(Literally) New and Notable:
The Elegant Park Hyatt Kyoto
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2019 -- Not being a frequent user of luxury hotel brands, the opening of a Park Hyatt two weeks ago would normally fly nowhere near my radar.

Except for one extraordinary coincidence. When the Park Hyatt in Kyoto debuted on October 30, I just happened to be a 10-minute cab ride away, in the middle of a five-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto. The Hyatt Regency is a lovely hotel with a top-notch staff, but a Park Hyatt it ain't. In fact, it's not even a proper Hyatt Regency since there's no Regency Club, which I'll admit annoyed me a little.

So when word came of the long-awaited opening of the Park Hyatt in Kyoto's Higashiyama district I did the sensible thing: logged into my Hyatt account to see about making a switch.

Am I glad I did. Even with a few opening-week glitches, the 70-room Park Hyatt Kyoto is extraordinary. It doesn't take a travel expert to notice.

For starters, it is gorgeous. Trailing down a hillside in a series of serene, perfectly groomed gardens and exquisitely proportioned pavilions meant to evoke a traditional Japanese guesthouse, the property took six years to complete. It was worth the wait.

Massive windows in the many public spaces--including a tea lounge and a cozy library--frame artfully designed vignettes of plantings and stonework. They also offer glimpses of Kyoto's cityscape, most notably the famous Yasaka Pagoda, a magnet for professional photographers and selfie-seekers. There are thoughtful touches and handsome visuals--Japanese art books in the library, naturalistic displays of branches and plants in the many hallways--throughout the hotel

Best of all is the fourth-floor Kohaku bar, an intimate, sexy space. Dark lighting and a sunken back bar do not distract from the shimmering view of Kyoto after dark, including that pagoda and the iconic Kyoto Tower, the city's tallest structure, in the distance. With only a dozen barstools, Kohaku will be a tough spot to get into once the property becomes known although I'm told that hotel guests have first dibs. It's not cheap, of course: Old Fashioneds--proper ones, I must say--set me back 2,000 yen a pop, a little over $18.

Guestrooms are extremely spacious, ranging from 485 to 730 square feet, and are luxurious in an understated Japanese way, with ample sitting areas, supremely comfortable bedding and beds, and enough closet space for a month-long stay. No kidding. I'm sure you can put a month's worth of clothes in a guestroom's many storage spaces. A huge three-part bathroom features a knockout "wet room" with a deep soaking tub; a shower with two shower heads (wall-mounted handheld and ceiling-mounted rain); and vanity with double sink.

A property of this quality and in this location--high on a hill overlooking the historic Gion District--does not come cheap. The room I booked, a 485-square-foot king, came with a cash price tag of $810 a night--breakfast not included. The upgraded room I received at check--in (Domo arigatō gozaimashita, Hyatt!) was roughly the same size but with a garden terrace. It's selling for $855 a night.

Luckily, I was able to book three nights with World of Hyatt points. The 30,000-a-night fee is the highest price (Category 7) for Hyatt-branded properties, but considering that the lesser Hyatt Regency Kyoto is pegged at 25,000 points (Category 6), the Park Hyatt is a better deal. A note of caution: Points-and-miles experts I know speculate that many top-tier Hyatts may soon migrate to the 40,000-point Category 8, which World of Hyatt initially created only for some Small Luxury Hotel properties now aligned with the program.

Even with only 70 rooms, there are four places to dine on the property. Kyoto Bistro is a casual street-level cafe that's open all day. Yasaka is an 18,000 yen ($165) per person teppanyaki room on the fourth floor next to the Kohaku bar. The ground-level Living Room (left) is where Japanese breakfast (reservations required), afternoon tea and snacks are served. The fourth dining venue is the family-owned Kyoyamato, an historic kaiseki restaurant. Kyoyamato has been around since 1877 and the Park Hyatt was built around the restaurant in order to protect it from development.

We had a light meal at Kyoto Bistro one evening and thought both the food and service would benefit from a bit more practice. The traditional Japanese breakfast was very pleasant and I'd recommend it highly.

I found the Park Hyatt's staff most accommodating, doing their utmost to please. One example: They researched, purchased and delivered our train tickets from Kyoto Station to Tokyo's Narita Airport. At check-in, you are greeted outside and escorted to your room rather than having to visit the front desk. When I discovered the air conditioning wasn't functional we were quickly whisked to another room across the hall. Around an hour later a complimentary bottle of Japanese bubbly arrived at our door to make amends. And after arriving back home and discovering that I'd left behind a sweater in the room swap, the hotel shipped it to me--along with far more apologies than were even close to necessary.

But if you want a sense of how far the Park Hyatt Kyoto and its staff will go to please guests, consider this: Even though it has just 70 accommodations, ten rooms--about 14 percent of the inventory--were being left vacant during the first few weeks of operation. Why? The hotel wanted to have spare rooms available in case something went wrong and guests needed to switch accommodations.

Very sensible. Very caring. And it made being one of the first guests at a luxury property even more than luxurious.