History Comes Alive With These 10 Luxury Ryokan in Kyoto!

Kyoto boasts a unique air of history that has withstood the fires of war and the test of time. Home to ancient buildings, Buddhist statues, and townhouses, the traditional landscapes of Kyoto remind us of the lives of people long ago, even in the modern age. Just outside the historic city are marvelous sights of the pristine sea and wooded mountains, also offering visitors the bliss of experiencing Japan’s four seasons. No matter if this is your first or your one-hundredth time visiting, there is always something new to discover each time! Enrich your Kyoto trip by enjoying peak Japanese hospitality at one of these 10 luxury ryokans.

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The Top 10 Best Historic Ryokan in Kyoto

1. Kyoto Takasegawa Villa

Located quietly along the Takase River in the heart of Kyoto, Kyoto Takasegawa Villa is a perfect example of what a typical machiya would have looked like long ago. The villa retains the atmosphere of an age once forgotten, and located at the end of a small alley, the ryokan is secluded from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, offering a quiet retreat in which you can indulge yourself in relaxation. In the spring, the cherry blossoms lining the Takase River burst with color as almost to welcome you to Kyoto.

Guest rooms retain the rustic warmth of traditional “tatami” straw mats while pursuing modern comforts with the highest-grade of Simmons beds. In addition, the ryokan is embellished with functional traditional craft ware from Kyoto and the surrounding regions such as Kiyomizuyaki tableware and a Shigarakiyaki washbin from Shiga Prefecture.

Another luxurious and delightful point is that all rooms come fully equipped with a “hinoki” cypress bath. The warmth of the wood and the dignified aroma will soothe the fatigue of your trip. You can also relax and enjoy the elegant "tsuboniwa" courtyard garden, a unique characteristic of traditional Kyoto machiya houses.

Meals are also carefully prepared with the guest's tastes in mind. Vegetarian and Western-style meals are also available, made from fresh, local ingredients.

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2. Kyoyado USAGI

Located near Nijo Castle, a World Heritage Site, Kyoyado Usagi came to be when a nearly 100-year-old machiya house was renovated based on the concept of a traditional Kyoto machiya suite where visitors can stay as if they were living in their own house.

Although the inn is small in size, with only six suites, the space is unique, with inherently traditional Japanese architecture harmoniously married with stylish Western flairs of design. There are a number of rooms, such as a typical machiya flat or a maisonette which gives the comforts of home, making it a great place to stay for longer periods of time. Despite the modest exterior, you will be welcomed by a modern space that is truly lavish and sublime.

Each space showcases Kyoto’s unique architectural style, making use of log beams that remained unaltered since the construction of the building, displaying rooms complemented by distinctive “tsuboniawa” courtyards and even a splendid garden designed by Kyoto’s stone craftsmen which features different flowers depending on the season. The spacious and refined machiya will surely make your Kyoto stay even more memorable!

3. Kyokoyado Yasaka Yutone

Kyokoyado Yosaka Yutone is a hidden inn cozily located at the end of a stone-cobbled street close to Yasaka Pagoda, the five-story pagoda of Hokanji Temple. The inn is well known for its elegant use of space, refined cuisine, and peerless hospitality.

While there are only seven rooms, they all come fitted with Simmons beds and wooden hinoki baths so that you can relax in peace and quiet outside of the bustle of the big city. While each of the rooms is unique, the room that is long and narrow is recommended as it is very characteristic of traditional machiya houses. One cool feature of the hotel is that each room is named after a traditional Japanese color.

One of Kyoto’s greatest luxuries is its rich culinary culture. The inn’s up-and-coming chef will surely spoil you with delicious and healthy “kaiseki” traditional multi-course cuisine using Kyoto's unique ingredients, such as tofu, “yuba” (bean curd,) and “namafu” (wheat gluten.) You will also find Kyoto's sophistication and aesthetics in the dishes’ refined taste and gorgeous food presentation.

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4. Kuraya Kiyomizu Gojo

This machiya ryokan was renovated from a traditional storehouse by the Ogawa family, a Kyoto family famous for their pottery, since the late Meiji period (1868-1912). The old pillars and doors have been kept as to preserve the charm of the machiya, reminding us of the days when the inn was bustling with craftsmen and customers. The inn still keeps traditional Kyoyaki ceramics inside the inn on display for customers to admire.

One of the key components that give the inn such a comfortable feeling is the use of low lighting for a cozy effect. Since a kitchen is included, we recommend that you experience Kyoto life by doing some simple cooking as well however, if you want to enjoy authentic Kyoto cuisine, you can have kaiseki cuisine delivered from the long-established restaurant "Izusen” right to your door.

Because the inn is located in the Higashiyama area, which is home to many Kyoyaki and Kiyomizuyaki pottery studios, it is also characterized by its particular attention to decoration and teaware. In the living room, you treat yourself to tea using Kyoto's finest products, such as Kyoyaki ware teapots, Seikado tin tea canisters, and Ippodo “sencha” green tea.

5. Seikoro

Meaning "a pavilion built on the banks of the Kamo River on a clear day” even the name of the inn exudes a certain air of elegance. Built in 1831, Seikoro has seen the city of Kyoto grow and change over time, with a history of nearly 200 years. With its cherry blossoms, autumn leaves, and azaleas, the garden, which can be viewed from the traditional Japanese rooms, is a delight in every season. Another charm of the hotel is its modern interior, which evokes the romance of the good old days of the Meiji and Taisho eras, hitting you with a hint of nostalgia the moment you walk in the door.

Over 200 years of service have refined even the most meticulous points of Seikoro’s spirit of hospitality, something that cannot be studied through manuals but must be cultivated through lived experience, allowing guests to enjoy their Kyoto stay amidst unforgettable refinement and comfort. In addition, guests can also experience Kyoto’s rich culture for themselves with the popular "Twelve-layered Traditional Dressing Experience," where they can adorn themselves with the clothes of ancient Kyoto aristocrats and take memorable pictures.

After relaxing in the private baths, enjoy the signature Kyoto-style kaiseki cuisine. The refined and sophisticated taste, with an emphasis on minimalism, reverberates the very profoundness of Kyoto.

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6. Kyoto Garden Ryokan YACHIYO hotel

Located in the heart of the city, the  Kyoto Garden Ryokan YACHIYO is nestled at the foot of Higashiyama, where ancient Kyoto culture still lives on today. The large lantern at the front entrance is impressive, but the inn's simple and elegant atmosphere, modeled after a modest teahouse, is what really makes this ryokan stand out. The quietness of the environment is so surprising that you may forget that you are in the middle of the city.

This is a great stay for couples and friends, but it also has a family room with a sauna, making it ideal for family gatherings.

Yachiyo actually began as a restaurant and has earned a reputation for its traditional cuisine. In fact, back in the day, Yachiyo’s reputation was able to work its way up to where it is now as it became favored by many of Kyoto's most sophisticated connoisseurs who were very particular about the taste of their food. Never one to disappoint, the inn crafted mouthwatering dish after dish with fresh seasonal ingredients and has earned its place at the top.

Yachiyo's garden restaurant overlooks a garden created by Jihei Ogawa, the famous pioneer of modern Japanese gardens, and offers the famous Nanzenj “yudofu” (a hot pot dish with tofu.) The restaurant also offers vegetarian kaiseki cuisine, which is a rare touch.

7. Sowaka

The most attractive feature of Sowaka is its luxurious interior, where the classic meets the contemporary. With a history of over 100 years, the main building was renovated from a former traditional Japanese-style restaurant that follows the “sukiya” architectural style. Each room has a different design and material, such as transoms and small windows, making it a valuable building where one can feel the high level of craftsmanship and playful spirit of the craftspeople. While retaining the atmosphere of those days, it has been rearranged in a modern style including rooms with a private garden and maisonette-type rooms.

The contrast between the black washi tatami flooring and plaster walls creates a beautiful contrast in the lobby lounge, where you can enjoy a welcome drink or read a book from the ryokan library.

After enjoying the bold, innovative cuisine at the restaurant, have a drink at the bar counter, which has been made from a traditional Japanese-style tatami room designed by a Kyoto master craftsman. You can enjoy not only Japanese sake but also Japanese whiskey and shochu, which are a true delight. Feel the beauty of quintessentially Japanese aesthetics while enjoying Sowaka’s unique features!

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8. Momijiya Honkan Takao Sansou Mountain Villa Ryokan

The Takao area, which is affectionately called the "back seat of Kyoto" as it is located north of Arashiyama and Sagano, is renowned as a scenic spot for viewing the autumn leaves. Amidst such pristine nature is Momijiya Honkan Takao Sansou Mountain Villa Ryokan which was founded in 1907 and is the perfect place to enjoy the spectacle of Kyoto’s foliage away from the crowds.

The hotel is built on a hill overlooking the valley, offering magnificent views of the Kitayama cedars right from your room and sights of seasonal flowers blooming beautifully in the garden. The most prized feature of the hotel is the open-air baths that take full advantage of the location, fully immersing you in the nature of northern Kyoto. There are two types of baths, one made of hinoki cypress and the other of stone, so you can relax while enjoying the different scenery depending on the season and time of day.

In early summer, special raised platforms are set up along the Kiyotaki River, which flows between deep mountains, and visitors can enjoy Kyoto's unique dining style while being surrounded by the cool, refreshing scenery of green maples as the river babbles. Winter also brings a strong sense of emotion as the velvety snow blankets the region, highlighting the change of the season. At Momijiya Honkan Takao Sansou Mountain Villa Ryokan, you can relish the rural beauty of Kyoto throughout the year, experiencing a completely different side to the city!

9. OKU KIZASHI THE SUITE

Conveniently located within walking distance of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine and Kinkakuji Temple, OKU KIZASHI THE SUITE is a ryokan that proposes a new luxury style of travel.

All six rooms in the villa are suites, including a spacious room with a modern terrace and traditional bathtub, a room exemplifying a traditional Kyoto townhouse with “shoji” screens and a courtyard garden, a room akin to a tea house, and a room with a modern arrangement of traditional beams. The rooms are all furnished with beds, but if you prefer a traditional Japanese touch, feel free to request futon bedding and experience a quintessentially Japanese stay! 

Kaiseki cuisine in the dining room combines seasonal ingredients and tofu made with Kyoto's pure water. However, for a more private touch, room service is also available directly to your door. A bar is also available so you can relax after dinner.

In addition, the inn can introduce guests to local teahouses, and geisha/maiko can be invited for a banquet for a truly authentic experience.

10. Monjusou Hotel

Amanohashidate is known as one of the three most scenic places in Japan and is located in Miyazu Bay on the Sea of Japan in the northern part of Kyoto. The mysterious formations created by nature over thousands of years are well worth a visit. Monjusou Hotel is right near Amanohashidate and is a long-running establishment that began in 1690 as a tea shop for making and selling "Chie-no-mochi," a specialty of Amanohashidate. The inn is now being run by its 13th generation of owners.

The rooms have been designed to embrace the natural beauty of  Amanohashidate, and the magnificent site can be viewed from all guest rooms.

Amanohashidate Hot Spring, which is drawn from over 1,500 meters below the ground, is a calming onsen suitable for therapeutic bathing. It warms the body to the core, and you may be surprised at how moist your skin feels after bathing. Meals are served in a restaurant with a view of the Amanohashidate canal through the glass walls, and you can enjoy Kyoto-style kaiseki, including "Ishigama-ryori" (stone kiln cuisine) made from seasonal ingredients.

Enjoy the coziness of the inn as you relish unparalleled hospitality and the spectacular sights of one of Japan’s most coveted views.

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In Summary

For a truly authentic Kyoto experience, a ryokan is the way to go! Bask in the rich history of the eternal city and treat yourself to a stay with levels of hospitality, that you will not find anywhere else!

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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