Traditional ryokan in Kyoto

November 27, 2019

By Taiga Fukushima, Kana Kobashi, Masakazu Terasaki

A lot of foreign visitors come to Japan recently. Most of them want to experience Japanese-ness, like traditional culture or history so they come to Kyoto. There are old traditional buildings, the beautiful views with changing four seasons, washoku (traditional cuisine) and a chance to experience Japanese culture in Kyoto. It means you can enjoy all of them in Kyoto. That’s why people come to Kyoto. However, you can experience all of them in just one place. That is a ryokan (Japanese-style hotel). Ryokan is a uniquely Japanese hotel tradition that can only be experienced her.

Explain about Ryokan

First of all, the Japanese hotel busiess act has rules for what a ryokan is. For example, a ryokan must have at least 5 rooms. Each room must be more than 7 square meters. If a ryokan is within 100 meters from a school site, they have to have something to obstruct passersby from seeing inside the hotel, for example, a hall which can be used for dancing or some games. Managers or owners have to apply to the prefectural governor for permission to name and establish a ryokan. However, managers can choose the name of accommodation freely no matter the size of their business.

A feature of ryokan is that you can feel WA –Japanese elegant culture- there. This feature can be seen in many parts of services. All rooms are basically Japanese style and estimate guests to be two per one room. In fact, some ryokan don’t allow guests to stay alone. You can enjoy green tea and teacakes for free. In addition, people usually wear a yukata (informal summer kimono), provided by the ryokan, while they stay in ryokan or go for a walk around a hot spring resort. In winter, ryokan provide a short Japanese overgarment or a thickly padded oversize kimono as protection against cold. There are many good points in ryokan However, the biggest sales point is hot spring. Hot springs have many effects for health. It is not too much to say that people stay at ryokan for hot springs. Hot springs have several medical benefits such as relief for neurological pain or to promote healing of wounds so they are popular not only with foreign visitors, but also Japanese travelers.

Tawaraya Ryokan

We would like to introduce three ryokan which have a long history. The first one is Tawaraya, which was built three hundred years ago. Some famous people, such as Hirobumi Ito, who was the first Japanese prime minister. and Steve Jobs have stayed there. It has fans both domestically and abroad, and it is a luxury inn which is representative of Japan. It doesn’t have an official web site, and only people who has visited know the whole picture of the inn. The information of the inn itself is surrounded by a veil. However most people become repeat customers as they are so impressed by the inn. Service, facilities, atmosphere, food, which is a suitable Japanese inn for a very first name. It has an appearance that makes you feel it is old, but it has been properly maintained. Not only the appearance but also the application of professional craftsmanship, maintenance and management are carried out. From the general gardener to the cleaning staff, staff specialized in bathing, changing sliding doors, changing tatami mats and glass wiping, no detail is neglected. The building is old, because it is an established inn, but the comfort of customers is seen to at all times, and this is an inn that matches traditional space with modern comfort. Decorated with Western and Oriental decorations, museum quality art decorates the hall, and the main furniture for fine furnishings.

Sumiya Ryokan

Another ryokan, Sumiya Ryokan was established in the Taisho Period (1912). Masters of the tea ceremony use the facility for meeting. In there, tea ceremony is held on the 7th and 17th days of each month. You can join the tea ceremony if you stay at the ryokan on these days. They serve Kyo-kaiseki which is a traditional Kyoto style course. This is prepared to bring out the natural flavors of fresh seasonable Kyoto vegetables. The rooms are basically Japanese style. Every room has an alcove that is a tea ceremony style room. And you can enjoy seasonable atmosphere with the five senses.


The last ryokan is Hiiragiya. Hiiragiya was established in 1818 in Kyoto. It has a long history, so internationally famous men and women-writers, artists, politicians, scientists, and members of the imperial family have stayed there. Nobel Prize winning novelist, Yasunari Kawabata said, “There is no inn with more memories than the Hiiragiya.” The name is taken from Hiiragi Shrine in Shimogamo shrine. Hiiragi is the name of leaf. In the past, it is said that Hiiragi can protect worshipers from evil. You can find the symbol of Hiiragi throughout the inn. It is the staff’s wish that it will bring you the good luck it has brought us over the years.
Hiiragiya are preparing two types of rooms. First is the main building. Rooms are preserved in the tea-ceremony arbor in the Edo (1603 – 1868) to Showa Period (!926 – 1989). You can feel utmost atmosphere of the ancient in Kyoto through them. Another building is new wings. Rooms have new facilities and amenities but with the sophisticated style of traditional Japanese architecture. These rooms inherit Hiiragiya’s traditional and hospitality spirit. You can get there from JR Kyoto Station by taxi or subway. If you use the taxi, please tell the driver “Hiiragiya”. It takes 15 minutes. If you use the subway, you have to take a subway Karasuma line. Get off the subway at Karasuma-Oike station and walk for 7 minutes.


These three ryokan have a long history, so you can feel Japanese-ness very much. Although the style of ryokan may be different from a modern, western style hotel, a stay can allow a visitor to experience a Japanese traditional lifestyle. Sleep on a futon rather than a bed in a tatami mat room with sliding paper covered doors and get the feeling of old Japan. Please try to stay in a ryokan and experience wonderful Japanese traditional cultural until you sleep.


by Sae Nagata and Maiko Hotehama

Kyoto is famous for Tea and Temples but we researched about Tatami, because there are used a lot of structures and is closely connected to Tea room.

What is Tatami ?
Tatami is one of the materials used in Japan from ancient times. It did not come from China, but originated in Japan. You can see Tatami in Japanese style room. Tatami has an important role in houses in Japan.

Tatami has a long history. It’s history goes back to Jomon era, 13,000 years ago. People would lay straw and board on the floor in their pit dwelling. After that, in Heian era, the original form of Tatami was made, and in Muromachi era, spreading tatami all over became common among people. In Azuchi-Momoyama era, behavior and manner in Japanese style room was established because of tea ceremony, one of the traditional cultures in Japan. The ordinary people came to use Tatami, so consumption of Tatami increased in Edo era. Now, in modern society, western style houses are more common than Japanese ones, but almost all of the houses in Japan have at least one Japanese style room.

They are a lot of kinds. For example, Edoma and Kyoma. Kyoma’s size is 955mm×1910mm. It arise at Kyoto and expand to Kansai region. Next,Edoma expand around Kantou region. Edoma’s size is 880mm×1760mm. Recently, we can choose material, color, and size ourselves.

Traditional material are rush and straw. Tatami’s structure divide into large two parts. There are Waratoko and Tatamiomote. Waratoko is a wick and made of hard rice. It include Tatamitoko at traditional Tatami. But, recently we get difficult to material and careful about hygienic. So, we use compress wood chips and Styrene more and more. Tatamitoko is most important part, made of dried straw only. Tatamiomote means surface. It is made of rush and straw.

First, we measurement of Tatamiomote and Tatamitoko, same sizes. Second, we cut these and cloth together neatly. Third, we sew up edge.
The thread we use is either hemp or silk. Recently, we use kind of propylene and vinyl. Fourth, we staple at corner. Finally, we sew up there. It’s complete.
The materials change, but the method does not. So everyone can use Tatami safely. The tatami edge has a lot of patterns and luxurious ones are sewn with a very complex pattern. They must not break when spread all over them. So, we are careful about sewing up the edge. This is one of amazing part about at a manufacturing process.

Traditional respect
Traditionally, the master usually sits higher than his or her retainer place. So Tatami are put on high place. There is one type of room at Nijo castle. You can see it in this picture.
So master can look down retainer, but it use for Emperor and Emperor’s messenger sometimes. Then, Master doesn’t sits high place. It expression of respect for master and Emperor. Next, we don’t step edge. There are 3 reasons.  First, it means one of discipline in tea ceremony. Next, we step there is rude to ancestor because, sometimes these edge patterns are family crests. This picture is edge patterns.


Final, they are damaged easily. So we need to take good care for Tatami.These are manners. And above mentioned show consideration for each other.

Tatami is elastic, absorb sound about sound steps. And they have absorbent and gush moisture. So, they are cool at summer and warm at winter. They can reduce toxic substance in the air. They are nature color, so we can sight relax because it smells good. They include ingredient same such as Tea and Vanilla. It is called Natural aromatherapy. Some people believe that Tatami can promote children’s concentration.

Young generations are decrease about opportunity for feel Tatami but, a lot of Japanese honor the Tatami, which has continued to take over tradition and we never walk on it with our shoes. In fact, there are many historically important scenes where we see Tatami. Tatami have a long history, a lot of type and merit.
I think they can reduce toxic substance in the air, and the like CO2. They are wonderful things. Recently, Tatami are become popular over the world. So, some Tatami’s shops are started conduct to overseas company.  We should use Tatami more and more.


Masaki Saito, Shohei Takaso, Risa akahashi

In Italia ci sono tre principali specie di bar o caffetterie: il bar ristorante che offre soprattutto cibi, il classico bar che offre soprattutto caffè, e il bar gelateria, che offre soprattutto gelati. Quasi tutte queste varietà si possono trovare nei bar o caffetterie giapponesi. I locali sono arredati, spesso si può consumare un pasto stando seduti su un divano in un angolo illuminato, bere qualcosa, e poi mangiare un dessert sempre sentendosi a proprio agio.
Soprattutto a Kyoto ci sono tante caffetterie bene inserite dentro vecchi quartieri.
Vorremo presentarvi qui due famose caffetterie, una in cima ad una collina, l’altra arredata con tatami.


Questa caffetteria si trova in cima ad una piccola collina chiamata Yoshida (“An” di “Mo-an” significa “casa modesta”).
Nel menù per il pranzo ci sono pochi piatti ma molti dessert e bevande, e non solo il caffè espresso ma anche il tè verde.
Nella foto sotto potete vedere il Pita sandwich con zuppa e legumi marinati.
Il Pita sandwich può essere con: zucca e formaggio cremoso; pollo e pesca con mostarda dolce; pomodoro e mozzarella; melanzane, zucchine e pancetta affumicata. Si possono scegliere due gusti fra questi quattro. Vorremmo consigliarvi pomodoro e mozzarellam e melanzane, zucchine e pancetta affumicata. I sapori sono naturali e si possono gustare le verdure. Anche la zuppa di patate rosse è molto saporita.

Questa caffetteria è abbastanza difficile da raggiungere perché si trova in una strada secondaria.
Nella caffetteria c’è il bancone ma anche le stuoie tradizionali tatami che permetteno ai giapponesi di sedersi stando a proprio agio.
La cucina è asiatica ed etnica. Ci sono pasti a prezzo fisso con zuppa di miso, e altri più originali senza.
Tra quelli che abbiamo provato ci sono il riso alla cantonese con tsukemono, la pasta con il miso e le melanzane, poi per dessert la castela al caffè (la castela è un dolce giapponese d’origine portoghese simile al pan di Spagna) e lo zenzai (gnocco di farina di riso che si cuoce con i fagioli azuki e lo zucchero a fuoco lento).
Non mancate di sedervi sui tatami distendendo bene le gambe!

  • indirizzo < Fuyachō-dōri Sanjō sagaru Shirakabe-chō, 438, Nakagyō-ku, Kyoto>