In the year 1868, the seat of the Japanese government was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. While Tokyo evolved into a metropolitan city, home to some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, Kyoto retains its old-world Japanese charm. Those who seek to experience ancient Japan almost always hop onto the shinkansen and onwards to Kyoto. One good way to wrap up the traditional experience? Staying in luxury ryokans in Kyoto.
These traditional inns may not be fitted with the most high-tech facilities or decked out in the finest Italian-designed furniture. They may not even have in-house restaurants boasting Michelin-stars. But make no mistake, the cuisine that they produce is certainly worthy of one or more Michelin-stars — they might have even rejected them so as to not misconstrue the edible art they produce.
But more than the facilities they provide, these luxury ryokans in Kyoto provide one thing that you probably could not get outside of Japan — omotenashi (impeccable service) and experiencing a piece of history. Tempted yet? Here are seven traditional inns in Kyoto for you to check in to.
Nestled nearby Maruyama-koen and Yasaka-jinja is this spacious luxury ryokan. Despite being within the hustle and bustle of the downtown area, your world goes quiet immediately upon stepping up the stone staircase. While it’s not the most traditionally styled ryokan in Kyoto, it’s still one of the best high-end ones thanks to its expansive and beautifully decorated rooms. Bonus points: the food is exquisite and you can hire a geisha for performances.
Gion Hatanaka, 505 (Yasakajinja Minamimon-mae) Gion-machi Minami-gawa Kyoto-shi , Higashiyama-ku Kyoto Japan, +81-75-541-5315.
Like a resort on a private island, Hoshinoya Kyoto can only be accessed by getting on a private boat at Hoshinoya Kyoto Boat Landing near Togetsu-kyo bridge. Upon getting there, it’s like a whole different world. There are five different types of rooms available to choose from, and all of them boast a gorgeous view of the river. There is an in-house Michelin-starred restaurant that serves up Kyoto-style kaiseki cuisine.
Hoshinoya Kyoto, 11-2 Arashiyama Genrokuzancho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto, +81-75-871-0001.
To really get a taste of old Kyoto complete with historical buildings, Ishibekoji Ryugin is the ryokan to check in to. Its location in Ishibekoji makes it one of the important preservation districts in the city. There’s only two rooms in this tiny ryokan, but rest assured that all the attention will go to you, true to the Japanese spirit of omotenashi. These two suites come with a private concierge who will be your guide during your stay in Kyoto.
Ishibekoji Ryugin, 463-12 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825, Japan, +81 75-748-1840.
Don’t like the busy downtown area? Then maybe the sightseeing district of Higashiyama is more of your jam. Yet, Seikoro’s location from the main streets is not too far away — you can still walk there. With art nouveau decorative pieces and rooms with wooden bathtubs and garden views, Seikoro is a classically beautiful ryokan to complete your holiday in Kyoto.
Seikoro, 3-467 Nishitachibana-cho, Tonyamachi-dori Kyoto-shi , Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan, +81-75-561-0771.
If you want to stay in “the best hotel in Japan”, look no further than Tawaraya Ryokan. About 300 years in existence, this traditional Japanese inn is by no means the fanciest or equipped with the most modern facilities. Instead, they stand out with the most impeccable services, treating you like royalty. When a hotel has one designated person to help you remove your shoes and clean them, you know you’ll be in the right hands. Each room has access to its own private garden and onsen, so you’ll almost never need to leave your room to head anywhere else within the ryokan during your time at Tawaraya.
Tawaraya Ryokan, Fuyacho Oike sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan, +81 75-211-5566.
Need convenience? Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo is within walking distance from a subway station and right by the Nanzen-ji Temple and Heian-jingu Shrine. It’s an exquisite place to enjoy a peaceful zen stay thanks to the traditional Kyoto kaiseki cuisine and a beautiful Japanese garden.
Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo, 34 Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8435, Japan, +81 75-771-4148.
Up on the hill of Yoshida is a quiet ryokan worth your time: Yoshida-sanso. It’s truly a place to get away from it all because it’s surrounded by quiet temples (like the Ginkaku-ji Temple), scenic walking paths, and plenty of lush greenery. If you don’t like the bustle of people downtown, then this is the perfect location for you. There are three elegant rooms in the main house and one on the first floor, favoured by the local monks for its garden view. When even the monks prefer to stay here, you know you’re in for a zen retreat.
Yoshida-sanso, 59-1 Yoshidashimoojicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8314, Japan, +81 75-771-6125.