6 Amazing Traditional Japanese Ryokan in Kyoto with Private Onsen Baths – Perfect For Couples and Shy Guests!

The air of culture and tradition that defines Kyoto draws many who want to enjoy unique Japanese experiences, including soaking in a private “onsen” hot spring bath! Kyoto is abundant with numerous beautiful “ryokan” inns that also host sensational private onsen that are perfect for guests who want to indulge in the beloved Japanese tradition of onsen without worrying about sharing. In this article, we’ll introduce you to 6 amazing Kyoto accommodations that have the private onsen and ryokan experiences rolled into one.

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What Is a Private Onsen?

“Onsen” are hot spring baths, generally filled with mineral-rich waters that offer an experience much different than normal indoor baths. A private onsen is what the name implies–a hot spring bath reserved for a limited number of people. This number depends on the onsen’s size, but normally, they’re built to comfortably fit up to two people.

There are many hotels and ryokan across Japan equipped with private onsen, which are normally presented in two ways: a shared private onsen (called “kashikiri-buro”) that can be reserved during certain time slots (generally for a separate rate), or private onsen baths attached to the guest rooms (and are commonly included in the room rate).

Due to the fact that most onsen are normally shared with others (although separated by gender), private onsen are the ideal choice for couples and those not comfortable sharing a bathing space with others, since bathing suits and other clothing are generally not allowed in onsen. They’re also a great option if you have tattoos, since there are many shared onsen in Japan that refuse people with tattoos from entering. Private onsens afford you the luxury of privacy and peace of mind – you can simply get in without worrying about anyone else.

6 Ryokan in Kyoto With Private Onsen

If you are in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto and want to enjoy the experience of a private onsen after an eventful day of sightseeing, we recommend checking out the following Kyoto ryokan with private onsen!

1. Togetsutei (Arashiyama)

Founded in 1897, Togetsutei is one of the oldest ryokans on this list. The ryokan’s endurance is owed to how faithfully they have preserved the hospitality and atmosphere that generations of guests have fallen in love with. There are two wings at this Kyoto ryokan, Hekisenkaku and Shuginkaku, the former hosting larger rooms and the latter smaller, though all traditional Japanese style. Modern-day guests can step into the Japanese-style rooms and feel as though they have traveled back in time to past Japan. The rooms all come with necessary amenities such as air conditioning, towels, a hairdryer, and a refrigerator.

Togetsutei is located in one of Kyoto’s most famous districts, Arashiyama. It’s close to tourist spots such as Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama and the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The ryokan is clearly proud of its Kyoto heritage; this can be seen in the souvenir shop that sells Kyoto-made sweets and pickled vegetables, and in the restaurant menu that’s been handcrafted by experienced chefs to show off the best of Kyoto’s seasonal produce. The ryokan even offers an equally exquisite kids’ meal for those traveling as a family.

Togetsutei is a great place to stay for a relaxing time. In addition to the public onsen available to all the guests, both Hekisankaku and Shuginkaku host rooms with connected private onsen. The type of private onsen differs depending on the room, and options include a “rotenburo” (open-air bath), a semi-open-air bath, a natural hot spring bath, and a cypress wood bath. All of these baths are suitable for a traveling couple or those looking for some privacy, so you can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose.

2. Hanaikada (Arashiyama)

Hanaikada’s excellent location in the Arashiyama district means it’s not too far away from some of the essential tourist spots in Kyoto. You can get to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest within 15 minutes, and walk to the Tenryuji Temple complex in less than 10 minutes. This Kyoto ryokan is designed with traditional aspects of Japanese architecture – minimalist with natural finishes – which also extends into all of the guest rooms.

Two of their rooms, Mokuren-no-ma (Room Magnolia) and Ran-no-ma (Room Orchid), have attached private onsen. Mokuren-no-ma has an open-air private onsen where you can feel the Kyoto mountain breeze, while Ran-no-ma has a semi-open-air private onsen made from stone. You can also find a larger bathhouse separated between men and women that can be used by all the guests.

The ryokan values guests’ comfort and understands that even a traditional ryokan should not forgo the conveniences of modern life. All rooms come with their own refrigerator and air conditioning, and guests also receive the usual amenities such as toiletries and towels along with their own “yukata”(light cotton kimono).

Food served at the ryokan is also traditional. Breakfast consists of a spread of Japanese dishes, including grilled fish, while lunch features a hot tofu course made with special Arashiyama tofu. For dinner, you can choose between an exquisite multi-course “kaiseki” dinner or a hot pot course that uses locally grown vegetables and seasonal meats like “fugu” (blowfish) and Japanese beef.

3. The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu (Higashiyama)

The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu is a stunning luxury hotel located in the historic Higashiyama district. You can step out and be surrounded by Higashiyama’s stone-paved streets and preserved buildings, then walk just a few minutes to the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The hotel’s strategic location gives guests luxurious views of the historic Kyoto cityscape.

Guests can choose from a selection of beautifully modern, Western-style rooms. All of the rooms come with amenities you can expect from a luxury hotel, including minibars, refrigerators, coffee machines, and safety deposit boxes.

As for the hotel facilities, guests can work out at the fitness gym or reserve one of three private onsen – perfect for couples or guests who want some alone time after exploring Kyoto. Each private onsen has a name that reminds one of Kyoto, including “Kiyomizu,” “Yamato,” and “Sakura.” While the onsen might not be open-air, the high ceilings and warm lighting help create a calming atmosphere.

There are two restaurants within the hotel grounds, Benoit Kyoto, a French restaurant where guests can enjoy bistro cuisine using seasonal ingredients, and an elegant library restaurant that serves breakfast. The concierge can help guests book restaurant reservations, as well as provide sightseeing information around the city.

4. Momijiya Honkan Takaosansou (Ukyo)

If you’re looking for an escape from Kyoto’s busy city center, Momijiya Honkan Takaosansou offers that and more. This ryokan takes you right into Kyoto’s mountainous Takao region. If you visit in autumn, you’re guaranteed to experience the bright colors of the foliage firsthand.

Being a ryokan, the decors and room interiors are traditional Japanese-style, complete with tatami mat floors and sliding “shoji” doors. In terms of baths, one way to enjoy a private onsen is to rent a room in the ryokan’s annex, known as Kawa-no-iori. All of the rooms in this detached building are equipped with alluring private “rotenburo” open-air onsen. If you’re staying at the main ryokan building, there are also two private onsens that can be reserved upon check-in, both of which have amazing mountain views of Kyoto.

All year round, the ryokan restaurant serves regional dishes that make use of the seasonal harvests. Once the weather gets warmer, guests can enjoy their meals at a nearby outdoor deck that overlooks the Kiyotaki River. Then once summer is in full swing, there are dinners that are complemented by a lovely performance from a local “maiko,” (apprentice geisha).

5. Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St. (Shimogyo)

Built from the foundations of over 110-year-old “machiya” (traditional Japanese wooden townhouses), Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St. in Kyoto is a conceptually unique style of ryokan. It consists not just of one building, but rather a set of machiya-style buildings formed around an L-shaped alleyway. With the buildings being in their own separated area, you can feel a sense of solitude while still in the city center. Kyoto Station and Nijo Castle are both less than 20 minutes away by bus.

Strolling along the ryokan alleyway, you’ll feel like you’re walking along a typical, yet quiet, townhouse street in Kyoto. Once you get inside, you’ll see why Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St. brands itself as a luxury ryokan. Elements of traditional Japan have been successfully banded with the sleekness of modernity. Each of the deluxe rooms has a nature-inspired theme such as stone, bamboo, and water. Booking these rooms from the ryokan means you get your own Kyoto townhouse with two floors and a semi-open-air private onsen.

The cuisine available here follows the traditional Japanese theme. You can enjoy a “dashi chazuke” breakfast, which consists of locally produced rice served with bonito broth and “obanzai,” a set of small Kyoto dishes that offer a myriad of flavors. For dinner, you can also try wagyu beef sourced from all over Japan. Lastly, the ryokan can also help arrange activities for its guests, such as kimono rentals and relaxation treatments.


6. Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo (Sakyo)

Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo is superbly located in the middle of several Kyoto tourist spots, including Heian Shrine, the Kyoto City Zoo, and Nanzenji Temple. The ward it’s in is known for having magnificent gardens, and the ryokan doesn’t fail to live up to this reputation. The main building has a charming Japanese garden landscaped by one of Japan’s master garden architects.

The rooms of the ryokan follow the traditional Japanese style – minimalist, full of clean lines, and highlighting the beauty of natural materials. Many of the rooms have an attached open-air private onsen, with some of them being spacious enough not just for couples, but also for families. This Kyoto ryokan knows guests enjoy onsen the best when there’s also a great view, so all of the open-air onsen come with either a garden view or a balcony.

This Kyoto ryokan gives guests plenty of chances to enjoy its traditional Japanese garden. Their restaurant has an extended section that stretches out to give diners a great view of the garden. They can take in this view while being served delicious kaiseki meals or wagyu beef. Afterwards, guests can go for an evening stroll and appreciate the garden’s transformation during the nightly illuminations.

Experience a Level of Relaxation Only a Great Kyoto Ryokan and Private Onsen Can Provide

If you’re a couple traveling in Japan and want to share the onsen experience with each other, or you would still like to experience an onsen in Japan without sharing a bathing space with others, we highly recommend staying at an onsen with a private onsen bath. With its beautiful traditional atmosphere and historic townscapes, Kyoto is home to many such ryokan that have private onsen, which are great places to feel truly immersed in Japanese culture. Not only will you learn what makes Japanese-style rooms and hospitality so special, but you also get to try one of the country’s favorite simple but effective pastimes – relaxing in a hot spring bath. There is no better way to wash away the fatigue after an eventful day of sightseeing!

Thumbnail: M.Kumazawa / Shutterstock.com

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Kansai Feature

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

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Jen Laforteza
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