Luxury Hotels

JAPAN – 9

OH the view from suite 301 of Four Seasons Kyoto – see above. Look out through all-wall windows, across the koi-filled lake at the lush walkway that leads to an all-purpose lake-side pavilion. On the way divert to take 20 steps up to a wishing temple, with pens and slates ready to write wishes.

Now Malaysian owned, the 123-room hotel – which also has 57 residences – was formerly Kyoto’s maternity hospital. Suite 301 is conveniently a short walk from the spacious lobby. Take an elevator down to the lowest level to the indoor pool, spa and magnificent Matrix gym (interesting wood floors and admirable supply of apples and bananas, not removed overnight as in so many 24/7 gyms). From the lobby, it is 30 steps, or an elevator, down to Emba all day restaurant and the garden walk.

Japanese gardens rely on greenery, stone, trees and water. Flowers are not essential, though there were a few pale blue flowers as peripheries to some tops of plant extensions. Back in the lobby there were three gigantic – 75cm across – putty-coloured flowers, clay sculptures. The lobby’s pièce de resistance must be, however, the full-size Hermès rickshaw. That’s right. Apparently this is the only rickshaw Hermès has ever made and it is chained to the floor to prevent any enthusiast literally running away with it. The lobby also has the ultimate open-plan library: there are some, ceiling-high, walls but, wherever, facing in or facing out, there are stacks of books on every aspect of Kyoto imaginable. Its past and present. Architecture. What you want is here.

You certainly know you are here, in Japan. Look, below, at a corner of the dining-area seating in suite 301. Such a brilliant iea to put fruit on the sofa back. It reminds the returning guest how revered each piece of fruit is. Gosh, there are so many stories to be told, here at Four Seasons Kyoto. Last words are reserved for the extraordinary GM, Fanny Guibouret. Brought up in Noumea – her parents were both hoteliers – she fell in love with Japan when she was 12. She taught herself the language, partly by speaking with Japanese tourists. Through hotel school, she spent years with Hyatt and joined Four Seasons in 2023. She manages the hotel, and her family (husband and four children) and she makes her own, exquisite, jewellery.

Staying at Four Seasons Kyoto, even if for one night, is a delightful introduction to a lifetime of stories.