5 Beautiful Boutique Inns – Kyoto

Steeped in rich history and archetypal of Japanese design, traditional ryokans (inns) have existed since as early as the eighth century, and continue to encompass the distinctive features we recognise in Japanese architecture today.

Hidden within the atmospheric city of Kyoto where I grew up, many of these inns have been restored to reflect a more elevated and contemporary style while staying in touch with traditional methods of design. Aptly reflecting the city that sublimely intertwines the old with new.

In this journal we have selected five boutique inns in and around Kyoto that have been on our radar, all encompassing the sensory elements of nature and make idyllic spots to stay in the ancient city to attain a feel for Japanese heritage and long-established ways of living.


Sowaka is a boutique inn that truly embodies the beauty and traditions of Kyoto. Formerly an old merchants home, the guest rooms are adorned with carefully handcrafted furniture and fixtures made locally in Kyoto.

Documented throughout their Instagram page, these traditional methods of craftsmanship and design have been used to ensure history is not lost – providing a unique, immersive and luxurious experience. It is all this and more that makes this special place a favourite of ours.

2. Maana Homes

Sitting alongside the Kamo River in central Kyoto, Maana Homes is a Japanese boutique guesthouse described as “blurring the lines between art and architecture.”

Designed by architect Uoya Shigenori, the philosophy behind the concept was to preserve the historic beauty of this 100 year-old building, while also honouring the elements that have been weathered by time.

This luxurious inn has been revived using natural, restored materials and is intended for slow living and contemplation – highlighting the importance of silence.

3. Sumiya Ryokan

Although this is a traditional inn that has not been updated or modernised, we just had to include the Sumiya Ryokan.

Steeped in tradition, this inn offers after-dinner tea ceremonies every 7th and 17th of the month, where a tea kettle is heated over a sunken hearth.

I plan to visit once my kids have grow up and moved out, so that me and my husband will get a room facing the famous courtyard. Perfect for a day of just doing nothing.

4. Marufukuro

Previously the headquarters of Nintendo in Japan, this old building has been recently refurbished into the charming Marufukuro boutique ‘hotel’ – designed by world-famous architect Tadao Ando.

Encapsulating the city’s blend of past and present; the design includes the original ornate stone exterior, while encompassing a mix of art deco and contemporary signage and interiors. In Ando’s signature style, concrete was incorporated in the new Annex design to create the appearance of simplicity.

5. Wakatsu

Found in neighbouring Shiga, just east of Kyoto, is the boutique ryokan Hatago Wakatsu. Taking its name from the Japanese word ‘wakachiau’ (roughly translating to ‘romanticising’) the inn’s philosophy is inspired by living in harmony with one another and nature.

This ethos also translates to the three types of rooms –

Sankaku & Shikaku: Rooms inspired by wood & stone

– Ki-no-ma: Rooms with canal views through the seasons

Ishi-no-ma: Rooms inspired by stone with garden views

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