Machiya: The Best Traditional Guesthouses to Book in Kyoto

A stay at Kyoto Machiya SHOUAN will immerse you in Japanese tradition
A stay at Kyoto Machiya SHOUAN will immerse you in Japanese tradition | Courtesy of Kyoto Machiya SHOUAN / Expedia
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Home to geisha, tea rooms and temples, historic Kyoto is one of Japan’s most atmospheric destinations. It’s even more so when you book into a traditional machiya guesthouse, where you can often bed down in cosy futons on tatami mat floors, then wake to private rock gardens bathed in sunlight. As for the best ones? Read on for our selection of the best traditional guesthouses in Kyoto, bookable on Culture Trip.

Shikokuan Machiya Residence Inn, for tradition near the Kamo River

The interior of Shikokuan Machiya Residence Inn, Kyoto, featuring sliding shōji doors
Courtesy of Shikokuan Machiya Residence Inn / Expedia

Shikokuan has all the intimacy of a typical Kyoto guesthouse, set in a historic machiya home constructed from wood and crowned with a small balcony. But alongside the atmosphere, enhanced by soft lighting, sliding doors and deep cypress wood baths, there are touches to suit Western travellers, including raised beds, rather than traditional floor-level ones. You’re just off the Kamo River and only a 20-minute walk from landmark Kiyomizu temple, meaning it’s easy to explore all Kyoto has to offer.

Gojo Machiya, for a family-sized spot near the geisha of Gion

The dining area at Gojo Machiya, Kyoto, with a wooden table set for four people next to a TV
Courtesy of Gojo Machiya / Expedia

This apartment in a traditional machiya home couldn’t feel more Kyoto. Perched above a kimono shop on a street clustered with restaurants and boutiques, it sleeps up to four people in one spacious bedroom and has a laundry machine and kitchen for whipping up cups of tea or snacks – all in all, a great choice for families. Must-see geisha (or geiko) district Gion, with its tea rooms and traditional restaurants, is just to the north, an easy stroll away.

Shoubuan Machiya Residence Inn, for a group stay near Nishiki Market

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A low wooden table seating four people at Shoubuan Machiya Residence Inn, Kyoto, next to sliding shōji doors which open to a small private garden
Courtesy of Shoubuan Machiya Residence Inn / Expedia

Travelling with a crowd? What you need is this three-bedroom machiya, sleeping up to eight people. It oozes Kyoto charm with tatami mat floors, a low dining table and a tranquil rock garden, accessed via sliding shōji screens. The bathrooms are slick and modern – trimmed with hinoki wood – and you can choose to snooze in Western-style beds or on futons on the floor. There’s a kitchen, but don’t bother too much with cooking – restaurant-and-snack-packed Nishiki Market is only a 20-minute walk away.

Akane-an Machiya Residence Inn, for relaxation near Nijō Castle

A low table seating four at Akane-an Machiya Residence Inn, Kyoto, opposite a wall-mounted TV and glass doors opening to a small private garden
Courtesy of Akane-an Machiya Residence Inn / Expedia

Grand Nijō Castle, with its elaborate gates, moat and tranquil gardens, is a must-see in Kyoto, and this 120-year-old traditional machiya house is only a five-minute walk away. Sleeping up to four guests, and complete with a small rock garden, the machiya comes with a mix of polished wood and tatami mat floors, gentle lighting and a handwoven ajiro-tenjo wicker ceiling. Have a restful soak in the traditional hinoki wood bath tub after a long day pounding the pavement between city sights.

Suo-an Machiya Residence Inn, for a group of six near Shijō Street

Two large beds in a screened Suo-an Machiya Residence Inn room in Kyoto
Courtesy of Suoan Machiya Residence Inn / Expedia

Looking to experience a buzzing, contemporary side of Kyoto? Look no further than Shijō Street, where you’ll get high-rises, shops galore and plenty of fun places to eat. Once you’ve had your fill, retire to this tranquil stay, set in a traditional machiya. Relax by the private inner garden, or read a book in a tatami mat room. The pad sleeps up to six people across three bedrooms, so is perfect for larger families or groups of friends travelling together.

Anzu-an Machiya Residence Inn, for everything on your doorstep

Two single beds in an Anzu-an Machiya Residence Inn room in Kyoto, separated from two other rooms by sliding shōji doors
Courtesy of Anzu-an Machiya Residence Inn / Expedia

Wooden latticework, clay tile roofs, tatami floors – this two-bedroom stay, sleeping five, ticks all the boxes. The location is ace too, given tea-house-stuffed Gion, energetic Shijō and foodie Nishiki Market are all within striking distance. Cook up a storm in the kitchen, or head to nearby Ponto-chō dining alley to try traditional kaiseki, a multi-course meal of crafted Japanese dishes. When you return, comfy Western-style beds will be waiting.

Kyoto Machiya SHOUAN, for a B&B just steps from Nijō Castle

A low table and flat-screen TV inside Kyoto Machiya SHOUAN, Kyoto, as viewed from its private outdoor garden; sliding shōji doors separate the spaces
Courtesy of Kyoto Machiya SHOUAN / Expedia

This atmospheric machiya, only steps to the north of landmark Nijō Castle, has been reborn as a friendly B&B – complete with lattice windows, screens painted with kanji lettering, and deep wooden baths. A highlight is the inner garden, flecked with plum trees, camellias and hydrangeas, as well as an imposing central pine. Rooms sleep between one and four people, so whether you’re travelling with little ones or are a solo explorer, this is a sound pick.

Kyoto Machiya Sanjojuku, for calm mornings before an onsen visit

The earthen tori-niwa corridor at Kyoto Machiya Sanjojuku, with a wooden step up towards a carpeted seating area and a staircase beyond
Courtesy of Kyoto Machiya Sanjojuku / Expedia

An abundance of original features makes a stay at this 130-year-old machiya special: from a traditional earthen tori-niwa corridor to a sun-drenched skylight and latticed screen windows. Staff will sort what you need, whether that’s a frosty beer to sip in-room, a bike hire for exploring nearby temples or a visit to a local onsen bath house (there’s one just a five-minute walk away). Of all the atmospheric rooms, the highlight has to be the one with its own garden, where you can wake up to see a soothing array of plants illuminated by sunshine.

This article is a rewrite of an article originally by John Asano.

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