Since it opened last February, the stone, steel and glass Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto on the banks of the Kamo River has become the most highly praised Western-style hotel in Japan’s cultural capital. One late afternoon in October, the lobby lounge was filled with stylishly dressed locals who’d stopped in for tea and pastries by star Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé. The popularity of this hotel with discerning residents is perhaps an even greater measure of its success than its acclaim by international travelers, since Kyotoites are as aesthetically astute and demanding as Parisians.
The 134-room hotel has a decidedly Japanese décor of oak, stone and a largely neutral color palette. Recommended Luxury Rooms come with electrically operated Japanese screens and curtains, bonsai trees and baths with separate showers and soaking tubs. Amenities include an indoor pool and spa, a Japanese restaurant for kaiseki, sushi, tempura and teppanyaki cuisines, plus La Locanda for classic Italian cooking. This property should be booked as far in advance as possible, especially during the spring cherry-blossom season and the peak months of September and October.
The strong sense of place; the views of Kamo River from most rooms; the convenient location next to the Gion district.
The limited amount of room storage space; public areas that are sometimes dominated by wedding or conference attendees.
Complimentary bike tours are available.