Kyoto conjures up images of people in kimonos and traditional Japanese architecture with a small city feel to it. She is all that, and then some. I am familiar with Japan, especially Kyoto. This was my third trip to Kyoto and I was excited to be visiting her once again. Having stayed at smaller ryokans during my first two visits, for this visit I had only one property in mind, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. I heard so many wonderful things about this hotel and couldn’t wait to experience it myself.
My travel day on the Shinkansen from Tokyo went smoothly. What a treat to be met at Kyoto station by a driver from the hotel. This is a service the hotel offers complimentary either on arrival or departure. The drive to the hotel is ten minutes or so as you head up towards the hills and away from the city center. I could tell as we drove into the unassuming hotel driveway and I entered the hotel lobby that this five-story property would be a lovely place to come home to at the end of a busy day out and about in Kyoto. The hotel describes itself as “Kyoto classic luxury yet contemporary in design and Japanese-style accommodations”. This is a perfectly accurate description of both the hotel and the rooms.
History of the Hyatt Regency Kyoto
I sat down one evening and had a lovely long visit with Robert Hamer, the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. He has been with Hyatt for over thirty years. During his tenure with Hyatt, he has managed and worked at some of the Hyatt properties in Asia we all know and love in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, and throughout Japan, as well. I talk with Hyatt hotel managers at almost every Hyatt where I stay. Even given all the years Robert has been with Hyatt, his energy and enthusiasm, especially for his newest assignment at this hotel, was off the charts amazing. Can an already great property get even better? Robert thinks so, and his creativity and out-of-the -box thinking has already come to fruition. I’m sworn to secrecy on some of his creative ideas, but I can tell you this. As of the beginning of 2019, this is what you’ll receive when you check in. It’s such a fun reminder to let guests know what’s available at the hotel!
This property opened in 1980, though Hyatt took over the location and remodeled the property in 2006. Generally, the hotel guests are 60% international visitors to 40% Japanese guests. The average stay for international guests is 2-3 nights and for the Japanese this property serves as a special occasion or weekend getaway hotel with the average stay being 1-2 nights. Robert mentioned that guests do use Prive benefits, which I wrote about earlier this year. I was wondering if Hyatt elites favor this property. On any given night, 5-10% of the rooms might be occupied by Hyatt Globalists. I asked Robert to recommend one of his favorite Hyatt properties that I’ve not yet been to, so for all you Hyatt fans reading this, he highly recommends the Andaz in Amsterdam!
My Arrival and Check-In
Upon arrival at the hotel, check-in went smoothly. I was told that an upgrade wasn’t available, but that I had been assigned a standard room on the fourth floor facing the garden. Of course, I was disappointed about the upgrade but I did receive a lovely gift instead. The hotel manager arranged for us to have a complimentary dinner at the hotel restaurant of our choice. I thought this gesture was wonderfully gracious of him and I enjoyed an superb Japanese meal at Touzan during my stay. I did not get to dine at the Italian restaurant in the hotel, but Executive Chef Marco Torre comes to this Regency by way of the Park Hyatt Saigon. You all know how I feel about that property, so I’m sure he’s creating a delicious experience for Hyatt Kyoto guests, as well.
As I entered my garden-facing room, three sights struck me immediately. One was of the lovely garden view and the window that opened, allowing me to enjoy the view even more.
The second sight was of the beautiful plate of strawberries waiting for me as my welcome amenity! They were a delicious treat that accompanied my unpacking and settling in.
The third site was of the many bottles of water on the bathroom counter. Both the fruit and the water let me know that the hotel read my Hyatt profile and had set up the room especially for me. If they read my hotel reviews, the hotel would also know I love when a hotel room has windows that open. As amazing as the service is at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, I doubt they installed a window that opens just for my arrival!
Let’s dig in to the particulars of my stay. I have lots to share with you.
How I Paid For My Stay
For my stay I used the World of Hyatt cash and points rate. I booked this hotel long before Hyatt gutted its cash and points rates program, so my rate was 10000 Hyatt points and $154 per night. The all-cash rate at the Hyatt Regency was $360 a night. Had I paid cash for my hotel stay, I would have given Pruvo my reservation to monitor for price drops. The points and cash rate if booked at that rate now would be 10000 points and $196 per night. This is not a property that benefited from Hyatt’s new system of charging half the cash rate when using points and cash. I checked many nights over the course of a year, and during the off season the rate I got is as low a rate as you’ll find. During the high season, using cash and points the cash portion goes up as high as $273. Please note that although this hotel is a Hyatt Regency, there is no Club Lounge. Globalist Hyatt members receive access to the restaurant for breakfast.
Using my Hotel Room Scorecard I broke down the individual elements of my Standard Room at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, which scored a 33 of 40 points.
For me, because I love to walk, this location was ideal. It’s on the south side of the river. You can walk on a riverside path avoiding the traffic lights and be downtown in 30 minutes. The hotel is close to the major Kyoto sites, shrines, and temples and within walking distance of 15-20 minutes of Kyoto station for any day trips you might take. From the hotel I took some long walks traversing Kyoto to both the Imperial Palace area as well as the University of Kyoto campus. The location up towards the hills in Higashiyama is lovely and a peaceful setting for a hotel. I recognize I walk a lot, so if you walk less than I do, there are public buses right outside the hotel making access to all areas of Kyoto quite convenient. You can get to the Kyoto action without this hotel being in the thick of things. For me that’s an ideal combo.
The room faced south and had a small window as well as a larger window. There were no buildings blocking the garden view of the natural light. The room received great natural light all day long. There was good overhead lighting by the bed, but the desk and work area was too dimly lit even with having a floor lamp nearby. The desk lamp did not provide very much light. Because I work when I travel, I need a desk and good lighting. I asked the hotel to find another desk lamp and within minutes I had a second desk lamp to use. The bathroom had three levels of lights, which gave the bathroom area sufficient lighting.
Window Access (5/5)
Ah, a window that opens! So rare but makes such a difference. Even in winter, I love to start my day by opening the window.
For someone like me who accumulates so many hotel stays, this feature is such a plus. It was good, though, that for a city hotel there actually weren’t any buildings facing my side of the hotel, so it felt like no one could look in and I was able to keep windows and shades open all day.
Bed Comfort (3/5)
The bed was too hard for me, as usually is the case throughout Asia. Not as hard as some of the other hotels I’ve stayed in this year, though. I spend quite a bit of time in Asia so I really do need to do some research as to the hard bed custom. It’s not simply that mattresses are put on wooden platforms. It has to be something in the construction of the mattresses as well. I tried a few different pillows from the hotel pillow menu, so there are plenty of options for pillows. Wish hotels would do the same with options for mattresses.
The bathroom layout and features work very well. The bathroom has granite floors and a large bathtub inside a large walk-in shower area. The counter space is ample for sundries. The Toto Washlet toilet with bidet features is opposite the sink and has a sliding door for privacy. The bathroom area itself does not have a door for privacy, though. The shower had great water pressure and the tub provided a relaxing soak.
Interior Appointments and Furnishings (4/5)
The property has 187 guest rooms and suites with a room design blending traditional Japanese style with modern practicality. The furnishings and design include kimono tapestries as a headboard, plain wood for the counters and walls, in-room tablets displaying the time and temperature, flat-screen TVs with Blu-ray players, and work desks.
The carpet is a light beige weave and not the best color for hotel carpet because it looks dirty even when it is clean. There was a small desk by the window with two chairs.
There was very little artwork, which is something I liked about the room. Because everyone’s taste in artwork can vary so much, I like quiet walls.
You might be wondering why this room category did not receive a top score.
The entry way is very narrow with the closet to the right as you enter. The closet interiors are very small. There are two sliding closet doors and one of them, if fully opened, creates a very tight fit with the room door. By this I mean that if the closet door is opened and you enter the room, the entry door would not open. To prevent this issue, the closet door has a stopper screwed into the floor that allow for the closet door to open perhaps only one third of the way. Of course a pocket door would be ideal in this situation.
Housekeeping recognized that this is an issue for many guests because it takes away half of an already small closet. If you want full access to the closet, ask the staff to unbolt the stopper and they’ll gladly do that for you.
Given the small size of the rooms, other than the bed, they are missing a place to sit and relax. There are two chairs by the desk which are functional, but not necessarily all that comfortable.
Plugs and outlets were well-placed throughout the room but there weren’t many of them. There was one outlet on each of the bedside tables. The desk had universal plugs and USB charging ports. The bathroom counter had one outlet as well. The tablet on the desk displayed the time and temperature and is used for other functions such as ordering room service.
Snack and Minibar (3/5)
There really wasn’t much space on the dresser above the minbar. The Nespresso machine occupied one corner. There was a luggage rack to the right of the dresser. I think guests might be better served by having a counter in that space. There was a full set of drawers under the counter for stowing away food, clothes, or other personal items.
Let me say upfront that the service at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto is second to none.
Let me offer a few examples.
Because there is not a Regency Club Lounge on the property, as a Hyatt Globalist I was given breakfast in the main restaurant, The Grill. There is a wide assortment of western style breakfast buffet options as well as hot food cooked to order. They even had salad for breakfast, which I love. Juices were freshly squeezed with a different juice blend of the day choice.
There is also a Japanese style breakfast with a set meal offering nine small plates. Do make sure to try this one morning. It’s delicious and a fun way to start your day.
They had many different varieties of tea, as well as a large menu of espresso beverages. The service, no matter how busy the restaurant, was spot on. I never felt rushed, and looked forward to enjoying breakfast each day.
The housekeeping team was great replenishing my water bottles, Nespresso pods, and tending to my other requests within minutes. The time it takes housekeeping and room service to respond to requests is very telling in terms of whether or not a hotel is well staffed. The Regency was 100% occupied during my stay and yet both housekeeping and room service were always quick and efficient. I’ve already mentioned the hotel bringing me an extra light for the desk. This stands out because there have been many other times where I’ve gone into a hotel room and requested an extra light. I can count on one hand the times this request has been granted so quickly and easily.
Speaking of room service, one morning I was heading out early and asked if a take-away breakfast was available. The concierge arranged a take-away breakfast for me to pick-up at the front desk. He gave me the option of a sweet bread basket style breakfast or a pork cutlet sandwich. I chose the pork cutlet sandwich expecting a simple bag with a pork cutlet sandwich. Much to my surprise and delight, my bag included a very large sandwich cut into 8 pieces, a healthy portion of fresh fruit salad, grilled vegetables, and juice. One take-away bag was enough for two people!
Three letters describe the concierge team….W.O.W. As concierge teams go, this team ranks in the top five of teams I’ve interacted with. I made a myriad of requests, including asking them to help me send emails in Japanese to people I needed to contact, and all my requests were handled wonderfully well. The restaurants they suggested were great. Just take my advice and rely on them for whatever it is you’re needing. You won’t be disappointed!
There were a host of little things happening at the hotel, though really not so little, like the Maiko dance performance in the evenings, the sake offered in the lobby on New Year’s Day, the live Japanese Koto music in the lobby, and the free calligraphy class in the early evening. One day there was even a coffee stand set up outside the hotel entrance for guests.
Given all the hotel stays I accumulate in a year, some of the rooms and hotels end up being good, some are great, and some become memorable. The Hyatt Regency Kyoto created a special memory for me and would absolutely be my choice when I go back to Kyoto. A Park Hyatt with 70 rooms will be opening in Kyoto in the fall of 2019 and I’m sure that property will be amazing. It will also be a very competitive accommodation to come by, especially when it first opens.
Even with the points and cash rates increase in Hyatt’s new program, I think the Hyatt Regency is still a good value for the hotel market in Kyoto. The Hyatt Regency Kyoto is an upper middle level property in Kyoto. It depends on what kind of property you enjoy, and what your hotel budget or Hyatt points stash allows for. I’d say for sure put Kyoto on your short list of places to visit in Japan and put the Hyatt Regency Kyoto at the top of that list for a memorable hotel stay.