Mitsui Hotel - hotel entrance at night

When we were planning out Japan trip, we knew we had to stay in Kyoto, and planned for four nights so we’d have enough time for all the best things to do in Kyoto. We booked two nights at HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO and it did not disappoint. It has changed the bar of what a “nice” hotel is to us (and the bar on what a silly all-caps hotel name can be).

If you’re visiting Kyoto and are looking for a luxurious experience from top to bottom, check out the rest of this review covering all aspects of the Mitsui. This hotel is by far the nicest we’ve ever stayed at, in any country.

And when we think about it, it’s the best anything we’ve ever experienced: room size and quality, building architecture, interior design, landscaping, breakfast bar, best hotel massage, best “high tea,” and especially best hotel service. This is not hyperbole. The only caveat is the insane price tag so we only stayed here for two nights out of our four days in Kyoto. For this five-star luxury hotel, you get what you pay for, and thank goodness because that isn’t always true.

Mitsui Hotel - lobby waiting area

The room options & prices

Mitsui Hotel - garden room bed

There are 161 guest rooms within Hotel the Mitsui, so it’s a relatively small hotel by normal standards. Each room is designed with the same artisanal details as the impeccable hotel grounds. Traditional Japanese tea houses influence the rooms and use materials like solid walnut, tatami, kimono fabrics, and birch to create this continuity of being in a spa. No matter where you are in the hotel, it feels like you’re in the most serene environment. We stayed in a garden room overlooking the peaceful lush greens with a king-sized bed. 

Mitsui Hotel - garden room bathroom

Here are some of the variety of rooms and suites available, prices in Yen with USD conversion as of December 2023: 

  • Deluxe room (462–584 ft²) with a city view, ¥177,100-316,250 ($1,200-2,100) per night
  • Premier room (538–721 ft²) with a city view ¥194,810-347,874 ($1,300-2,300) per night
  • Garden room (505–656 ft²) with a garden view ¥212,520-379,500 ($1,400-2,600) per night
  • Garden suite (1022–1044 ft²) with a garden view ¥334,718-597,712 ($2,300-4,000) per night
  • Nijo suite (1205 ft²) with a castle view ¥382,536-683,100 ($2,600-4,600) per night
  • Onsen suite (1087–1194 ft²) with a garden view and a private onsen ¥430,352-768,486 ($2,900-5,200) per night

Our garden room was plentiful and one of the largest hotel rooms I’ve ever stayed in. It boasts a size 505–656 ft² and a bathroom with double sinks, a toilet room, and a shower room with a soaking tub that easily fits two adults. I loved that they included linen pajamas for your stay, too. When you book your room, you also have the choice to add breakfast during your stay, which I would highly advise because it’s delicious. For a detailed breakdown of our expenses, check out our 12-day stay in Japan trip cost post.  

The hotel’s architecture

Mitsui Hotel - arched hallway

As part of Marriott’s luxury collection hotel group, Hotel the Mitsui emanates the harmony between sleek modern-day designs and historical Japanese elegance. Staying at Hotel the Mitsui gives you a deeper connection to Kyoto historically by staying in an area owned by one of Kyoto’s most influential families and the hotel’s namesake. When you first step onto the hotel grounds, you’re welcomed by a monumental gate, Kajiimiya Gate, which has been in the family’s possession for over 300 years. 

Mitsui Hotel - outdoor breakfast seating and garden area

The hallway that leads you to their Garden Bar and the Italian restaurant, FoRni, is lined with wooden arches that resemble the myriad of vermilion torii gates at the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine–albeit in a more subtle and natural wood stain. For history lovers, you’ll appreciate Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just across the street. 

Mitsui Hotel - lobby table seating

The central garden & grounds

Hotel Mitsui, garden and pond

Sitting in the middle of the Hotel the Mitsui is a vast garden and pond that opens into the hotel lobby restaurants and is the center view of many hotel rooms. The designers considered the Japanese idea of Teioku Ichinyo, which places a value in harmony between gardens and their surrounding structures. Just walking into the hotel lobby and viewing the pools of water and the lush green of the garden, you feel immediately relaxed. 

Mitsui Hotel - bridge in the garden

No matter when you visit, the garden is designed to change with the seasons. This means you can enjoy the view of different plants throughout the year. Year-round, you can enjoy red pine, black pine, and Japanese blue oak, and for Spring, there are cherry blossoms. For a detailed list of year-round flowers and plants, visit their garden website.  

Like the rest of the hotel, there’s a continuation of history designed within the garden. A modern traditional house made out of Japanese cypress sits in the middle of the hotel, surrounded by the everchanging garden. This house is where the main Mitsui family resided and has now been recreated into a SHIKI-NO-MA room–guests can reserve this room for private parties, dinners, and meetings. 

The breakfast bar & breakfast service

Mitsui Hotel - breakfast bar veggie options

They provide both Western and Japanese breakfast options. I really enjoy having the Japanese breakfast options in Japan. There are always a bunch of prepared side dishes of veggies, potatoes, mushrooms, etc, which are healthy and calming for me.

Just note that if you order the Japanese breakfast, there may be a 10-15 minute wait since they seem to cook this as you order. But, it’s so delicious that it’s really worth the wait. 

Mitsui - plate from the breakfast bar

My only complaint is that the coffee is not specialty or high-end. It’s an automatic espresso machine with OK coffee beans and an automatic steamer with only cow’s milk option. Yet still, this is the best breakfast bar and breakfast service I’ve experienced at any hotel. The next best experiences we had for breakfast bars were in Vietnam at the Vinpearl Resort & Spa in Phu Quoc and second runner-up at the Hotel de la Coupole in Sapa, Vietnam. 

Spa facilities & massage

Mitsui - spa lockers and bathroom

After many days of walking tens of thousands of miles during this Japan trip in Tokyo and Kyoto, I needed a spa day to help me reset and relax. Booking a massage at Hotel the Mitsui was one of my favorite experiences (and probably the best massage in all my travels). For about ¥23,300 ($160 USD), I booked a 50-minute custom massage and was treated to a food bath, hot tea, and a very serene and relaxing massage. 

Mitsui - massage room

Like the rest of my hotel experience, the staff was extremely attentive and friendly. I’m rather sensitive to massages and need lighter pressure than what people are used to, so I often am too strung out after a massage to truly enjoy it. However, my experience at Hotel the Mitsui was the exact opposite–I actually fell asleep during my massage, which has never happened before. 

After the massage, I was again treated to another hot tea and snack before accessing the communal thermal hot springs. All guests who book spa services have complimentary use of the thermal hot springs, and even if you don’t have a swimsuit, the hotel provides them for free for men and women (although they aren’t the most fashionable suits). 

Private onsen with in-room tea service

Mitsui hotel - private onsen

If you have more time, I recommend booking the private onsen experience at the spa. This is perfect for people who want more privacy, have tattoos, or if you have a family and want to enjoy an onsen together. The room comes with its own beverages (tea, sodas, and water), light snacks, a double vanity, lots of robes and towels, a steam shower, a traditional shower, an indoor and outdoor living room, and a continuously filling onsen that easily fits a family of 10. 

Mitsui - private onsen bathroom

Depending on your chosen duration, the private onsen costs ¥ 19,500 ($130 USD) for 60 minutes, ¥ 27,000 ($180 USD) for 90 minutes, and ¥ 34,500 ($230 USD) for 120 minutes. The private onsen is only available to registered guests, so you aren’t welcome to invite other friends not staying on the hotel grounds. 

Another memorable experience was opting for the in-room afternoon tea service with the private onsen. For an additional ¥ 7,100-¥ 7,700 ($48-$52 USD), you can enjoy a substantial afternoon tea with two chosen teas, a cocktail/mocktail, and many snacks and treats. Next to our afternoon tea in Oahu, this is by far, my favorite tea experience. I especially loved the seasonal chestnut desserts.  

Mitsui - afternoon tea snacks, food

The service overall

Mitsui - luggage delivered to our room from Tokyo

While researching how to book a Japan trip, I came across many tourists stating that one of the best things you can have to aid you in traveling to Japan is a powerful hotel concierge. And after staying at Hotel the Mitsui, I’d have to agree. 

host serving tea in private tea service

Not only was every single staff person we encountered incredibly professional and friendly, but they were also so attentive and would ask if we needed help with anything. Every time we entered or left, we’d be greeted kindly. After being unable to book dinners ahead of time for our time in Kyoto, our concierge diligently called many different restaurants and guided us to find the best spots for many reservations. 

All of our whims would be assisted immediately and efficiently–almost to the point where I felt somewhat indebted to their help. I’ve never been treated so well, and I would definitely say the price point and service level are well-matched.


Overall everything at the Mitsui was top-notch and surpassed our expectations of what a luxury hotel can be. As the experience soaks in for us many weeks after our stay here, many new appreciations emerge as we realize many little details and refinements this hotel had to offer compared to our other travels abroad and in the US.

What makes a place like this hard to rival in America is the Japanese culture these servicepeople have at their core. It is a politeness, kindness, courteousness that is extremely difficult to match if raised under typical American culture. I would stay at HOTEL THE MITSUI KYOTO again in a heartbeat, if the chance becomes available.

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