France and the Japanese label Tatcha.

The Akari (meaning “light”) facial is performed with Tatcha’s skincare line and a gold-leaf face massager inspired by the city’s famous geishas (starting from $209 for 60 minutes); the Kyoto Heritage shiatsu massage is designed to optimize the body’s flow of energy (starting at $182 for 60 minutes).

Out and about

The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is in the city’s historic Higashiyama Ward, near some of its most famous temples and shrines. It’s accessible to the wider metropolitan area thanks to the comprehensive public transport network of buses and trains.

Right around the corner, the Kyoto National Museum contains precious historical art and artifacts; the nearby Sanjunsangendo Temple, with its thousand statues of Kannon, the goddess of compassion, is not to be missed.


A 10- or 15-minute walk south of there, the grounds of Tofukoji Temple, with its rambling wooden bridge, are simply spectacular. From there, it’s another 10 or 15 minutes to the iconic red Torii gates of Fushimi Inari (and a heart-pumping hike to the summit past mystical moss-covered shrines and smirking fox statues, if you’re game).

From the hotel, guests can stroll about 15 minutes northeast to the sprawling hilltop temple complex of Kiyomizu-Dera and the unmistakable terraced spire of Yasaka Pagoda. Then, they can spend hours browsing the cafes, shops and galleries along the picturesque pedestrian streets of Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka before descending into the alleys of the traditional geisha district of Gion.


Just across the Kamo River, Nishiki Market beckons with its fragrant food stalls and vibrant souvenir shops. Although, you might want to catch a city bus or taxi from there to the Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds and gold-covered pavilion of Kinkakuji with its manicured gardens.



The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto has two wheelchair-accessible entrances, one on the side of the property where the residences are and the other at the hotel lobby.

The public spaces and guest hallways are wide and without stairs to allow for easy use of wheelchairs; all floors are also reachable via elevator.


Guests in wheelchairs should be able to navigate parts of the path around the garden and pond. However, the section closer to Fuju has more rough-hewn stones that might prove a challenge.

There is a single wheelchair-accessible deluxe room with a bathroom that’s larger than those of other rooms; it has sliding doors, a roll-in shower, a toilet with handrails and lowered sink counters. The bed has no special features to accommodate wheelchair users but is about 27 inches high. If you want to book it, you should contact the hotel directly to ensure that it is reserved for you.

Checking out

The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is at once completely modern but with palpable nods to the past that interplay authentically with the surrounding city’s historical legacy.

While the cultural offerings and tranquil grounds should delight travelers searching for a deeper experience of modern-day Japan, the contemporary accommodations and high-touch quality of the service make it a top choice for business and family travelers as well.


The top-shelf price point will put this hotel out of reach for many travelers. However, if it is within your budget and you can book either through a credit card portal or a travel adviser who can ensure extra perks, a stay here is well worth it.

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