An intimate – and rare – network of 10 historic wooden machiya townhouses on a quiet Kyoto lane exquisitely renovated into minimal double-level guestrooms, with private gardens, mid-century furniture, abstract artworks and a contemporary Japanese design touch throughout.
Located on a small lane in a quiet residential area not far from Nijo Castle and just slightly west of Kyoto Imperial Palace. The surrounding neighbourhood is as tranquil as the hotel interior. Local gems – from small restaurants to hidden cafés – are listed in a bespoke hotel map, which also outlines public transport routes to key Kyoto attractions – from Fushimi Inari Shrine (33 minutes) to Gion (22 minutes).
Style & character
The hotel fuses traditional Kyoto craftsmanship with contemporary Japanese design. Centre stage is a small network of 10 machiya dating back nearly a century which have been converted into self-contained guestrooms with a small reception and distinct red-walled restaurant in the ground floor of the main house. A metallic gate (by architect Tsuyoshi Tane) leads to an intimate garden walkway with exotic fern trees lined on either side with classic machiya-style facades of black wood, bamboo blinds and white moon like lamps.
Inside, the involvement of 10 top Japanese creatives is apparent in the carefully-curated attention to detail – there are minimal monotone photographic prints by Taisuke Koyama; wood-and-leather sandals by Drill Design; organically-dyed textiles by Kyoto artist Haruka Nomura; and high-backed Ercol chairs overlooking a peaceful Japanese walled garden.
Service & facilities
Perhaps due to the self-contained house-like style of the guestrooms, the atmosphere feels more like an exclusive and intimate residential complex than a conventional hotel. Although there is no room service, there are special blends of Kyoto coffees and bio teas in the rooms plus a direct taxi call service conveniently set up from the phones. Communal facilities centre on the small restaurant – serving breakfasts in the morning and cocktails after dark – which is painted a rich, warm red, in contrast with the green Japanese garden over which it looks.
Each of the 10 machiya, which resemble small but perfectly formed homes, are unique in design and layout yet share a similar aesthetic. There are expanses of dark-wood slates; contemporary, concrete, genkan entrances where shoes are slipped off and lower level living spaces with clean-lined mid-century or vintage-style furniture. A minimal open-plan wooden staircase leads to upper level bedrooms with Western-style beds, origami-inspired lights, paper screens, bamboo blinds and abstract photographic artworks.
Modern bathrooms come with tubs (some stone, some wood, some ceramic) and overlook small private gardens. Contemporary design touches range from Sori Yanagi’s cult Butterfly Stool to Isamu Noguchi paper lanterns. There are also small kitchen spaces in rooms 1 and 10.
Food & drink
Activities in its vivid-red dining room may be limited to breakfast in the morning and drinks after dark – but it excels at what it does serve up. Breakfast is delicious: it included farm apple juice, a creamy pumpkin soup, a medley of organic seasonal vegetables (from burdock with onion dressing to grilled sweet potato), alongside additive-free ham, herbed quinoa salad, artisan breads and homemade grapefruit and banana jam.
A second flush of Darjeeling tea or the hotel’s bespoke blend of coffee made by Kyoto’s Circus Coffee helps to wash it all down. After dark, the bar serves a simple mix of beer and nihonshu sakes plus a signature gin and tonic (using the aromatic Kyoto-made artisan gin Kinobi).
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