News & Reviews Rest of the World Japan Photo review: The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto
Room type:
Garden Terrace Suite
16th > 18th December, 2017
Booked with:
 Dorsia Travel

I never thought I would write about a Ritz-Carlton property.  I always assumed were I to do so, it would not be by choice.  It would be because I was down to my last £10, and I squandered £9 of it at KFC so spent the remainder on a 3 night stay in a nearby Ritz-Carlton.  Yet The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto’s reviews seemed to defy that.  From every reputable source I could find, high praise was bestowed upon this property like no Ritz-Carlton has since it was legal to burn witches.  We originally booked the Four Seasons Kyoto, only to remember that our Four Seasons experiences in 2017 were rather poor between Florence, London and Prague.  Admittedly, an excellent stay in Cap Ferrat and our second stay in Prague after Kyoto did change that somewhat, but I’m not Mystic Meg, so don’t blame me for my bad decisions.

It’s been a while since I’ve stayed in a chain.  I could tell immediately I was dealing with one when it came to discuss with concierge some ideas for room setup for a birthday surprise.  I was sent three PDFs, each with photos and prices next to them that I could pick from.  Talk about personalised service.  Inmates at Alcatraz got more choice before they were put to death.

Better was the staff waiting outside for our arrival, even though I only gave them a vague arrival time.  We were immediately taken to our suite, which even included an Apple TV, as per my request, and the billed for wooden blocks of letters that spelt “Happy Birthday”.  Yes, apparently they even charge for words in Japan.  What happened to freedom of speech, huh?

The first room came with a bed designed to hide Goldilocks – two king beds combined together into possible Doomsday device.  It really was one of the largest beds I’ve ever seen, likely with its own timezones and entirely different languages spoken by the locals depending on which side you get out of.  The toiletries being Asprey started my Spidey sense tingling, but I suppose I should talk about its USP: the zen garden.  Were it not so cold that your breath would instantly turn into snow and smother your face, I may have enjoyed it.  Were the view not some half-empty river, it could have even been a delight.  Were I able to take something from the glassless kitchen, and then drink something from the half-empty minibar, we could have toasted this joyous occasion.  Were privacy not an issue, we could have even stood around wearing less-than our Sunday best, but after being told that no one could see into our room through the glass, we then came back later that evening and saw people in their rooms through the glass.   But that all just made it more cosy and personal, knowing that everyone is in this together.  If you do decide you don’t want to become part of some tentacle erotica, the lighting, curtains and blinds controls are very easy to use and but a buttons push away.

Elsewhere, an impressive cuisine selection was available between the Italian and Japanese restaurants; the latter offering 4 different styles of cuisine by 4 chefs.  We tried the sushi tasting menu for lunch which was prepared right in front of us at the sushi counter and offered good value, presentation and was delicious, even if occupancy was only around 5%, so no one else apparently thought so.  It is unfair to compare to 2 Michelin star restaurant that we ate at several days ago, but I do believe this is my blog, not yours, so I will anyway: it being a third of the price was a reflection of it being a third as good.  All’s fair in love and war.

When it came to the staff, they really did try and the service was one of their strong points.  The F&B Director, an ex-Four Seasons veteran, went out of his way to improve our stay just by talking to us and getting to know preferences.  He wanted us to try new cheeses that were soon to be on the menu, as well as ordering a selection of chia seeds from multiple countries after my partner enquired about it the day before.  We returned to the room on the second day to find a signed birthday card from the staff, as well as frequently seeing the GM, whom stopped to talk to us on several occasions.  My favourite was enquiring why the jet streams on the pool were off, to be told they only start at 10, yet a mere 5 minutes later he returned to say engineered had been asked to turn them on.  This was let down by the substandard moving of rooms that we experienced, which was just a mess and involved us having to pack everything ourselves, even though we were very clear that they could do it.


Breakfast in the Italian restaurant has no natural light and is overcrowded, whereas almost exactly the same buffet exists a few meters away with natural light, no people and a man-made waterfall for a view.

Do not mistake this for your breakfast, although the small and poor buffet selection is equally as appealing.

Garden Terrace Suite

The contents on this table cost more than my life insurance policy

The more TVs advertising Ritz-Carlton, the more brainwashing takes place to convince you they’re not so bad afterall.

Living room

There’s only so many ways I can say living room



Pictured: complimentary slippers that were 18 sizes too small. So small, they cannot be photographed.

So minimalist they forgot to add a door between the bathroom and bedroom.

Zero underfloor heating in a city that considers a heatwave being able to go outside and not die.

Private zen garden. Pictures not to serene scale

Zen garden

Zen garden

It’s not only the outsiders that can spy

Pool and Spa

How is this place a Ritz Carlton?!

Complimentary corpses are provided in each sauna

Spectacular viewed, ruined by the windows being as filthy as my web browser history

Against all odds, this pool was warm enough to swim in.

Shared steam room and sauna sit either side of the pool

After working up a sweat, why not cool down in their 38C Japanese baths in the changing rooms?

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world ESPA was good


I cannot put my finger on it.  Maybe it is the fact that Ritz and Carlton appear in its name; the former acceptable, the former and latter combined into a monster.  Maybe it’s that we booked the Four Seasons, then changed our minds and chose The Ritz-Carlton, only to tour the Four Seasons and realise what a mistake we made.  Maybe it was the note under the door on both nights that told us to make sure we book breakfast, as it was busy, making it feel like there’s another 18m other people present.  Maybe it was the overpowering Ritz-Carlton smell of mediocrity in the lobbies, or the poor show around we were initially given that showed me more the hatred the receptionist had in her heart than what the hotel had to offer.  Maybe it was the room’s growing pains, that is, the more time I spent there, the more pain I felt.

It could have been a Mastercard advert; happy birthday message: £20; drinks from the empty mini-bar: £0; receiving a show around: priceless, as in, not worth anything.

The small things can really got to me.  It was all enough to make me rate this as ok rather than excellent; it simply doesn’t inspire the same feelings like a property such as Aman Tokyo does.

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Tom Cahalan

Written by Tom Cahalan on 13th Jan '18

Dorsia Travel’s co-founder Tom Cahalan’s take on travel is reliably candid. Here’s his take on what’s good, bad, and luxurious.

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