Rakuza is a one hundred year old Machiya house that has now been converted into a Japanese style guesthouse in Kyoto's Gion area. A Machiya is a long, narrow wooden house typical in Kyoto that were often used by merchants or crafts people. The front of the building was used as a store/workshop, while living quarters were at the back, often arranged around a small garden. Sliding screen walls mean that the house was very flexible and that rooms could be easily adjusted depending on the needs of the business or the season.
These buildings, sometime called "eel beds" were developed in Kyoto at the time as properties were taxed on the size of their street-frontage.
As the Rakuza Machiya is in the Gion district, it was a 'Ochaya' - a house were Geiko and Maiko would entertain customers with tea and music.
Now it has been converted in a guesthouse with a number Japanese style rooms with futons, and a single Western style room with double bed, centered around a lovely garden. All the rooms are decorated with a great mix of modern and classic Japanese furniture and art which gives the place a very classy 'boutique hotel' feel and the biggest room even has a view of the Kamo River.
There is a shared bathroom, shower room and washing area, a common lounge looking out over the garden and computer with internet access that is free to use. The guesthouse also has free wi-fi. We really enjoyed sitting in this cozy lounge in the evenings after a long day of taking in Kyoto's sites, with a cold beer from the the small supermarket just down the road, or chatting with other guests.
The guesthouse offers a number of services such as bike rental, hot water and a microwave and the rent or sale of useful items such as toothbrushes and kimonos to make your stay more comfortable.
The guesthouse does not have a curfew which is great as you are so close to Kyoto's nightlife centers of Gion and Shijo-Kawaramachi. Also close by are the Gion-Shijo and Kawaramachi Train Stations which makes Rakuza a great base to explore Kyoto from.
With its shared bathroom this is not luxury place to stay, but if you want somewhere with some character and to experience a bit of real old style Kyoto for a great price in a great location - then this is the place for you!