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Reinventing Kyoto


In Kyoto’s historic Higashiyama Ward, the five-story Yasaka Pagoda is one of the city’s top enduring architectural icons. First built in the seventh century, the current reconstruction dates from 1440. The five-star Park Hyatt Kyoto opened near the pagoda in 2019. The hotel’s signature restaurant Yasaka boasts thrilling views of Yasaka Pagoda, the traditional townscape, and Mount Atago off in the distance.

Yasaka offers two nightly dinner seatings. Book the earlier session to enjoy the sight of quintessential old Kyoto torched orange at sunset, then bathed in shadows at twilight. The latter slot shows a more serene side to the city without the daytime tourist hordes — enlivened by the illuminated Yasaka Pagoda and the occasional fleeting, brightly-robed geisha.

Yasaka serves elegant French food cooked on a Japanese teppan (iron plate) in front of guests. New head chef Kentaro Koyama debuted at Yasaka in September 2023. Koyama began his career in Tokyo in 2008 and worked in France for five years including the three-Michelin-star Maison Lameloise in Burgundy. He achieved a prestigious three toques (hats) Gault & Millau rating in 2022 at the French restaurant French Monstar when he returned to Tokyo.

There are three multi-course options priced at ¥22,000, ¥27,500 and ¥35,200 (including tax — a 15% service charge is additional.) The seasonal menu items, like these from winter 2024 (the spring menu was still being decided at press time), can highlight special ingredients like rare white truffles from Tuscany, Italy; premium crab from Hokkaido Prefecture and exclusive omi beef from the surrounding Kansai region. Koyama also loves using local kyoyasai (Kyoto heirloom vegetables) such as kujo negi (long green onion) and kyo takenoko (Kyoto bamboo shoot). When Kyoto became Japan’s capital in 794, vegetables from around the country were sent as gifts to the royal court. Today, many kyoyasai are harvested from seed lines passed down from this bygone period.

Yasaka’s wine list received the “2023 Award of Excellence” from renowned u.s. magazine Wine Spectator. The judging process considered its overall presentation, extensive appeal, and harmony with the dishes. Sommelier-selected wine or non-alcoholic drink meal pairings are available, as well as a selection of high-quality nihonshu (Japanese sake).

Yasaka restaurant is sleek and contemporary but complements the Higashiyama area’s antique character. The Park Hyatt Kyoto blends with the low-rise landscape and aged wooden buildings. To heed municipal construction height restrictions, 60% of the hotel was designed to lie underground and its roofs are tiled like the homes of local nobles from centuries ago. In Kyoto today, the smartest developers know to innovate — but never sublimate — the imposing majesty of the region’s beauty. A quality of the city that has reigned over millennia.

Yasaka A: Park Hyatt Kyoto 360 Kodaiji Masuyacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto


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