Ryokans are a kind of traditional inn unique to Japan and offer a rich cultural experience and relaxation to its guests. These Japanese inns are known to cater to the guests’ every need and serve kaiseki meals that are meticulously prepared by the finest chefs in the business. There are a number of ryokans, especially the high-end kind, in the Kyoto area because of its rich ties as a vacation spot to the Japanese Imperial Family throughout history.
For those uninitiated, a ryokan is a small, traditional hotel and a cultural touchpoint that’s been a central part of the nation’s culture for centuries. Throughout history, ryokans have come in so many shapes and forms, from homes offering spare rooms to luxury style establishments offering meticulous hospitality and exquisite and intricate cuisine.
The experience of staying at a ryokan is worth the expense because of the quality of service and amenities that come with a stay, as well as the usual kaiseki meal inclusions that are unique to each area. Some kaiseki meals are even specially made by the inns themselves and show off their culinary prowess.
Hoshinoya Kyoto is a traditional Japanese inn converted from the home of Ryoi Suminokura, a wealthy merchant. The ryokan is located in Nishikyo, on the riverbanks of Ōi River, just a short distance from the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. This Hoshinoya property on this list is also the second ryokan that the resort chain has opened, the first one being Hoshinoya Tokyo.
Hoshinoya Kyoto has been praised for its beautiful location, surrounded by sakura and a captivating walkway covered in moss that leads guests around the property. The Japanese inn also boasts traditional style cypress wood baths, and karakami printed wallpaper made by Kyoto craftsmen.
The traditional Japanese inn takes great pride in their kaiseki dinners, which are prepared by their Michelin Star Chef Ichiro Kubota, using local and seasonal ingredients.
Like its Tokyo counterpart, Hoshinoya Kyoto has been recognized for its hospitality and has been given the rank of 5 Red Pavilions by the Michelin Guide for 10 consecutive years since 2011, a Crystal Award from Professional Japan in 2013, and ranking in Conde Nast Traveler Gold List from 2016-2017. Hoshinoya Kyoto has also been a consistent nominee for Japan’s Leading Resort from 2015-2020, winning the award in 2016.
- Website: https://hoshinoya.com/kyoto/en/
- Address: Japan, 〒616-0007 Kyoto, Nishikyo Ward, 嵐山元録山町１１−２
Tawaraya Ryokan is considered one of the finest, if not the finest, in Kyoto and perhaps all of Japan. The 300-year-old Japanese inn is the oldest in Kyoto and has since been frequented by people of prominence–one of which was Steve Jobs. Tawaraya has a reputation for its high quality, attentive, and personalized service that has stemmed from accommodating aristocrats back in the Edo Period, leaving no space for compromise in their services and dining experience.
Tawaraya is renowned for its relaxed atmosphere in their traditional and contemporary Japanese-style rooms, and Japanese garden, and is praised as a “home away from home”. The ryokan also serves expertly prepared meals that feature seasonal and local ingredients.
The luxurious Japanese inn is ideally located in the city center, right in the heart of Nakagyo, Kyoto, making it a perfect spot to relax after exploring the bustling city. A dip in the private onsen baths and enjoying a kaiseki dinner and service is sure to melt away the exhaustion and worries of travel and work.
- Telephone: 211-5566
- Fax: 81-75-211-2204
- Address: 278 Nakahakusancho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8094, Japan
Gion Hatanaka is found in the picturesque Gion District in Higashiyama. Known for being tourist-friendly, the inn is especially accommodating to those who are new to the ryokan culture in Japan.
Located right in the heart of a district that treasures geisha culture, Gion Hatanaka stands out from the list of ryokans as it offers maiko evenings and regular geisha entertainment where guests can observe the traditional dances and performances. If you’re a fan, this is the place for you to play maiko drinking games first hand, and learn about the samurai and sword dancing.
Of course, to complete the experience, Gion Hatanaka also serves specially-prepared Kyoto kaiseki for dinners. There are private baths as well as large communal baths for you to relax in after exploring the sight-seeing district, and the nearby Yasaka Shrine and the Geisha Village.
- Website: https://www.thehatanaka.co.jp/
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- Address: 505 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
Established in 1832, Seikoro Ryokan or Seikoro Inn started as a lodging stop for travelers on their journeys in Kyoto, and eventually evolved into the traditional inn it is today. Seikoro Ryokan has since been run by the same Japanese Family, and maintained its quality service, earning its place as one of the top ryokans in Kyoto.
The cozy Japanese ryokan is known for its exceptional hospitality and attentive service. The guest rooms have since been refurbished to incorporate more modern elements and comforts, with a sitting area that offers views into its delightful garden. That staff’s attention to detail during a stay is sure to impress along with the multi-course kaiseki dinner.
After dinner, you’ll want to soak in its relaxing baths. The cypress and pine baths facing the garden will give a luxurious feel and bring on a relaxing experience like no other.
Seikoro Ryokan is also ideally located near historical sites like Kiyomizu, a temple that has been declared as a World Heritage Site.
If you plan on staying here and have a pet, Seikoro Ryokan also welcomes furry guests provided they are small and will not disrupt the stay of the other guests.
- Website: www.seikoro.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Address: Japan, 〒605-0907 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 問屋町通五条下ル三丁目西橘町４６７
Kyoto Nanzenji Ryokan Yachiyo or Yachiyo Hotel Kyoto is a popular choice among travelers and history enthusiasts because of its traditional Japanese elements. It displays the influences of the Meiji Period villas that surround it in the neighborhood and the gardens around the property.
The ryokan offers traditional Japanese accommodations fitted with tatami mat flooring and futon beds, some rooms equipped with semi-open-air baths. In addition, there is also an indoor communal bath that is open to all guests.
Nearby, you’ll find the Nanzenji Temple, Eikando, and Heian Jingu Shrine, and multiple other historical sites that would excite any culture enthusiast. There is also a restaurant that overlooks the garden and features delicately prepared Japanese cuisine, including vegetarian, for the guests to partake in.
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