The exquisitely captivating Four Seasons Kyoto
PHOTO: View of the Brasserie lobby at Four Seasons Kyoto (c) Sery Kim
When you think of the Imperial City of Kyoto, the ancient former capital of Japan famous for the Ginza District where the Geishas spread their lure, you think of a very traditional city where the roots of many of its citizens go back hundreds if not thousands of years. For me, as someone who has not only never been to Kyoto but never been to Japan, it was rather tough for me to think of a Kyoto beyond the one in the compelling book Memoirs of a Geisha. I envisioned in my brain women walking around in kimonos and the hub-bub of modern day electronic fueled life dimmed, i.e. the completely stereotypical view of Kyoto.
But the real Kyoto (just like the real anything outside of U.S. cultural touchpoints) is something far more interesting and nuanced. The traditions of Kyoto have been weaved with contemporary evolution and, for a hotel aficiando like me, nothing could evidence this development more than exploring the exquisite Four Seasons Kyoto.
PHOTO: View of the rooftops of a nearby Myoho-in Temple from the Four Seasons Kyoto (c) Sery Kim
Set in the heart of an 800 year old garden in Japan's ancient imperial capital, the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto was five years in the making. Every detail you could think of, with a design scheme carefully curated by Hirsch Bedner Associates, is tremendously striking.
PHOTO: Carport atrium to Four Seasons Kyoto (c) Sery Kim
You arrive to the hotel a quick ten minutes from the bullet train station. This is a key detail since the city of Kyoto does not have an airport so you have to fly into Tokyo and then take the two hour train ride over. Note also that while most of Tokyo seems to have free wi-fi everywhere (including on the train ride from the Tokyo Narita International Airport) the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto does not have it.
Architects Kume Sekkei and exterior designer Landscape Design put together this seamless exterior design while, on the inside, Hirsch Bedner Associates really outdid themselves in the overall architectural scheme.
PHOTO: Presidential Suite at Four Seasons Kyoto (c) Sery Kim
The signature Four Seasons service and experience is curated throughout the detailed rooms. Beds are the signature, super-comfortable Four Seasons bed, but the key feature is the shower and soaking tub (which I literally stood on my knees and the water came up more than halfway to my chest while when I laid in it my feet was still a good foot away from the edge!!!) where you move the doors to the shower to create a fully immersive spa experience.
PHOTO: My suite at Four Seasons Kyoto (c) Sery Kim
Guests have the option of views of the pond garden, the Myoho-in Temple (photo above) and the surrounding area of Higashiyama-ku -- Kyoto has 1,600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines and an incredible 17 World Heritage Sites. In particular, the pond named Shakusuien is quite notable, as well as quite beautiful, with a storied history as the site of the epic Japanese poem of the 12th century period "The Tale of Heike (The Taira Clan)." People have likened the pond Shakusuien to Mount Horai, the Island of the Immortals, where one can find lasting peace and contentment and I can say I do feel rather more peaceful here.
Generally speaking -- and this is NOT a critique but more a preference -- I rather prefer the temple view simply because it feels like you are in an ancient capital not that it makes any difference since the only time I am in my room is at night!
PHOTO: Hermes ricksaw on property (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Stunning 20 meter pool at Four Seasons Kyoto (c) Sery Kim
I wish I could somehow bottle up the beautiful smells and dimensions of this astonishing property. The scale of having so much land and so much fresh wood is fascinating for exploration, particularly when no detail has been left undone. You can smell the different kinds of wood throughout the property. In fact, in one particular long corridor, the owners commissioned the architects to use marble tile and literally hammered 3/4ths of it so it was both pebbled as well as smooth. Breathtaking. I mean, for me, the Four Seasons Bosphorus has always been my favorite Four Seasons property but I would say this is rather very high up there as a close 1(a) and 1(b) now!
PHOTO: The gorgeous Lounge (c) Sery Kim
Naturally another compelling element of this property is the food-and-beverage program. We had both lunch and dinner on the property, and it had probably the best food I've had so far on this trip. Oh. And don't forget to order an Old-Fashioned made with one of the delicious Japanese whisky's!
PHOTO: Some of the really gorgeous Japanese whisky's (c) Sery Kim
PHOTO: Burrata Cheese and Semi Dried Persimmon Black Sesame Puree (c) Sery Kim
Really enjoyed the Japanese fusion into the American food such as the Burrata Cheese and Semi Dried Persimmon Black Sesame Puree which has been the best thing I've eaten so far on property. Also, something both Four Seasons property has had are tremendous vegetables. My salad at lunch "Firefly Squid and Grilled Kyoto Bamboo Shoot Pea Mousee" was both hearty and healthy, filled with a vibrant array of colors, and the bread made here is every carb-o-holic's dream!!
PHOTO: Firefly Squid and Grilled Kyoto Bamboo Shoot Pea Mousee (c) Sery Kim
I am most looking forward to our last meal here at the Sushi Wakon, an exclusive Edo-style Japanese restaurant and sushi bar with a mere ten available seats in the open area and two very private rooms for four or eight guests. Master Chef Rei Masuda, a disciple of world-famous Master Jiro Ono (of the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi) where he worked for nine years, spent seven days on the property just testing the vinegar on the rice. The detail and level of perfection required to bring this restaurant to life makes my mouth salivate at the idea I will get to experience it myself in two short days!!
Also, word on the street is that they have an incredible spa program here. Can't wait to try that tomorrow! But irrespective of what happens there, you HAVE to come to Kyoto to experience this property. Really. I could spend a week here and want to stay longer!!