Staying in a traditional Kyoto Townhouse on a budget!
Conveniently located near Nijo-Station, as well as Nijo Castle, I was intrigued not only by the guesthouse's traditional charm, but also by the fact that I would be provided with a bicycle free of charge!
On top of that, I was greeted by the lovely couple that runs the guesthouse like I was part of the family! The atmosphere is very welcoming and they assist you with any queries you might have, whether you need some advice on where to eat dinner or how to get to any part of Kyoto by bicycle or public transport.
The building usually has a smaller, narrower street frontage, which traditionally serves as a shop of some sort. This area, called mise no ma, can usually be accessed through big sliding doors and has no wooden floor or tatami mats; here you can actually enter with your shoes on! You will be greeted by the lovely owners of the Guesthouse Makuya when you arrive; a big table with chairs invites you to spend some time with fellow travelers over a cup of tea.
The passage will lead you outdoors, to the garden area, where you need to change your shoes for slippers to enter the toilet and shower facilities, which are built on a raised platform, that oversees a gorgeous small garden area on one side.
The center of the house is the living area, kyoshitsubu, which is a raised timber platform with tatami mats, surrounded by fusuma, (sliding panels), that can be closed in winter to keep the warmth contained within the living area. This space alone is filled with so many gems from days past, such as an old chest of drawers, hapi (kimono jackets) and dainty paintings. During the colder days you can use a kotatsu to warm up before heading to your room.
Kyo-machiya are between one and three stories high and usually feature at least one courtyard garden. In summer you can see woven bamboo screens hanging outside the windows, to block the sun but allow air circulation to beat the extreme Kyoto heat and humidity. But don't worry, the rooms are all equipped with air conditioning, to cool you down in summer and keep you warm in winter.
I hope you get to enjoy your stay in Kyoto in one of these amazing old townhouses and get to feel transported a bit back in time!
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