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5 nights at the Four Seasons Kyoto

5 nights at the Four Seasons Kyoto

Old Apr 21, 19, 10:48 pm
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5 nights at the Four Seasons Kyoto

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

Map| 2 Reviews | 100% Recommended

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

445-3 Myohoin Maekawa-cho, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto, JP 605-0932

5 nights at the Four Seasons Kyoto (64 Photos)

Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto

If you want to stay at a "brand name" 5-star hotel chain in Kyoto there's really only two options: the Four Seasons (FS) and the Ritz Carlton (RC).  The RC was the first game in town and the Four Seasons is slightly newer than RC. (There are other Kyoto options of course, but Suiran is in a very different area of Kyoto and a high end ryokan is going to be a different experience.  And Aman Kyoto is forthcoming.)  

Design-wise, I see a palpable philosophical difference between the FS Kyoto and RC Kyoto.  Although they both have plenty of Japanese design elements, the FS struck me as more "traditional western luxury" because it uses a lot of light marble, shiny floors and has a big, open bright lobby.  The RC Kyoto feels more Japanese in terms of using a lot of wood and patterns and the lobby feels more intimate, dark, dramatically-lit and lounge-like.  The same design aesthetic applies to the rooms.  For example, the bathrooms highlight the biggest differences: the FS has marble everything while the RC is mostly wood and black stone (especially the RC shower with wood slats on the floor).  In the common areas the FS design seems quite a bit more bland while the RC was more dramatic (esp. lighting effects).

Room

I stayed in a "Premier Room -- Kyoto View" room at the FS.  There are only three rooms in that category (room number 417, 419 and 421), and I booked two of them for 5 nights :-)  The view of the temple was nice but a bit boring and basically dark at night.  In retrospect, I suspect a garden view might have been more interesting (but from reviews it seems like a fair number of the garden view rooms have a partial or poor view where most of the view is a road or wall).

Ignoring the aesthetic / decor differences, on balance, a room at the FS Kyoto is probably better equipped than a comparable room at the RC Kyoto: larger, decked out with more features, etc.  The FS (non-suite) rooms are also a bit larger than RC, especially the entry level category  All standard FS rooms are ~570 sq ft while the entry level RC are ~483 and the Luxury rooms are ~560.  [I stayed in the Luxury category room at the RC.]  

Although it doesn't look like it on first glance, the FS room has a lot of closet storage space.  It's been a while since I stayed at the RC, but I feel like it was more closet space than our RC Luxury room.  There's also more of a real desk for a laptop at the FS.  

Some musings on room features:

  • Our room didn't have a balcony but it did have a door that could open plus a little retractable bug screen.  
  • The shower and tub area has a nice trick where it can turn into a steam room by folding the shower glass doors outward to block the entrances to the bath chamber.  
  • I also like the fact that the bathroom can completely close off from light with opaque sliding doors.  They also lock.
  • As a small downside,  the tub / shower area is sunken and creates a toe-stubbing hazard.  
  • In room bath amenities were Lorenzo Villoresi Firenze.  They were unmemorable.
  • The separate toilet room has a coat hook.  I like that!  I also like the fact that you can raise the seat with the Toto control and not have to lean over... just press a button.
  • The chairs in the room were slightly awkward for in room dining.  One person often ended up having to use the ottoman as a stool.

The FS has an in-room tablet for ordering all kinds of things.  E.g. you can have them send different pillow or ice to the room via the tablet.  They also have no in room dining menu except for the a tablet.  In general, I really dislike it when hotels do this because it makes it hard to browse the menu at a glance.  You have to click on a category, scroll through that set of items, click on another category, etc.  It also hides things.  For example the chocolate cake dessert is under "express menu" category... not desserts.  The delicious Bolognese pasta entree is under the "express menu"... not entrees.  The tablet menu UI was far far better than the terrible tablet at the Peninsula Paris, but it would still crash every time you navigated to the Spa section.  Sigh.

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Service

The 4S Kyoto service was mostly positive for me but I felt let down on housekeeping being out of my way (more on that later).  

My pre-arrival concierge experience was great.  I booked a few events via email and everything was very smooth and responsive.  A few days before check-in I got an automated email to indicate my arrival time and noticed that they suggested contacting the hotel via Facebook messenger.  They were super responsive over FB messenger and I used that consistently; while riding the bullet train from Tokyo, I was even able to arrange a van with a meet and greet at the rail platform using FB messenger on my phone!  Every hotel should do this as far as I'm concerned.  It also helped with the language barrier because text avoids pronunciation issues.

At the hotel my main service gripe was housekeeping timing: they were always in the room or coming by when we most wanted to relax in our room after sightseeing. I like it when housekeeping is like a magic invisible team that sneaks in whenever you weren't around and you always came back to a fresh room.  At the 4S, we we always puzzling, "hrm... they still haven't cleaned things at 3:30pm when we've been gone since 9am?" And turndown rang our doorbell at 9:45pm when we were already in bed.  On day 4 of 5 we just started pressing the "service room now" button when we left and that mostly worked but I felt like I shouldn't have had to do that, especially when a lot of the events we were going to were arranged by the hotel concierge.

Also, pretty much whenever I called the front desk or room service it would ring for minutes and then the operator would tell me they were busy and would have to call me back later.  

In the room they were constantly bringing us fruit or Japanese sweets or little tiny gifts.  It was a nice touch.

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Location

I don't really care much for the location.  I've stayed at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto before the RC was open and it's literally within a block of the 4S.  Some people don't like being close to Gion or touristy areas but I preferred the RC location because I like to have options to grab something quick and cheap like Starbucks in the morning.  Around the 4S nothing is open until like 10am (save a 24 hour McDonalds) and your on property options are limited and overpriced.  Many things I'd like to walk to are 20-30 mins from the FS vs. 10-15 from the RC and my traveling companions are not as patient so that mostly meant taking a cab vs. walking.  :-)

Also, note that from 8am to 9am every weekday you can't take a cab from the front entrance.  You have to go to the residence side of the hotel. They close the street while school children are coming to the school right nearby.
 

Dining

I only tried the Brasserie and in-room dining (which is mostly from the Brasserie as well).  I'd say the food was serviceable on average but overpriced.  I never tried breakfast and I mostly ordered western food. I specifically enjoyed the Bolognese entree and hated the Caesar salad.  The caprese with mango and the foie gras appetizers were good.  The Japanese beef curry rice dish had fantastic fatty medium rare slices of steak but the curry sauce was pretty one-note, flavor-wise.

One notable bar / lounge option is the tea house in the garden.  They serve afternoon tea 2-5pm and then champagne and sake from 5-9pm.  You can order champagne in the afternoon too though.  I didn't try tea but was in there for champagne a few times.  It's a nice peaceful environment.

Spa / Pool / Gym

The gym is quite well equipped for a small luxury hotel.  It was much larger than the RC gym.  The FS also has men's and women's saunas and a hot and cold tub in each respective changing room.  The changing rooms also had relaxation area alcoves with daybeds in them.

I didn't use the pool but on my one walk-through it looked to have some interesting pool chairs that were partially submerged in the pool, plus some cabana like seats around the pool. 

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Overall

Overall, the Four Seasons has very good in-room hard product and large entry-level rooms.  Compared to the RC, the FS's public spaces were a bit bland design-wise.  And the service was mostly good excepting the annoying housekeeping timing.  The concierge was especially responsive (and especially via FB messenger).  I don't love the location.  A good stay, everything considered.

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5 nights at the Four Seasons Kyoto

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Old Apr 24, 19, 9:34 am
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Great review and thank you for sharing!!

Did you guys receive an upgrade at all?
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Old Apr 24, 19, 9:43 am
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Originally Posted by BESVISOR View Post
Great review and thank you for sharing!!

Did you guys receive an upgrade at all?
Thanks :-)

No upgrade. We booked two "Premier Room – Kyoto View" rooms and that's the category we were given (room comparison page on the FS site).

It was just a normal flexible non-breakfast rate booked via the Citi Prestige concierge w/o any stated benefits like Virtuoso.
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Old Apr 24, 19, 10:15 am
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Originally Posted by david22 View Post
Thanks :-)

No upgrade. We booked two "Premier Room Kyoto View" rooms and that's the category we were given (room comparison page on the FS site).

It was just a normal flexible non-breakfast rate booked via the Citi Prestige concierge w/o any stated benefits like Virtuoso.
Ahh, gotcha! Was surprised and curious if it was booked through FSPP.

Cheers!!
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Old Jun 27, 19, 1:50 pm
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We just stayed at the FS Kyoto and this is a great summary. I'd agree with just about everything with a couple of exceptions. We had the same type of room but with an upgrade to the lovely garden view (courtesy of BESVISOR/FSPP).

Since you didn't have breakfast, I will describe that briefly. There is a giant buffet with both American-style and Japanese (and Chinese) items. There is also a menu for items from the kitchen. Solid breakfast with a ton of options.

The room service dinner we ordered one night was meh. On your housekeeping issue, we pretty religiously hit the make-up room button when leaving, so we didn't have that issue. I also like that they have butler closets for pickup/dropoff.

We were coming from the Aman Tokyo (with an intervening weekend in Kanazawa), so we were measuring it against a very high standard. I'd say that the FS was definitely a clear cut below the Aman. The room was nice, particularly the bathroom, but in a pretty conventional western hotel way, and the narrowness of the room was definitely something you felt. Definitely not the airy commodious feel of the Aman. But perfectly nice, and I liked that you could open the window (it was a little steamy for us to leave it open for long in mid-June).

I agree that the location is a bit of a pain. I certainly would have liked a neighborhood suitable for some wandering (this was our first visit to Kyoto).

My biggest complaint with the FS really was the Concierge/Front Desk service, particularly pre-arrival. They were stunningly non-responsive to email, requiring numerous follow-ups just to get someone to answer (and not even that helpfully). I ended up using online reservation services for a couple of places because I couldn't get he FS staff to assist. That definitely ended up costing us money in booking fees, etc. Similarly, we took a one night break during our stay to spend the night at a Ryokan in town (Hiiragiya). They could not wrap their minds around it, and we had to keep explaining why we had two separate reservations, which was fine, but when we checked back in, we assumed that they had taken care of putting our bags back in our new room. Of course, as it turned out, nobody had any clue that they had our bags, and they had to be tracked down. Nothing disastrous, but at the cost, not what you're looking for.

One highlight on the service side is Raul in the bar. Not only was he friendly and made a mean drink, but he gave us excellent recommendations for some of the hip cocktail venues around town. We also had dinner at Sushi Wakon in the hotel, which was quite good if not at the level of other sushi experiences we had in Tokyo.

This sounds pretty whiny overall, but all of the good stuff that was covered in the OP's review is all true. The FS Kyoto is a high-level luxury hotel and we had a lovely stay. In particular, the garden setting lends a lovely feel to an urban hotel (and the low hum of the kids from the school next door during the day was kind of charming). But the hotel and rooms themselves while nice are not that distinctive, and given the somewhat out-of-the-way location and the service issues we experienced, I would probably try somewhere else next time (by which time the Aman Kyoto should be open -- assuming I hit the lottery in the meantime).

Cheers.

Al
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Old Jun 27, 19, 3:20 pm
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Thanks for adding your experience and observations!

Originally Posted by fat_al_nyc View Post
My biggest complaint with the FS really was the Concierge/Front Desk service, particularly pre-arrival. They were stunningly non-responsive to email, requiring numerous follow-ups just to get someone to answer (and not even that helpfully).
Curious: did you try to contact them using Facebook Messenger? FWIW, I had a very good experience using that. (Although all of my requests FB messenger were in Japan mostly during "business hours"... I didn't try contacting them far enough pre-arrival when I was in the US).

Edit: But regardless of whether you used messenger, you definitely shouldn't have experienced low responsiveness using email at a Four Seasons. :-)

Last edited by david22; Jun 27, 19 at 3:27 pm
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Old Jun 28, 19, 6:43 am
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Originally Posted by david22 View Post
Thanks for adding your experience and observations!



Curious: did you try to contact them using Facebook Messenger? FWIW, I had a very good experience using that. (Although all of my requests FB messenger were in Japan mostly during "business hours"... I didn't try contacting them far enough pre-arrival when I was in the US).

Edit: But regardless of whether you used messenger, you definitely shouldn't have experienced low responsiveness using email at a Four Seasons. :-)
I didn't try Messenger with them, but it was never suggested to me. My first inquiries were during cherry blossom season and there was an auto-response saying they were busy and might be delayed in responding to inquiries. But the lack of response never changed as my stay got closer.
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Old Mar 6, 20, 9:50 pm
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Excellent review with beautiful photos. Did you take them with a cell phone camera or a professional-grade camera?
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Old Mar 7, 20, 1:54 am
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Originally Posted by Nagasaki Joe View Post
Excellent review with beautiful photos. Did you take them with a cell phone camera or a professional-grade camera?
Thanks for the kind words! I took the pictures with a Google Pixel 2 phone. I generally take a lot of extra photos and use the ones that turn out the best, and I often use the "Night Sight" camera mode when taking pictures indoors to get better dynamic range / clearer detail in darker areas. Then when I'm selecting the images to keep, I tweak the colors / contrast using Google Photos.
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Old Jun 7, 20, 5:29 am
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Thanks for these insights fat_al_nyc.
Aman is the best hotel in Kyoto in terms of service but its location outside town. Not to forget the Ritz Carlton, which is located directly on the river and therefore has a unique charm. Now the Park Hyatt is opened, which I want to visit on my next trip to Japan.
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Old Jun 10, 20, 9:29 pm
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Originally Posted by Privateupgrades View Post
Thanks for these insights fat_al_nyc.
Aman is the best hotel in Kyoto in terms of service but its location outside town. Not to forget the Ritz Carlton, which is located directly on the river and therefore has a unique charm. Now the Park Hyatt is opened, which I want to visit on my next trip to Japan.
I really like the new PH Kyoto. I hope you will get to try it. If you're getting view room, go for 711. It's the best view "room" on site.
I had a great stay at Aman Kyoto as well but do feel like it's really for those who have been to Kyoto already and will stay on site at Aman and 3 nights is probably the perfect length
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Old Jun 10, 20, 9:44 pm
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Originally Posted by david22 View Post
Thanks :-)

No upgrade. We booked two "Premier Room Kyoto View" rooms and that's the category we were given (room comparison page on the FS site).

It was just a normal flexible non-breakfast rate booked via the Citi Prestige concierge w/o any stated benefits like Virtuoso.
Why didn't you book through virtuoso?
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Old Jun 10, 20, 10:01 pm
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Originally Posted by zack14 View Post
Why didn't you book through virtuoso?
Because I was booking through the Citi 4th night free program.
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Old Aug 6, 20, 11:03 am
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Originally Posted by david22 View Post
Because I was booking through the Citi 4th night free program.
That is an amazing use of the 4th night free, because Kyoto hotels have some of highest rates I've seen at a non-resort destination.
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Old Aug 6, 20, 11:39 am
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Originally Posted by bwptravel View Post
That is an amazing use of the 4th night free, because Kyoto hotels have some of highest rates I've seen at a non-resort destination.
Thanks :-)

Generally speaking, I really made 4th night free count. I'm not like business travelers or travel bloggers... I only go on a few vacations a year. Some of my top uses of 4th night:
* Suite at Hotel de Crillon in Paris (this credit was like $2400)
* Jr. Suite at Peninsula in Paris.
* 1br Suite at Hotel TwentySeven in Amsterdam.
* Gritti Palace in Venice (would have been... trip was canceled due to COVID).

IIRC some people used to get very high credits because Citi used to refund the specific nightly rate for just the 4th night rather than average of nights... and they would strategically book where the 4th night was New Year's Eve in Paris or a fight night in Vegas or something.
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