Hotel review: The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto in Japan

In Kyoto, Japan, competition across the hotel landscape is fierce. There are numerous luxury brands with outposts here: Aman, Four Seasons, Six Senses and LXR’s Roku Kyoto. Which hotel is right for you depends on your bank account, points balance and vacation style. If you’re seeking to spend points or free night certificates, you’ve got many excellent options from Hyatt, Hilton, IHG and Marriott, including The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto.

For my springtime getaway to Japan, I focused on high-end hotels where I could pay with loyalty currencies. I also typically enjoy staying at a good Ritz, so that’s how I ended up selecting The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto out of the city’s myriad options for two of the nights I was there. Here’s what you can expect if you stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto.

Getting there

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto entrance. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

We arrived from the Park Hyatt Kyoto, but most travelers probably get here via the Shinkansen bullet train. The ride from Tokyo to Kyoto Station takes two hours and 15 minutes. We paid 15,400 Japanese yen (about $98) one-way per person for first-class reserved seats. (We bought tickets on the smartEX app.) Disembark at Kyoto Station and take a taxi to The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. It will take about 10 minutes and cost around $12-$15.

You may also fly into Osaka International Airport (ITM) and then take a car service or taxi to The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. The trip by car takes about 50 minutes. You could also catch the train from there to Kyoto and then take a taxi.

There is a train station near the hotel (Sanjo Station on the Keihan Line). If your itinerary takes you to Osaka next, you can take the Keihan Line there (Yodoyabashi Station). Two subway stations — Kyoto City Hall and Tozai — are also within walking distance from the Ritz.

Booking details

Courtyard at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

In terms of loyalty strategy, our household operates in a two-player mode where both my husband and I hold certain credit cards with perks we can use throughout the year. When we decided to visit Kyoto, our initial plan was to stay at the Park Hyatt Kyoto for the entire duration. However, we realized we each had a free night certificate worth up to 85,000 points from the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.

Our plans then morphed to spend the last two nights of our trip at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. We did have to “top up” each certificate with some points — 11,000 points for one night and 15,000 points for the other — in order to book since the award nights were priced above 85,000 points each. The cash price for the same room during our stay was $1,059. I felt this was a good use of these certificates. I just wish I had booked this for the start of the stay and not the end.

If you plan to use Marriott Bonvoy points (or transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points instantly on a 1:1 basis to Marriott), you’ll spend no fewer than 90,000 points per night in the springtime. Some nights in March and April can be as expensive as 138,000 points apiece.

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If you don’t book directly with Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto is also part of American Express’ Fine Hotels + Resorts. You can use this platform if you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and via for additional perks like availability-based upgrades, a $100 credit to use on-property during your stay for things like drinks or meals, complimentary daily breakfast for two, and guaranteed late checkout.

Standout features

Kamogama River and The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY
  • Kamogama River views
  • Walking distance to Gion and Nishiki Market
  • Tatami rooms for people who wish to try Japanese-style sleeping arrangements on futons
  • Multiple on-site restaurants
  • Relaxing spa and heated indoor pool


Exterior of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY
  • Beautiful but somewhat sterile public spaces and guest rooms
  • Not within walking distance of some of Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions, such as Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
  • Some rooms have boring or uninspiring views

The vibe

A peek into The Lobby Lounge at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto feels like a large business hotel and, in fact, caters to corporate meetings, conventions and wedding events. There’s a wedding boutique below the lobby and it appeared to do brisk business while we were there.

Staircase to the hotel’s sublobby level. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Despite that, it didn’t feel crowded, but instead exuded a sense of calm from the moment we stepped out of the taxi in the hotel’s underground entryway. The approach to the hotel is a bit anticlimactic since there’s just a small sign out front indicating the hotel’s name.

Once at the door, though, you are ushered along a covered outdoor walkway with soothing water cascading down stone steps on either side.

By the time you enter the hotel, tones are hushed, lighting is muted and the mood shifts to one of quiet seclusion.

Bonsai tree in the lobby. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

We arrived at the peak of afternoon tea in The Lobby Lounge. Even though every table was taken, it wasn’t loud at all on that side of the lobby. When the lounge isn’t busy, this level of the hotel acts as the thoroughfare to the La Locanda Italian restaurant, or to and from the guest room elevators and the hotel entrance.

The Pierre Hermé sweet shop and the front desk are directly across from the lounge. However, when we arrived, the bellhop announced our arrival into her earpiece and a front desk staffer came to greet us, showed us directly to our room and checked us in there. This is a personalized touch we always enjoy at hotels such as this one.

The front desk and sitting area. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

While we were at the hotel, a woman played a traditional koto, a stringed instrument, which lent the reception area a dreamy ambience.

Traditional koto music. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto is an elegant hotel, but it felt like it could be anywhere in Japan rather than having many place-specific elements.

Rooms at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto

Deluxe garden-view room. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto has 134 rooms and suites with views of the Kamogama River, Higashiyama mountains, Japanese gardens or the city, depending on the category.

Base-level, 538-square-foot deluxe guest rooms (with floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the city or courtyard) accommodate up to three people with king-size beds and cribs (free) or rollaways (12,000 yen) available. Note: There is no accessible version of this room category.

There are also 667-square-foot deluxe courtyard-view rooms with two double beds and deluxe garden-view rooms that accommodate up to three people and are wheelchair accessible.

Here are the other room types:

Balcony of the Grand Deluxe Kamogawa river-view room. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY
  • 560-square-foot Grand Deluxe Kamogama Larger Room with river view and one king bed or two double beds
  • 699-square-foot Garden Suite with king bed
  • 667-square-foot Garden Terrace Suite with mountain view and king bed
  • 667-square-foot Garden Terrace Tatami Suite with twin futons
  • Corner Kita Larger Suite with river view and king bed
  • 1,076-square-foot Corner Tatami Larger Suite with city view and twin futons
  • 1,237-square-foot Corner Minami Larger Suite with river view and king bed
  • 1,356-square-foot Kamogawa Executive Suite with river view and king bed or two double beds
  • 1,506-square-foot Tsukimi Penthouse Suite with mountain view, terrace and king bed

All rooms feature 600-thread-count linens, duvets, pillowtop mattresses and feather beds, nightly turndown service, and 24/7 room service.

We booked a deluxe garden view since that’s the category for which we could use our free night certificates. Despite the fact that both my husband and I have been Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite members for years and we were celebrating our 30th anniversary, we did not receive a room upgrade (and there were higher-category rooms and suites still bookable with cash upon arrival). That’s one reason I prefer Hyatt over Marriott. As a Hyatt Globalist, I am upgraded a vast majority of the time. On the other hand, I am almost never upgraded when I stay with Marriott.

Deluxe garden-view room. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

That being said, the room was lovely and comfortable and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The hotel left some very nice amenities for us to enjoy, including fresh fruit and homemade sweets.

Even base-level rooms are stocked with complimentary bottled water, loose tea and teabags, Nespresso coffee pods, and (for a fee) minibar drinks and snacks. Teapots, teacups and saucers, wine and Champagne glasses, plates, and silverware round out the stored housewares.

The king-size bed was comfortable and not too high. I’m 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and I sometimes struggle with hotels that install beds that are so high I need to take a running leap to settle in for the night. That wasn’t the case here.

Deluxe garden-view room. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

There were various bedside controls that allowed us to open and close the blinds and curtains or set various mood lighting presets. There was also a Tivoli Audio clock radio on a bedside table. The clock and controls looked old-fashioned, but not out of place in this room of beige and gray tones with pops of red and black lacquer accent furniture.

I especially loved the “room within a room” design. The dining area with a table and chairs set along the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the garden was built into its own inset space, which placed it apart from the rest of the room.

With the exception of the white rug in front of the dual vanity, which felt like a tripping hazard, the bathroom was both luxurious and utilitarian. The three mirrors above the vanity were well lit, and one panel hid a TV. The deep sinks were a nice touch, and I always appreciate a lighted makeup mirror.

The bathroom in a deluxe garden-view room. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

We made full use of the bathtub, and the shower had incredibly good water pressure. The separate toilet room was home to a fancy Toto Washlet.

Diptyque’s Philosykos line of shampoo, conditioner, bar soap and lotion were set out for our use, as was a bar of Japanese-made soap. A lacquer box stowed away all kinds of extras, such as a hairbrush, comb, toothbrush and toothpaste, emery board, shoeshine kit, razor, mouthwash, and makeup remover pads.

Food and drink

To be honest, the dining experiences at this hotel didn’t all wow me, but let me add the caveat that I don’t eat sushi. As should perhaps not be surprising, the focus here was on traditional Japanese flavors and presentations, even in some of the venues with Western menus.

Breakfast at La Locanda


Breakfast in La Locanda’s dining room, which is complimentary for Bonvoy Platinum Elite members, included a Western option that was a combination of a la carte items you ordered from the menu and some buffet-style dishes, such as granola, yogurt and croissants. There was also a Japanese set offered.

The ingredients were of high quality and included free-range eggs from Wabisuke poultry farm, milk and yogurt from Yuge Farm in Kobe, and Amazake Granola, which is made for the Ritz-Carlton right in Kyoto and is 100% gluten-free.

I prefer breakfast on the lighter side, but you could also order menu items such as eggs Benedict with ham and spinach, French toast, or other egg dishes (omelet, scrambled, poached, fried or boiled) with local Hiyoshi pork sausage, bacon, hash browns and steamed vegetables.

Made-to-order eggs Benedict. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Former TPG staffer Zach Honig also visited this hotel, and he enjoyed the Japanese breakfast option. Here are some photos to give you a taste of that menu, which is also available at La Locanda.

Hot tofu with soy glaze. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

The full menu also included a grilled fish dish of the day, a “century” preserved egg, simmered beef and vegetables, a veggie dish of the day, fresh fruit, miso soup, rice or rice porridge and Japanese pickles.

Assortment of Japanese treats, along with miso soup and a choice of white rice or porridge. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY


Mizuki dining room. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

Japanese lunch and dinner are served at the ground-level Mizuki restaurant. There are four sections with different menu options: kaiseki (a lot of small dishes), sushi, tempura and teppanyaki (grilled a la minute).

La Locanda

La Locanda private dining compartment at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

La Locanda is a stunning Italian restaurant serving meals made with locally sourced ingredients. What’s special about the dining room is that it encompasses Ebisugawa-tei: a series of private dining rooms that were once the two-story townhouse of Fujita Denzaburo, founder of the Fujita Industrial Group. While the structure is from 1908, some of the wood within it is 700 years old. It’s a beautiful way to preserve the history and beauty of Kyoto.

It’s a lovely dining experience since you can peer into the private dining compartments from the main dining tables. We met friends here for dinner and tried a variety of dishes, including the seasonal vegetable salad for 3,500 yen ($22), buffalo mozzarella Caprese for 4,500 yen ($29), spaghetti Bolognese for 4,400 yen ($28) and sauteed sea bream with zucchini escabeche for 7,200 yen ($46).

Set menus are also available at lunch and dinner. Three courses plus an amuse-bouche, dessert and petits fours are 4,800 yen ($31). Four courses plus the extras run 6,500-9,500 yen ($41-$61).

Chef’s Table by Katsuhito Inoue

This exclusive experience is offered Wednesdays through Fridays for six lucky patrons. It’s a farm-to-table experience that fuses Japanese and Italian flavors. According to the hotel, the menu takes guests “on a culinary journey through Japan’s 72 micro-seasons with dishes crafted from the finest, freshest local ingredients.” The meal, served in a private room at La Locanda, will set you back 35,000 yen ($226) per person. Note: You must remove your shoes upon arrival.

The Lobby Lounge

I’m a sucker for afternoon tea, and The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto offers a beautiful setting for it.


Make reservations if you have your heart set on this. We didn’t and couldn’t be accommodated for the time slots we still had open in our itinerary upon arrival. However, I’m including some of Zach Honig’s photos from his experience here a few years ago.


The lounge also offers a light menu that’s heavy on appetizers such as truffle french fries and caviar. The onion soup gratin was hearty and delicious, and minestrone was also available. A wagyu burger for 4,200 yen ($27), several pasta dishes — including spaghetti amatriciana and penne beef ragu — for 3,000 yen ($19) and sandwiches for 2,800 yen ($18) fill out the menu. And, of course, you may order a Pierre Hermé pastry with coffee or tea for dessert.

Pierre Hermé Paris

These tasted as good as they looked. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Don’t panic if afternoon tea is all booked up in The Lobby Lounge. Just go across the lobby to the Pierre Hermé Paris patisserie, which sells beautiful single-serving pastries as well as sweets, spreads, macarons and more.

A nice little lobby shop with all sorts of pastries. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

There’s also a wide variety of sweets that you can buy to take home for yourself or to give as gifts.

Selection of take-home sweets from Pierre Hermé. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

The Bar

Open from 5 p.m. daily, The Bar has a dark, clubby, intimate atmosphere. Sink into a comfortable leather armchair next to a granite-top table or take a seat at the bar to watch the mixologists work their magic. This area leads into La Locanda, and there’s a curved wall of wine bottles that’s interesting to peruse.

There is a short but thoughtful list of signature cocktails to order from, including a roasted green tea martini; a smoked old fashioned with Michter’s rye, cream de cacao, cherry liquor, angostura bitters, cane sugar and orange peel; and a basil “smash” highball with Monkey 47 gin, chamomile, lemon, syrup and soda — all for around 2,500 yen ($16).

The bar menu offers most of the same things The Lobby Lounge does, plus a few additions such as a cheese board for 1,700 yen ($11), smoked salmon for 2,000 yen ($13) and fried chicken with a spicy sauce for 1,500 yen ($10).

Bonus for music lovers: A small jazz ensemble plays here every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night.

Room service

Our stay was at the tail end of our trip, and we had tired of dining out every day, so we enjoyed a few room service meals. Each order arrived remarkably quickly and the food was very good, including an ultrafresh fruit plate.

Amenities and service

Service was uniformly good at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, although perhaps a bit reserved. The friendliest staff members were to be found at the bell desk at the hotel’s entrance.

When we made a request that couldn’t be honored (a table in The Lobby Lounge to have a light meal), they suggested we dine at La Locanda. We didn’t want to do that since we were dining there that evening with friends. When the staff members understood the scenario, they told us to head to La Locanda and that they would arrange to serve us from the lobby’s light menu. That’s the type of above-and-beyond service that brings me back to Ritz-Carlton time and again.


Heated indoor pool at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto spa. ZACH HONIG/THE POINTS GUY

If access to a spa is important to you, the Ritz is a good home base. Its spa features six treatment rooms plus a spa suite, a soothing waterfall feature, a steam room, a dry sauna and a heated 20-meter swimming pool.

Standout treatments here include the Kyoto Bamboo Ritual, which uses heated bamboo stalks and warm oil to improve flexibility, and the Ryokucha Serenity Ritual, which incorporates antioxidant-rich green tea leaves from the city’s Uji region in its body, foot and scalp massage. Both of these options are 90 minutes and cost 39,500 yen ($255).

Espa products are used alongside botanical and marine ingredients. See the full list of spa treatments.

Fitness center

Open 24/7, the fitness center is stocked with the type of gear you’d expect at a hotel of this caliber: treadmills, elliptical machines, exercise bikes and strength-training equipment.

Ritz Kids

If your family has visited other Ritz-Carlton properties, you’re probably familiar with the Ritz Kids program. At the Kyoto outpost, there is a variety of free activities for children, including an in-hotel treasure hunt where kids are given a treasure map and instructed to find seven Buddha statues. There’s also a balloon animal event that looks fun. Couples who want to dine out can leave their kids (ages 4-12) at the Ritz Kids Club from 7:30-9 p.m. Guided activities, toys and games are available.

Out and about

The Ritz-Carlton is not smack-dab in the middle of Kyoto’s action. Most attractions are further afield, but here are a few of the places you can walk to from the hotel:

  • Nishiki Market (18-minute walk): Great place to sample local foods and buy souvenirs, such as Japanese kitchen knives.
  • Kyoto Imperial Palace (14-minute walk): Book a tour in advance.
  • Gion District (23-minute walk): The best chance you’ll have to see geisha in the evenings.
  • Samurai Ninja Museum Kyoto (18-minute walk): A family-friendly museum with some fun interactive experiences, such as star throwing.

Otherwise, you’ll likely take a taxi or public transportation to most attractions. Here are some of the city’s most popular sites:

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Forest: Go early! This place gets crowded since it’s ideal for photo ops.
  • Fushimi Inari Taisha Shinto shrine: Home to thousands of vermilion torii gates.
  • Kinkaku-ji Zen Buddhist temple: Also known as the Golden Pavilion.
  • Nijo Castle: The palace of the shogun Tokugawa.


The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto has added many accessible features to its public spaces and guest rooms. The main entrance, meeting spaces, hallways to rooms and suites, and the entrance to the fitness center are all accessible.

You may also book guest rooms with the following accessible additions:

  • Accessible vanities
  • Adjustable-height hand-held shower wand
  • Alarm clock telephone ringers
  • Bathtub grab rails
  • Bathtub seat
  • Flashing door knockers
  • Lever handles on guest room doors
  • Lowered deadbolts on guest room doors
  • Lowered electrical outlets
  • Mobility accessible rooms
  • Roll-in shower
  • Toilet seat at wheelchair height
  • Transfer showers in guest rooms

To ensure your room has the amenities you need, call the hotel and book a room directly so you can discuss the options with a reservationist.

Checking out

Right outside the entrance of The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. ANDREA ROTONDO/THE POINTS GUY

Ritz-Carlton has been one of my favorite luxury hotel brands for years, and I enjoyed my brief stay in Kyoto. That being said, there are many luxury options in the city. I probably wouldn’t make it a point to stay here again unless I was on a budget and needed to use a free night certificate or points. The location was a bit more out of the way than I would have liked; however, the attentive service and beautiful public spaces made for a memorable stay.

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