During my September 2022 trip to Japan, Roku Kyoto became the third of three luxury hotels that we checked out while staying in Kyoto.
After exploring both Marriott and Hyatt’s top-tier properties in the form of The Mitsui and the Park Hyatt, we then ventured over to Hilton’s best property in the area, located on the city’s northern outskirts.
The brand-new Hilton property opened in September 2021 and is the first LXR Hotels & Resorts property under the Hilton brand in the Asia-Pacific, as well as Hilton’s first foray into Kyoto’s world-class luxury hotel scene.
In This Post
- Garden King Room
- Deluxe Twin Room
- Other Facilities
Roku Kyoto – Booking
Fortunately, I could use a Hilton Free Night Reward to book our one-night stay here at Roku Kyoto. Otherwise, it would’ve cost me 110,000 Hilton Honors points, corresponding to ~$660 (CAD) as per our Points Valuations – which is certainly not a cheap redemption.
Hilton’s Free Night Rewards can be used on weekdays and not just weekends through the rest of 2022. This worked perfectly for my itinerary, and since I happened to have a few Free Night Rewards floating around, I opted to use one here at Roku Kyoto.
Cash rates at this property won’t come cheap either, starting at 64,000–77,000 yen ($600–720 CAD) for a standard room, and reaching 190,000 yen ($1,780 CAD) for a suite.
All factors considered, using a Free Night Reward made the most sense here, rather than paying the exorbitant cash prices or with points.
I’d note here that, after staying, I think the hotel is fairly overpriced in both the cash and points categories. Roku Kyoto tries to compete with other top-tier properties such as The Mitsui or The Ritz-Carlton on price; however, as I realized throughout my stay, the quality doesn’t quite reach the same heights.
Roku Kyoto – Location
The resort is situated on the northern outskirts of Kyoto, resting among the green foothills of Takagamine Sanzan. 400 years ago, the location was home to an artists’ village.
Roku Kyoto is situated on the grounds of the Shozan Resort, an enclave of Japanese gardens, historic temples, tea houses, and Michelin-starred restaurants spread out over 29 acres.
The property is also conveniently located near the famous Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Temple, which is only a quick 15-minute walk south from the hotel. In addition, the Koetsuji and Genkoan temples are about a 20-minute walk away.
Other nearby attractions include Arashiyama, Japan’s most famous bamboo forest and one of the most photographed places in Kyoto. This popular site is a 20-minute journey away by vehicle.
It’s worth noting that public transportation isn’t exactly within walking distance when staying in this part of Kyoto. The closest Kyoto Station is Kita-Oji station, a 10-minute taxi ride away, and Kyoto Station is further, taking about 20 minutes to reach by car.
Roku’s resort campus is very visually pleasing in terms of its overall location, as it’s immersed in nature, with beautiful pools of water and small streams flowing through the grounds.
The natural environment and minimalistic Japanese architecture of the resort is certainly an immediately apparent strong point as you arrive on the property.
Roku Kyoto – Check-in
Upon arrival, we were invited to check in at the Tea House, a beautifully serene central lounge for guests. The space boasts high-pitched ceilings made of lacquerware and natural wood, inspired by the region’s historical architecture.
Our associate then confirmed my Hilton Diamond status and welcomed us to the hotel, offering us a few welcome drinks to sip on as we sat down for check-in.
At first, there was no upgrade forthcoming in terms of a suite, or even an upgraded room. However, as a Hilton Diamond member staying at one of the brand’s most aspirational properties, I felt that this was something worth pushing back on.
To be fair, the hotel only has two “true” suites, and they were both occupied for the evening. Instead, I was aiming for the Garden King Room, which is the only room type with a private onsen.
I could see from the Hilton app that a Garden King Romo was available that evening. However, the associate gave me a fair bit of pushback, informing me that it was unavailable and that they could only offer the Deluxe King Room that I had originally booked.
This would be one of the rare occasions when I pulled out the app and showed that the room was still bookable online. I expressed that it would mean a lot to us to get the upgrade and experience the onsen, so if the associate could double-check and try to make it happen, I’d be infinitely grateful.
With that, the associate left briefly and then returned. She explained that there were some small defects in the remaining Garden King Room, but if we were fine with it, they’d be happy to upgrade us.
We happily took the upgrade, and when we arrived, there weren’t any major visible defects from what we could tell. Furthermore, even if there were small defects, the room was ultimately still available on the app – so on principle, if the room is good enough to sell to a paying guest, it should be good enough to provide a Diamond member as an upgrade.
Unfortunately, this led to a poor first impression at Roku Kyoto. Nevertheless, I was happy to have gotten the upgrade to the Garden King Room in the end, and was looking forward to having a private onsen in the room.
As Hilton Diamond members, we were also treated to a generous ¥10,000 experience credit as part of our stay. This could be used on dining, room service, the bar, minibar, or spa treatments; however, this credit also led to a somewhat disappointing experience, as we’ll see later on.
Roku Kyoto – Garden King Room
The Garden King Room features a bedroom, its own private onsen, and a private garden. Light woods and natural elements are used for the interiors, inspired by traditional Minka Japanese homes.
Despite the pleasant interiors, the arrangement of the Garden King Room is a bit odd. Immediately upon entering the room, there’s a walk-in closet to your right, and a half-bathroom to your left.
The space then opens up to the king bed, which sits against a refined washi paper accent wall, flanked by two bedside tables.
To the right of the bed is a well-stocked minibar, which comes with a generous selection of tea and a Nespresso machine.
The flat-screen TV is mounted to the opposite wall. Touches of Japanese motifs, such as kyo-karakami, a woodblock printed paper made by Kyoto artisans, can be seen near the baseboards.
Opposite the king bed is a narrow hallway that opens up into the bathroom.
The shower sits in the middle of the hallway, with two separate vanities on each side. Each features a stone vessel sink and a tall mirror lit by contemporary lights on each side.
To add to the oddity of the layout, there’s actually no toilet in this space – essentially, the Garden King Room has two half-bathrooms that add up to a whole. However, it’s nice that the room has double sinks, as you typically only find that with suites.
Despite the odd arrangement, the bathroom in the Garden King Room is almost entirely made of stone, which results in a sleek and luxurious feel.
In the end, there’s a good reason for the odd arrangement of the bathroom: it’s to accommodate the stone onsen at the end of the hallway. The onsen sits in a zen-like sunroom, with a skylight and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the private garden.
This bath poured natural hot spring onsen water directly from the tap, and was certainly the highlight of the room. I appreciated having a demonstration of Japan’s strong onsen culture right here in my room, and I’d say this element of the Garden King Room is one of the most attractive elements of Roku Kyoto as a whole.
If you’re staying at Roku Kyoto, the Garden King Room is definitely the best room type to request. We spent quite a fair amount of time in the mornings and evenings bathing in the hot spring.
Lastly, the bedroom opens up into a semi-terrace and garden. This private Japanese-style garden features stone walls, moss, and seasonal trees placed around small stones that fill the space.
Roku Kyoto – Deluxe Twin Room
During the course of my stay, I also had the chance to tour the Deluxe Twin Room, which is the most common room type at the hotel.
The hotel has both Deluxe Rooms and Premier Deluxe Rooms, which are both available with twin and king beds. These are in fact the same room type, but simply differ in terms of the benefits that guests receive when staying in one.
Furthermore, there are a handful of Poolside Deluxe Rooms, and above these are two specialty suites that would be quite difficult to get an upgrade to, given their limited number.
The Deluxe Twin Room has a design theme in keeping with the Garden King Room I stayed in, consisting of light natural woods and plenty of Japanese motifs for an overall stylish environment.
A small table and chair are to the right of the bed(s), and behind is a window nook overlooking the rolling hills. The advantage of the Deluxe Rooms over the Garden Rooms is the beautiful views of the mountainside opposite the resort.
The bathroom is also made of dark stone, but with a more traditional arrangement. There is a double vanity and a single wet room for the shower, and a onsen-style bathtub – though with regular hot water, rather than natural spring water.
Just like the Garden King Room, the toilet is housed in a separate area with its own sink and mirror.
Roku Kyoto – Breakfast
Aside from the Garden King Room, unfortunately, the rest of the hotel was a somewhat disappointing experience overall.
Breakfast is served in the main restaurant, Tenjin, every morning. As a Hilton Diamond member, breakfast is complimentary, with a choice between a set Western or Japanese breakfast, along with a buffet selection.
Alas, the buffet offering was very weak, with just some cold cuts, salad, and pastries. Having sampled many other buffets at top-tier properties in Japan and knowing what they’re capable of, this one was certainly on the more limited side.
I found it bizarre that there were numerous accompaniments laid out, such as mustard, wasabi, and many types of salts and chilli peppers, but very few meaningful buffet items to go along with it.
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I also was disappointed to find that there wasn’t a traditional Japanese rice bowl spread, which, for me, is a minimum expectation at high-end hotel buffets in Japan.
Of course, this would’ve been a negligible complaint if the set breakfast were fulsome, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. When it came to the set Western breakfast, the Eggs Benedict was meagre.
The Japanese breakfast was tasty, but also limited in its offerings. There were only three side dishes available to accompany the central slice of fish, rice, and miso soup – compared to other Japanese set breakfasts I enjoyed on this trip, where I was treated to six, eight, or even more side dishes.
I think the breakfast here at Roku Kyoto offering has plenty of room for improvement, especially considering the price point that the hotel is looking to charge. I’m hopeful that Roku will be able to spruce up its breakfast offering in the future, especially as international travellers arrive at this new property with high expectations.
Roku Kyoto – Dining
There’s really only one dining space at Roku Kyoto, which is another potential weak point.
Tenjin, where breakfast is served, also offers all-day dining in the centre of the resort. You can order via an à la carte menu or choose a set course for lunch and dinner, with both Japanese and French-inspired menus available.
A chef’s table experience also occurs in a separate area of the restaurant, with just 13 seats. Here, the chef and his team put on a culinary performance with a 10-course meal, and reservations should be made in advance to secure a seat.
Lastly, there is the Tenjin Bar available in the back of the restaurant, serving up drinks in the evenings.
The space follows suit with the lobby in terms of design, with high-pitched ceilings, more natural wood, and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a bright, airy dining environment.
Tenjin looked like a nice space for a meal, and we had wanted to have dinner here on the evening of our stay to use up our ¥10,000 experience credit. However, we were disappointed to hear that the restaurant was fully booked for the evening.
We then tried to order room service instead, but discovered that it can only be ordered off the TV in our room, and the only delivery times available were two and a half hours from when we wanted to order.
This was a very frustrating and dysfunctional setup, making the ¥10,000 experience credit that I was treated to as a Hilton Diamond member quite difficult to use.
We weren’t able to use it at the restaurant, room service, or even the bar that evening, as the hotel was only hosting a free-flowing Champagne event and weren’t serving any other drinks.
Out of sheer frustration that evening, we ended up ordering some delicious curry rice to the hotel for dinner via Uber Eats, and to use up our ¥10,000 credit, we simply raided the minibar the following day.
What could’ve been a strong amenity on the hotel’s part was ultimately soured by poor execution. I certainly think the Roku would benefit from a wider range of dining facilities and, if not possible, at least better management of room service with consistent availability.
Roku Kyoto – Other Facilities
The Tea House, where we first checked in, is divided by a set of wooden pillars from the lobby. There’s a long table for intimate tea ceremonies, and the lounge offers five unique types of tea that you won’t find in your room, available on a complimentary basis.
The fitness centre is spacious and well-lit, featuring plenty of cardio equipment and free weights.
The resort features a 25-metre thermal pool, which is situated in a beautiful set of surroundings at the base of the nearby rolling hills. The handful of Poolside Deluxe Rooms are situated here, facing out directly to the pool.
In addition to the pool, Roku also offers spa treatment rooms and saunas, but no thermal bath facilities beyond the outdoor pool. Since we were staying in the Garden King Room, we had our own private onsen, so this wasn’t much of a concern; however, it’s something to be aware of if you don’t have this particular room type.
Lastly, I’d say that Roku Kyoto’s most attractive asset is its beautiful and zenlike resort grounds. A series of outdoor corridors are surrounded by gardens and a peaceful and idyllic central water feature, which was especially beautiful to wake up to in the mornings.
Furthermore, Roku Kyoto sits on the site of Shozan Resort, whose private gardens are situated about a five-minute walk away. Hotel guests have free access to the gardens simply by showing their room keys.
Previously, there was a bowling alley belonging to the Shozan Resort where the Roku currently sits, before this section was bought out by the current owners and turned into a separate resort on its own.
Even though my stay was disappointing in many ways, I couldn’t help but think that the hotel has so much potential in terms of its physical attractiveness. The outstanding visual aesthetics of Roku Kyoto potentially serve as the basis for its high pricing at the moment; however, the rest of the soft product has more ways to go to justify these prices.
I had high expectations of the Roku Kyoto, following excellent experiences at other Kyoto resorts. Unfortunately, however, I was left quite disappointed by the experience.
The initial pushback I received for an upgrade to the Garden King Room as a Hilton Diamond member had set the tone for the stay. Then, the limited dining options and underwhelming breakfast offerings solidified my lukewarm feelings about the hotel.
I’d say it’s worth staying here if you want a private onsen in your room or if you’re a dedicated Hilton loyalist visiting Kyoto. Another reason would be the spectacular natural setting and the close proximity to Kinkaku-ji, as this is one of the few luxury hotels in this part of town (aside from the Aman Kyoto, which is in an entirely separate league of its own in terms of pricing).
Aside from these mitigating factors, however, I don’t feel this hotel justifies a visit ahead of The Ritz-Carlton, The Mitsui, and the Park Hyatt Kyoto, all of which are at a comparable price point. However, Roku Kyoto is relatively new to the scene, and hopefully we’ll see some improvements as the hotel welcomes more visitors and finds its place among its competing top-tier properties.