Travel is not just what you eat, buy or what you take for transport. Every trip teaches you a cultural lesson about how people living in another part of the world. Such experience is invaluable and my very reason for traveling. Staying somewhere authentic can shape this experience even more.
When you watch a lot of Japanese drama series and movies, seeing the people live in the old wooden machiya Japanese style townhouses, you start to wonder what it is like to live there. If you do, Kaikoan is the accommodation for you to stay in Kyoto. There are four premises in separate buildings: Kaikoan, Fukujuan, Manabian and Geihinkaku, located in the quiet streets with just the sound of a slight breeze from the forested hills of Higashiyama. Kaikoan is filled with more than a hundred years of history, and consists of four rooms named after the beautiful ladies of Kyoto: Shikibu, Tokiwa, Komachi and Shizuka. Every room is in fact a two storey apartment with the living room, kitchen and toilet on the ground floor and bedroom on the top floor. The other three houses - Fukujuan, Manabian and Geihinkaku are for individual booking which means you will be the only guest inside the house during your stay. I almost have to pinch myself, the sheer luxury of living in a machiya all to myself. You can enjoy this space with your friends and family and have your own private celebration, or relive the drama of the past.
These houses have their own character, giving them an unique living experience. Geihinkaku is the most luxurious as this was previously an nobleman's house, decorated in an immaculate and elegant style. The house has separate Western and Japanese style spaces. The bedrooms are 19th century British while the living rooms decorated with Japanese paintings and tatami flooring. Fukujuan and Manabian are more similar to commoner's houses. So the decor is less grand but still lovely. My stay in Manabian allowed me to be surrounded by traditional arts and handicrafts, like ningyo dolls in miniature kimono, Edo period ink-paintings and Shamisen musical instruments - I never thought I would be surrounded with cultural art works in my own room. Each house is equipped with an indoor shower and an outdoor Goemon bath. It is an unique experience to bathe in the open air in the big round bathtub. Your stay in old Kyoto is not complete without experiencing an authentic machiya style house like the Kaikoan.
As rooms here are popular, be sure to secure your reservation by clicking the hotel bell on the top right of the article, or through their website. Rooms start from just 15800 yen for up to 3 people in each of the houses, with additional charges for the fourth and fifth person. Each house has its own toilet and stocked bathroom with towels, shampoo and conditioner, fully equipped Kitchen (including Refrigerator and microwave oven, and coffee pot) as well as a drier.
Frequent public transport to Kaikoan, Fukujuan and Manabian makes it easy to access. From Kyoto Station, take the Kyoto City Bus route 206 and get off Higashiyama Niomon. At the intersection of Higashiyama and Niomon Streets, walk about 5 minutes westwards on Niomon Streets. Alternatively, it is approximately a five minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the Tozai Subway Line or Sanjo Station operated by Keihan Railways. Geihinkaku house on the other hand is a little bit further up the hill in the forests behind Higashiyama. It is about 10 minutes walk from Keage Station on the Tozai Subway Line. It is also a short walk to the Hosomi Museum in the Okazaki district, the parklands in the museum mile of Kyoto. On the other hand, the artisan pottery shops in Sannenzaka are a short bus ride away.