Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan are highly sought-after destinations, gaining increased popularity after a 2.5-year hiatus for international travelers. The allure lies in the rich blend of traditional and modern culture. But before you pack your bags, it’s crucial to understand how the surge in interest emphasizes the importance of meticulous trip planning.
With nearly 20 years of experience, we can confidently serve as a reputable resource for travel to Japan, boasting strong partnerships at the top five-star hotels and our extensive trip-planning expertise. Meg on our team recently explored Tokyo and Kyoto, bringing back invaluable insights essential for anyone contemplating a journey to Japan.
Tokyo and Kyoto: a Perfect Pairing
Tokyo and Kyoto offer distinctive international travel experiences. Tokyo, with its modernity showcased through fast trains and bustling streets, extends beyond its futuristic exterior. A vibrant city catering to diverse interests, Tokyo is a must-visit for those seeking an exhilarating and avant-garde adventure. While navigating its extensive transportation network might seem challenging, insider knowledge and strategic planning can make it a seamless journey.
Choosing the right neighborhood for accommodations is pivotal in maximizing your trip. Each area provides a unique experience, so tailoring your choice to align with your interests is essential. Kyoto and Tokyo, often likened to two sides of the same coin in Japanese travel, represent the contrast between a modern metropolis and a hub of traditional Japanese culture. Combining both cities creates a well-rounded trip to truly experience Japan. Plus, you can easily get from one city to the other via bullet train which takes you on a speedy, 1 hour and 45 minute journey.
Pro Tip: we recommend allocating at least four days to each city to fully immerse yourself in their distinct offerings. Spring, with its cherry blossom season, and fall, displaying vibrant foliage in reds and oranges, are particularly picturesque times to visit. However, in summer and winter, extremes in temperature require careful planning.
Although Four Seasons Tokyo is a boutique hotel with only 57 rooms, it aims to provide exquisite service and attention to detail. This is one of the smallest hotels in the Four Seasons portfolio with an ambiance that is intimate and relaxing; like coming home. From the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment you check out of the hotel, the staff goes above and beyond to ensure your stay is nothing short of exceptional. They even make the effort to address guests by their names, adding a personalized touch to your stay.
Despite its location in central Tokyo, the hotel is buffered from outside distractions by triple-glazed windows and a secluded, cocoon-like position; tucked away from the busy street it sits on. Most of the hotel facilities including the restaurants and spa are on the seventh floor. This makes for great city views from all sides of the hotel and ensures little to no noise coming from the busy streets below.
In the heart of Tokyo’s busy streets, Aman Tokyo is a wellness retreat that harmonizes luxury and tranquility. It’s an escape where minimalist design meets Japanese aesthetics, inviting guests to discover serenity amidst the city’s vibrancy. Our clients love the location because of its close connection to several modes of public transit and the famous Imperial Gardens. Connected to the five-line Otemachi subway station, Aman Tokyo ensures convenient exploration of the city. For those seeking a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of Tokyo, Aman Tokyo promises an unforgettable experience of Zen-inspired luxury.
In our expert opinion, this Aman, the largest to date, is a renowned and special place that is best left to leisure travelers. Business travelers may find the layout and in-room setup to be less conducive to productivity.
While there is certainly no shortage of things to do in Tokyo, we’ve highlighted some top choices based on Meg and our client’s experiences. Both hotels Meg stayed at were centrally located and near the infamous bullet train, which would later take her to Kyoto for the second portion of her trip. While Meg wasn’t able to take advantage of this, one of the most iconic day trip options is Mount Fuji. This can be set up through Four Seasons and costs USD 754 per person. Visit an area halfway up the World Heritage-registered site and explore lakes with an expert national government-licensed guide.
Four Seasons Tokyo at Marunouchi is within walking distance of the Ginza shopping area (one of the most famous shopping districts in the world). Four Seasons offers a sushi-making class with a local chef, who will personally escort you through the Tsukiji fish market. If you’re looking for something nature-oriented, we recommend the Bonsai Garden Tour. If you want to see and learn more about Japan’s breathtaking architecture, you can sign up for a half-day architecture tour or a day trip to Kamakura. For a full list of experiences, click here.
Aman Tokyo offers noteworthy cultural experiences, including an immersive tour of contemporary and classical art galleries and a behind-the-scenes sumo experience. Through Aman, you can also experience the sights of Tokyo from a new perspective with a relaxing boat ride down the Sumida River. For a full list of Aman’s experiences, click here.
Our Hotel Plus team can assist with these reservations and help you select the best tours based on your travel preferences.
Since Meg was so spoiled for choice with hotel restaurants, she opted to dine onsite rather than venture to nearby spots. With four extraordinary dining venues on-site, Aman Tokyo has become a culinary mecca. From immersive dining adventures to indulgent afternoon teas, visitors journey through a diverse array of flavors that beautifully complement the hotel’s serene ambiance.
Food enthusiasts will be delighted by the dining options at Four Seasons Tokyo at Marunouchi. The hotel boasts two exceptional restaurants that cater to diverse palates.
Sézanne is a two-Michelin-starred French culinary haven. Ranked as the number two restaurant on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List 2023 and Best Restaurant in Japan on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, Sézanne offers a gastronomic journey that you will surely remember for years to come. The cuisine is seasonally updated and is plated with precision. Choose from a variety of eclectic champagne bottles and classic desserts. Reservations in advance are a must!
The hotel’s second restaurant, Maison, is a Parisian-style bistro that provides stunning views of the Shinkansen bullet trains and cityscapes. Indulge in a delightful daily breakfast spread, featuring a combination of a large buffet and a la carte menu. Plus, when booking with Team O you are granted a complimentary sumptuous breakfast experience.
Four Seasons Kyoto, Higashiyama District
Four Seasons Kyoto is strategically located at the foot of the Higashiyama temple district, just a 10-minute drive from downtown Kyoto. The hotel’s proximity to historic landmarks, palaces, gardens, Buddhist temples, and Shinto shrines makes it an ideal base for exploring Kyoto’s rich history and culture.
Meg’s experience at Four Seasons Kyoto was nothing short of exceptional, which is to be expected at any Four Seasons Hotel. From the seamless arrival process to the well-appointed accommodations, delicious dining options, and serene surroundings, the hotel exceeded expectations. If you’re planning a visit to Kyoto and seek a peaceful retreat that seamlessly blends modern luxury with traditional Japanese charm, Four Seasons Kyoto should be at the top of your list. It’s a haven where nature and tranquility take center stage, making it a perfect choice for travelers looking to experience the essence of Kyoto’s rich history and culture.
HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO is a traditional Japanese-style hotel that blends modern luxury with traditional tranquility. It has a spacious indoor-outdoor lobby design that opens up to a serene courtyard with a zen garden and a reflecting pool. HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO is the perfect hotel for guests looking for a tranquil escape in the heart of Kyoto, Japan. It’s famously known for its Thermal Spring Spa which was awarded four stars in the spa category in Forbes Travel Guide 2023. A modern reimagining of the traditional Japanese tearoom, the 161 guest rooms and 22 suites feature carefully chosen natural materials elevated using artisanal skills. Some suites also include private onsen, hot springs, and baths.
Kyoto’s slower pace and emphasis on preserving its cultural identity make it a favorite destination for those seeking a more immersive experience in Japan’s ancient traditions, arts, and rituals. Kicking off her stay, Meg attended a private shopping and kimono fitting event at Hosoo. Through HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO, Meg also enjoyed a private tour of the Hokyoji Temple. HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO also provides a variety of other cultural adventures for guests, such as calligraphy, flower arrangement classes, and other traditional arts. For a full list of activities, click here.
Four Seasons Kyoto offers a plethora of private classes. Our recommendations are the cooking class, sake tasting, and private tea ceremony, although you can’t go wrong with any Four Seasons experience.
With its rich food culture, Kyoto is a city famous for its culinary delights. Four Seasons Kyoto offered Meg one of the most memorable experiences she’s ever had at Sushi Wakon. Pro Tip: Call in advance and book one of the 10 available reservations. Managed by renowned sushi chef Rai Masuda, rounds of delectable, ultra-fresh seafood including Hokkaido scallops, red clams, and golden snapper are carefully prepared and presented.
The hotel’s restaurant, The Brasserie overlooks the pond garden and serves Asian-European fusion food throughout the entire day, offering guests a diverse and flavorful dining experience. For a full list of dining options, click here.
At HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO, the Michelin-star culinary team goes above and beyond to deliver the ultimate gastronomic experiences to guests’ tables, selecting only the finest ingredients from around the world and across Japan, including the famed local Kyoto produce. The hotel boasts five distinct restaurants and bars, each with a unique menu and style: TOKI, FORNI, THE GARDEN BAR, and SHIKI-NO-MA, all of which offer stunning views of the beautifully curated garden. Diners can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of the seasons while indulging in the hotel’s exceptional cuisine. If you’re traveling with a large group, you have the option to rent a private dining room for unparalleled privacy.
Plan Your Japan Vacation With Us!
As an exclusive partner with Four Seasons, HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO, and Aman, we can offer our clients complimentary benefits for their stay:
- Mornings that start with complimentary breakfast for two
- A complimentary room upgrade, based on availability at check-in
- A 100+ USD resort credit towards incidentals such as food and beverage or the spa
- Early check-in / late check-out, based on availability
- A personalized welcome amenity upon arrival
For more information on travel to Japan and how we can provide exclusive perks like daily breakfast, resort credits, upgrades, exclusive tours and activities, and more — reach out to the team via email or submit a Travel Request Form. From there, we can match you with the best service level for your planning. If you already know that you’re looking for a fully customized itinerary, you can schedule a complimentary discovery call with our Tailored Luxury expert to see if we’re a good fit.
From the breathtaking scenery and architectural marvels to the deeply rooted traditions and cutting-edge technology, Japan stands out as a destination like no other. Whether you’re immersing yourself in the vibrant energy of Tokyo or savoring the tranquil beauty of Kyoto, there’s a constant stream of new and captivating discoveries awaiting you.