Visual Hotel Review – Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, Japan
Stone steps lead through an 800-year-old Japanese garden where vibrant autumn trees dance delicately over a koi pond.
It’s every bit as enchanting as it sounds!
You’ll find this historic garden within the grounds of the sparkling new Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto at the foot of Higashiyama Mountain.
I’m not usually one to overly gush about somewhere with words (I prefer photos) but this hotel is an absolute haven of beauty that celebrates Japanese culture within a bambooed realm of luxury.
It may sound cliché but from the moment you walk through the doors you feel at ease. The décor, the light, the atmosphere; it exceeds expectations and makes you feel all warm and cosy.
The hotel beautifully blends the interior design with the landscapes outside which is evident as soon as you enter your room. Big glass windows are a feature throughout the hotel with the use of wooden furniture in little pockets of the corridors that feel make it feel as though you’re sitting in the garden.
Visiting in early December, I was lucky enough to have two Japanese maple trees in peak colours right outside my window. Waking up to their red and orange brilliance was enough to get me out of bed and picking up the camera very quickly as the morning light shone through illuminating them!
As an underwater photographer, walking into the pool room was like stepping into a ready-made photo shoot. Not only is the swimming pool (and spas!) huge, but lined alongside the water are day beds and comfy nooks with lanterns and mood lighting. It’s the ultimate place to chill out after a long day photographing around Kyoto. Actually, there’s also a relaxation room if you want even more down time with magazines, candles and little beds where you can pull the curtain closed and shut out the world.
“This hotel is an absolute haven of beauty that celebrates Japanese culture within a bambooed realm of luxury.”
If you’re visiting Kyoto to photograph the autumn leaves, cherry blossoms or the ancient imperial palaces and temples, Higashiyama is a great place to base yourself. The Four Seasons Kyoto is just a short walk from Kiyomizu-dera Temple where you can capture stunning sunsets of the city. It’s also not far into Gion, where dimly lit streets create a mysterious atmosphere and Geisha and Mako can be seen walking in the evening.
With the hotel wrapping around the Shakusuien ikeniwa (pond garden), it’s well worth spending a morning exploring and photographing within the 10,000m2 garden. I was told the garden was once within the villa and residence of Shigemori Taira (Lord Komatsu), who was the oldest son of the 12th century samurai Kiyomori Taira. If you wander down towards the tea house at the north-western corner of the pond you may even find a sword or two.
The Shakusui-tei (tea house) offers traditional tea ceremonies by day and in the evening is transformed into a sake and champagne bar. It also offers a beautiful view looking back across the pond especially in autumn when the rainbow of warm tones are visible all over the property.
From guest experiences such as Maiko dancing to the little gifts like Hoshigaki (persimmons) and bamboo charcoal left in the room, the efforts gone towards celebrating Japanese culture and traditions only enhance a stay here.
As with all of my other visual hotel reviews I’ll keep it visual. From now onwards I’ll let the photos do the talking and hope that you can see some of the magic I experienced during my stay at the serenely luxurious Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto.
To reserve a room for your own trip to Kyoto visit the hotel website.
Hello! I’m the founder and photographer behind The Wandering Lens. With 14+yrs experience as a professional travel and landscape photographer, all advice found on this site is from my personal experience on the road. I hope it’s useful for your own travels and would love to hear in the comments about your trips and experiences around the world.
I'm Lisa Michele Burns, a professional photographer and founder of The Wandering Lens from Australia. Welcome to your guide to photographing the world, improving your photography and scouting unique and inspiring places to experience with your camera. Click here to start exploring popular guides + articles. After four years online, The Wandering Lens has turned into the leading publisher of photography focused travel guides!