In the shadow of Higashiyama Mountain in the temple district of Japan’s ancient capital, a modern oasis of style has opened its doors – the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, secluded amid a two-hectare 12th century pond garden, yet just moments from key centres of business, culture, history and natural wonders.
“Kyoto is one of the world’s most alluring cities, but she can be shy in revealing her secrets – our mission at Four Seasons is to help our guests discover her wonders and experience all the city has to offer,” says General Manager Alex Porteous, who leads the 270-person team, 123 rooms and 57 hotel residences in the historic Higashiyama District, close to downtown.
Introducing the Experience Creator
To help guests immerse themselves in Kyoto’s traditional culture as well as its cutting edge innovation, Four Seasons has invented the Experience Creator. Hana Morioka was born in the city, and remembers seeing Shakusuien, the ikeniwa (pond garden) as a child, long before the hotel was built around it. Her mandate is to secure the many keys to the city that will take Four Seasons guests places even locals don’t know about.
Kyoto experiences may include a genuine Kiyomizu ceramics-making class using traditional techniques, with one’s own handmade pieces shipped home once the intricate process is complete; or lantern making that the whole family can enjoy together. Guests can have a ninja training session including kuji-in meditation, movement and weaponry. For the culinary traveller, Four Seasons helps decipher the Japanese palate, and points the way to the city’s most outstanding restaurants. The amateur chef even has the opportunity to take home a personally monogrammed Aritsugu kitchen knife made by a centuries-old artisan shop that originally crafted swords for the Imperial House of Japan.
For those who wish to explore the city, Four Seasons has developed three rickshaw tours, and Hana – who speaks fluent French as well as Japanese – can also arrange for multi-lingual guides for custom tours by car, rickshaw or foot.
Welcome to Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
Guest rooms – including 13 suites – are designed by Hirsch Bedner Associates to showcase views of the pond garden, Myoho-in Temple and surrounding neighbourhood. Traditional elements such as shoji panels, polished woods, locally crafted Kyoto-style fusuma screens and urushi lacquerware are paired with modern technologies. Selected accommodations, including the Presidential Suite, also have balconies. At 245 square metres indoors plus additional furnished outdoors space, the Presidential Suite is one of Kyoto’s largest.
In a city renowned for its continuing history of innovative cuisine, Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is a destination unto itself. The Brasserie brings the spirit of modern bistro fare to the city with a local twist. Dishes include Chef Tsuyoshi Iryo’s miso-marinated foie gras terrine and ox tongue bourguignon with local daikon and sprout salad. The pinnacle of Edo-Mae style sushi is showcased at Sushi Wakon, produced by Michelin-starred Chef Red Masuda, with Chef Masashi Yamaguchi serving just 10 guests per seating at the eight metre long hinoki counter.
In the Lounge, guests are treated to gourmet bites to accompany selections of domestic and imported whiskies and other spirits, creative coffee drinks, teas and other beverages. Across the pond, a tea house awaits at Shakusui-tei, with a menu of local sakes and champagnes.
The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto is grounded in the Japanese aesthetic of enso, connecting mind and body. A menu of rituals and therapies are performed in one of seven treatment rooms, including a couple’s suite. Of special note are skin care treatments using Tatcha, a luxury brand inspired by the 200-year-old style guide called Miyakofuzoku Kewaiden. The complex includes sauna, steam and whirlpool; a full-service beauty salon; state-of-the-art fitness centre; and 20-metre indoor pool.