Travel like a Kyotoite
Text: Hiroko Konishi / Photo: Kaina Honma
Many of the Japanese may have visited Kyoto for their school trip. Famous travel spots are surely great, but why not a more relaxing journey wandering into the ordinary lives of the people here. Here are some ideas for advanced travelers to rent a whole house and to travel like a Kyotoite.
Let us begin with 'KYOTO HATAGOYA Wakamiyagojo'. It's just 5 minutes walk on the northern side of Gojo Street from Karasuma-Gojo Station, which is the next stop from Kyoto Station. Turn to north at Wakamiya Street after passing 'Tsukuru Building', a commercial building of artists. Just a few steps in from the main road will take you to a classical Kyoto street with a row of traditional houses.
A modest dark blue noren-curtain leads to another narrow path with 2 houses, like it has always been since the day when this place used to be a nagaya (terrace house). The landscape of Kyoto had been well created more than 1,200 years ago, and has been keeping much of its format that even today there are still many narrow paths and nagaya-style houses in the city. The guests can unlock the entrance with a PIN number that was given upon reservation. A clean and spacious atmosphere will welcome the traveler. Both of the house is accompanied with a kitchen, bath/shower room, living room and bed room.
One Block Ltd. runs this hotel under the project of revitalizing the empty houses. Tsuji, representative of One Block, points out that 'having a kitchen definitely increases the sense of ordinary livelihood'. Indeed, it is convenient that the neighbor has a local supermarket open 24/7, kitchen with gas, fridge, microwave, dishes and cutlery, just about everything that is needed to have a party. Easy access out enables the guest to casually go out, like just going out for a walk, and take a meal back at home. There are some cases that business travelers stay here, sometimes with 2 people with each having their own room. The moderate rates also helps in lessening the burden of traveling. 3 guest can stay from as low as 6,000 yen. There seems to be other potential usage for locals get togethers such as company party, over night stay with friends, etc.
For those who wants to experience a stay in traditional machiya (Kyoto style house), 'KYOTO HATAGOYA Kamishichiken' is the place. The Kamishichiken area had thrived as a geisha quarter in the Edo period (1603–1867). The wooden building of this hotel leaves that elegant air, with the basic structure unchanged. The kitchen, bath, toilets had been refurbished with modern design to offer comfortable stay.
Kitchen in the ground floor is furnished with a counter so that people can chat as they prepare for a meal. Clean and relaxing hinoki-wood bath, living room facing the garden, and a bedroom on the top floor. Some traditional essence of Japanese architecture is left here, such as toko-no-ma (built-in recessed space to display items for artistic appreciation) and ita-no-ma (wooden floored space) veranda. A stay here will offer days full of relaxing walks around the neighbors full of many narrow paths.
There is another small building in the same site as Kamishichiken guest house. This is 'KYOTO HATAGOYA Kamishichiken (Omote)' that had newly opened in February 2017.
This small guest house had been built in the former car parking space. It is a collection of Japanese architecture technique and ideas to utilize the most of the limited space and create a cozy environment. For instance, the 'step floor' design creates practical space with well planned heights of stairs and ceiling. For people living in an apartment, they can enjoy staying in a multi story house. For those planning to build a house, there could be many practical hints here.
The said 3 houses has their own characters, all useful and ideal in its own ways. A place without hotel employees could be more of a relaxing private stay, yet with a needed security as a hotel. Check out for suitable plans for your stay at KYOTO HATAGOYA Hotel to travel like a Kyotoite.
[Wakamiyagojo] 92 Wakamiya-dori Gojo Agaru Nunoya-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto (map)
[Kamishichiken] 57 Nishiyanagi-cho, Itsutsuji-dori Shichihonmatsu Nishi-iru, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto (map)