Kyoto: Japan’s ancient capital. A beautiful city located in the midst of the Tamba highlands and one of the oldest and culturally rich cities in the country. If you choose to visit, making the right choice of where to stay could be difficult. However, the answer is actually quite simple. As Kyoto is still very much tied with the tradition of the past, a Ryokan or Japanese style inn is an absolute must.
Once you’ve made the decision to stay at a Ryokan, there would be no better choice than Kyoto Higashiyama-sou. Easily accessible from Kyoto Station it has a perfect location but this is only one reason why. Kiyomizu-dera is easily one the most famous and popular temples in the country with thousands of visits annually it was even a runner up for the new Seven Wonders of the World. Amazingly this incredible historical sight is only a 5-minute walk from Higashiyama-sou. Also within 2-minutes walking distance you will find Yasaka Pagoda meaning the relics of this city's past are literally at your feet. Though the activities that are available outside this hotel are fantastic, your stay there will be even more enjoyable.
Gazing upon the Ryokan’s incredible architecture in a street that made me feel like I had travelled through time, I entered and was greeted within seconds by friendly staff that took my bags to my room while I checked in. I was shortly escorted upstairs and was amazed when the doors were opened. The rooms in the Ryokan have a Tatami (straw mat) floor as well as sliding doors. Each room is incredibly spacious and the comfort offered by this traditional setting is second to none. The rooms are furnished with a television, air-conditioning, fridge and safety deposit box, which provide the little comforts hotel patrons may be used to. Several rooms in the hotel offer an exquisite view of Yasaka Pagoda meaning you can take further advantage of this Ryokan’s location. When leaving for dinner in the evening you will find that a futon has been placed in your room upon your return. I found this to be very convenient as you can take full advantage of the room’s full size during the day.
With such a high standard of room quality the inn also has excellent facilities. Making your way to the basement floor is the bathing facilities. Turning at the bottom of the stairs a charmingly lit corridor lies before you. In the style of an Onsen the floor is lined with a beautiful stone and the walls with bamboo. The bathing facilities follow the hotels traditional motif meaning they are shared, but as soon as you enter the relaxing hot water of the bath your cares will soon wash away. During your stay you are also offered a Yukata (cotton Kimono) to dress in. In the heat of summer it’s a real pleasure to wear and its soft touch after a bath is an experience in it’s own right. The bath is open from 6:30 till 9:00 and from 16:00 until midnight, which is very convenient.
The Inn also offers breakfast to guests. The dining room has a beautiful wooden floor and tables making for a humble setting whilst you enjoy the first meal of the day. The meal itself is of course a Japanese breakfast consisting of miso soup, rice and a variety of other dishes that are all incredibly delicious. The hotel changes the ingredients with the seasons and the chef was even kind enough to explain some of the items I was unfamiliar with. I was even taught that Tamagoyaki (rolled omelette) is known as Dashimaki in Kyoto dialect.
The Ryokan’s rooms and facilities are of an incredible standard but what really made my stay even more enjoyable was the staff. You are really catered to at all times. You are always greeted immediately upon entering the lobby and when leaving to go sight seeing or whatever you have planned for the day you are even escorted off the premises and wished a good day. Little touches like this combined with the experience of a tradition Japanese room are what make a stay in a Ryokan an absolute must and when in Kyoto, Higashiyama-sou is the perfect place. Rooms start from 9450 yen a night and you can book in English by clicking the hotel bell button on the top right corner of this article.