On a sunny morning in November I took the bullet train to Kyoto. I was excited about enjoying the autumn scenery, and even more excited about catching up with old friends (I used to live in Kyoto.) My accommodation was a newly opened vacation rental in north Kyoto. The nearest station was Kuramaguchi. I know this area well, because one of my friends lives nearby. The ten minute walk from the station along Kuramaguchi-dori felt like coming home. It is an old area, not at all touristy, but typically Kyoto. I passed small interesting shops, old houses, a few more modern buildings, a temple or two, and then I arrived.
At the vacation rental, I removed my shoes, and entered the most delightful place! The traditional Japanese decor made me feel I had stepped into the past. Sliding doors separate a kitchen-dining from a tatami room with a kotatsu. A Japanese kotatsu is a low table covered with a blanket. A small heating unit warms the space under the table, and you sit with your legs under the table. It is so very cosy! Just add some green tea and and a bowl of mandarin oranges. It is one of my favorite things about winter in Japan.
The tatami floored living room has a sizeable TV and a very efficient air conditioner. There is a good sized fridge in the kitchen, along with a microwave, and a washing machine that is practically an A.I.! When you turn it on it speaks (in Japanese.) It weighs your laundry and tells you how much detergent to use. The kitchen cupboards contain all the necessary equipment for up to four people.
A wooden staircase leads to a second floor with two more tatami rooms. One window overlooks tiled roof tops. Both of these rooms get lots of sun during the day. I awoke in my futon to sunlight shining through shoji screens. Absolutely magical! The second room had a comfortable green sofa, and suitcase storage under the deep window sill. There was also an excellent air conditioner upstairs.
Incidentally, If you've never slept in a futon before, don't worry. Each guest at Kuramaguchi-An is provided with two thick, good quality futons. I was more comfortable than I am in my bed at home.
An added bonus was the bicycles available for guests. Although not in central Kyoto, this particular vacation rental is in a convenient location for visiting Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji, Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines. Beautiful Goryo Shrine is just around the corner from Kuramaguchi Station, and the Kamogawa is only a few minutes walk from the rental. You can cycle along the river to Gion in just 20-30 minutes.
When I travel I usually stay in business hotels, but for two or more people a vacation rental like Kuramaguchi-An offers a lot more space, freedom and convenience than a hotel, at very little extra cost. This rental is owned by a friendly international couple, and so it was easy to communicate with them in English. They have lived in the area for many years, and are happy to recommend local attractions.
It was a really great place to stay, and I was sorry to leave Kuramaguchi-An!