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.

Hiiragiya

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.

Conckusion

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.