Why Go: Consider the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto. “The hotel is meant to be a haven for contemplation,” says lead designer Agnes Ng of HBA. Opened on October 15, the 123-room hotel is nestled around a tranquil ikeniwa, or pond garden. Its traditional teahouse seems to float above the water. Guests walk on a picturesque glass bridge across the pond to Shakusui-tei, where they can participate in a traditional tea service or take a tea ceremony lesson. The venue stays open late, serving Kyoto sake and champagne for guests not ready to peel their eyes from the water’s sparkling reflection.
What to Expect: Winter, spring, summer, or fall, Kyoto’s natural beauty surrounds you. Ng chose shoji paper screens for the lobby, so the changing natural light would be filtered into the hotel, bringing the outside in. In the guest rooms, including Kyoto’s largest presidential suite, fusuma screens and oak flooring recall nearby imperial villas. Guests can walk to the Kyoto National Museum or drive into the city’s busy downtown in 10 minutes. Kyoto is littered with temples, castles, and shrines—some included among the city’s 17 UNESCO cultural World Heritage Sites. There are more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita in Kyoto than anywhere else, so dinner reservations are a must following a day of sightseeing.
How to Get There: Easily accessed by train, the hotel is about a mile from Kyoto Station. You can ride in from Tokyo, which takes just over two hours. The closest airport, Osaka International, is about an hour by car. (Nightly rates start at about $950, fourseasons.com)