Ryokans and Machiya: The Best Traditional Guest Houses in Kyoto

Kyoto Ryokan| © City Foodsters
Kyoto Ryokan| © City Foodsters Flickr
Kyoto is home to many ryokans (traditional inns) and machiya (wooden townhouses), making the city a great place to experience authentic Japanese-style accommodation and indulge in the traditions and culture of the island-nation. Here are five of the best places to bed down like a local.
Kyoto Ryokan © City Foodsters Flickr

Tawaraya Inn

With over 300 years of history, the exclusive Tawaraya Inn is located in the Kawaramachi area of downtown Kyoto. Taking Japanese-style omotenashi hospitality to the next level, the luxurious inn features beautiful rooms, seasonal kaiseki multi-course meals and traditional gardens. Tawaraya is one of the oldest ryokans in the city and is famous for its high-quality service, having accommodated everyone from Edo-period daimyō feudal lords and aristocrats, to Meiji-period diplomats and modern-day visionaries like Steve Jobs.

Fuya-cho, Oike sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture. T: +81 75-211-5566


Hoshinoya is situated on the western outskirts of Kyoto in Arashiyama, a place known for its scenic beauty and rich culture since ancient times. Edging the Oi River at the foot of Mount Arashiyama, Hoshinoya offers the quintessential ryokan experience, with unparalleled levels of hospitality. You can arrive in style like a Kyoto noble of the past by taking a private riverboat from the Togetsukyō Bridge. Leave the modern world behind and sip on matcha in the charming, open-air tea room, surrounded by greenery and the soothing sound of rushing water.

11-2 Arashiyama, Genrokuzan-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture. T: +81 50-3786-1144

Hoshinoya Ryokan

The riverside ryokan of Hoshinoya | © Banalities / Flickr


One of the most luxurious ryokans in Kyoto, Tamahan is conveniently located in the geisha and entertainment district of Gion. The traditional wooden building transports guests back in time to old Kyoto and is close to the some of the city’s most famous landmarks and historic districts. Originally a private summer retreat, Tamahan opened its doors to the public in 1929 and, today, visitors can enjoy classic Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine) along with the fantastic inner garden. You’re just steps away from the pedestrian-only Ishibei-koji Lane, one of the most beautifully preserved and atmospheric streets in all of Japan.

477 Shimogawara-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture. T: +81 75-561-3188

Breakfast at Tamahan Ryokan

Kyo-ryori breakfast at Tamahan Ryokan| © MichaelMaggs / WikiCommons

Iori Machiya Stay

Iori Machiya Stay is a collection of 11 Japanese machiya townhouses, all located in downtown Kyoto. The impeccably restored buildings offer visitors a rare chance to experience a traditional style of accommodation that’s slowly dwindling due to urban development. Interiors feature authentic Japanese décor such as folding screens, andon floor lamps, tansu chests, hanging scrolls and ceramics. Several of the townhouses are located alongside the famous Kamo River, providing fantastic views of the river and, beyond, the Higashiyama mountains from your private veranda.

144-6 Sujiya-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture. T: +81 75-352-0211

Amber House Gion

The Meiji-period Amber House Gion is a spacious, two-storey machiya, tucked away down a quiet side street in the centre of old Gion. The former ochaya (geisha entertainment teahouse) offers a tranquil setting that befits its location near Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto. The elegant building embodies old-Kyoto charm, made all the more comfortable by the latest mod-cons. Amber House Gion is just a few minutes away from some of the city’s best sightseeing spots, such as Gion and the Southern Higashiyama area.

563-15 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture. T: +81 75-533-7775

Amber House Gion

The Meji-period Amber House Gion| Courtesy of Old Kyoto