Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

Oct 30, 2019

Seikoro Ryokan: Historic and charming


  • Seikoro Ryokan: Historic and charming
  • Hiiragiya Ryokan: Yasunari Kawabata’s favorite
  • Sumiya Ryokan Kyoto: Traditional tea experience
  • Hoshinoya Kyoto: Take a boat to get in and out of the hotel
  • Ikumatsu: Former home of Tokugawa
  • Kyoyadoya Shirafuji-an: Edo period
  • Yoshimizu: Hundred years’ history

The Seikoro opened in 1831 and has been passed down for 5 generations. They offer excellent service. These Japanese buildings are a throwback to the Taisho romantic era over 100 years ago. It also offers a beautiful garden and is a very historic and charming older Japanese inn. =

This is where the TV show “Kamo, Kyoto e iku. - Shinise ryokan no okami nikki” is based on and filmed. Take a shower in the wooden bathtub made from 400-year old fern pine trees from the Takano area. Apparently you can smell the aroma of the pine while in the water.

The most unique thing about Seikoro is that you get to try putting on the Junihitoe, which is a very arduous activity. Pay JP¥3,000 and experience what it is like to dress up formally like the noble women in ancient Japan.

Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

Hiiragiya Ryokan: Yasunari Kawabata’s favorite

“Hiiragiya was opened in 1818 and is now more than 200 years old. At the entrance, a piece of calligraphy is hung depicting the saying “may every guest feels like they are returning home”. This is a tradition which Hiiragiya has been passing down for 200 years. As one of the “Gosanke” inns in Kyoto, this one is very closed to the financial and tourist area in Kyoto. It’s very easy to walk and shop nearby.

The main building of the inn is a two-story wooden structure that is entirely Japanese and in Sukiya architectural style. There is also a new three-storey building which is furnished with metal reinforcement but whose highlight on Japanese architectural style remains. Almost all rooms offer a view over the garden and the green areas. Dinner offers a Kyoto Kaiseki cuisine which is made from in-season ingredients. Even cutlery and plates are carefully chosen.

Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

Sumiya Ryokan Kyoto: Traditional tea experience

Opened during Taisho era, Sumiya enjoys fame along with Tawaraya and Hiiragiya. Together they are called Kyoto’s Gosanke of old inns. Apparently this used to be a small tea house for travellers to take a break on their journey, and slowly became a lodging house. So, a tea experience is definitely a nod to traditions at Sumiya.

Kyoto Kaiseki cuisine is served during dinner and made with the freshest of goods. Everything is natural, organic and in season. From the tea before meals to eating fruit afterwards, it takes at least 1.5 hours to get through all 15 courses.

Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

Hoshinoya Kyoto: Take a boat to get in and out of the hotel

The Hoshino Resort is a luxury hotel and resort brand in Japan. The Kyoto branch sits atop Arashiyama and you will need to take a boat to get in and out of the hotel. From Togetsu-kyō Bridge a ride up along the Katsura River takes about 15 minutes. This private paradise of a resort will then appear before you.

This is literally holy grounds to enjoy views of cherry blossoms and fall colours. It is very peaceful and quiet with its back towards the mountain and face towards the river. The vantage area are windows derived from Japanese sliding doors, and is equipped with the innovative tatami couches from the Hoshino chain. In this peaceful and calm environment you can experience more of Kyoto’s culture and traditions, such as incense courses, kimono, ikebana, tea and flower lessons, while enjoying the changing views across all of four seasons in Kyoto.

Kaiseiki restaurant here has earned a Michelin star and has combined the traditions of Japanese cuisine along with French cooking styles, offering a brand new concept to “Kyoto cuisine”

Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

Ikumatsu: Former home of Tokugawa

Not far from Gion and close to Yodogawa, it is easy to make a trip to Pontocho for food. Older Japanese inns are really awesome with excellent service. In the West Wing which is multi-faceted, you can try out authentic Kyoto Kaiseki cuisine.

If an older inn in Kyoto does not have a history it will seem to not be trendy. Ikumatsu was an inn built by Katsura Kogoro during the late Tokugawa period and his wife Ikumatsu. It is now a heritage site in Japan. In the inn you will still find tunnels and large stones typically used in defense during war time. You will be able to learn and experience more of Meiji Restoration’s culture and history.

Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

About 5 minutes away from Shijo, the Kyoyadoya Shirafuji-An is a great choice for your visit to Kyoto. This is a whole machiya style inn building available for rent. The check-in counter is actually located in front of Kyoto station. Punch in the code given to you by the counter and you can enter the inn.

The machiya structure is an architectural style from the Edo period. The entrances are not wide, but deep and the buildings are usually 2 to 3 stories high. The Kyoyadoya Shirafuji-An has preserved the Kyoto machiya style. lattice units, mesh doors and inscribed tiles line the structures.

There are a total of 2 stories. The first floor is the entrance, office, living room, kitchen and bathroom. the courtyard sits deep inside the house. Visitors will primarily stay on the second floor. For showering and shampoo, Yojiya brand is the offer on site. The shower tub is very unique. At night you can have a glass of tea and sit on the stairs for a chat.

Kyoto’s Unique Japanese Ryokans

Yoshimizu: Hundred years’ history

Japanese Inn Yoshimizu located in the mountains in Kyoto is an inn with over 100 years of history. From here it takes several minutes to reach Anyangji and Chorakuji temples. It’s very close to Kiyomizu-dera and the Kyoto Imperial Palace. You can enjoy fantastic sceneries at the garden and can use the wall furnace in the lobby.

The inn is hidden away behind Kunshan Park and has tons of trees around. It’s filled with a sense of nature. There are beautiful sceneries all around with spring’s cherry blossoms and fall’s maple trees.

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