With international tourists flocking to Kyoto in record numbers, and with those figures set to rise annually until Japan hosts the 2020 Olympics, the October debut of the Four Seasons couldn’t have been timed better. And what an arrival it is. The hotel occupies a prime site on the edge of the beautiful Higashiyama mountain range, just a short step from key tourist sites such as Kiyomizu-dera and Sanjusangendo temples and the Kyoto National Museum. Despite this central location, the property retains the air of a secluded luxurious private villa, with its 123 immaculate guest rooms, two restaurants (the Brasserie and Sushi Wakon), and spa nestled in leafy forests and bamboo groves, facing an 800-year-old pond garden. No expense has been spared in the creation of this gem of a hotel, which balances ancient tradition with state-of-the-art modernity: exquisitely painted cedar-wood doors and traditional paper and fusuma sliding screens sit seamlessly alongside flat-screen TVs and bedside iPads. The Four Seasons also boasts the city’s largest and most comprehensive spa, fitness, and relaxation retreat. The 20-meter indoor pool is a thing of beauty, with its golden sculpture of the moon reflecting in the water. Quite how they managed to get natural light to a pool complex two floors below ground is something of a mystery. Then again, the Japanese are past masters at making the most sophisticated, refined, and complex things look easy. And that’s this place in a nutshell. (81-75/541-8288; fourseasons.com; doubles from US$740).