I love Kyoto. It remains the most romantic place I have ever visited. Moonlit dinners in the narrow alleys of Ponto-chō, secret kisses along the Kamo River and leisurely strolls in Gion’s geisha district make Japan’s former capital the perfect setting for romance. Unfortunately, Kyoto’s beauty can sometimes come at a price.
My father has repeatedly said that I love drinking champagne on a beer’s man pocket. I will readily admit that I enjoy the finer things in life (the really fine things), but then again, so does everyone, and like most people I live within a budget. I vehemently believe that being budget conscious should never mean having to compromise great service and a good night’s sleep. The following lists my seven favourite affordable accommodations in Kyoto, Japan.
1. Matsubaya Inn
For those wanting an authentic Japanese experience, the Matsubaya Inn, a mere 10 minute walk from Kyoto Station is the perfect refuge. Beautifully designed, this modern ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) offers a quiet escape in a charming setting. The staff were friendly and engaging, immediately welcoming me upon my arrival.
I stayed in the E-type room and it was surprisingly large by Japanese standards. The room has tatami mats, which are made of rice straw, offering the quintessential Japanese experience. You easily dose off into a peaceful sleep as soon as you head rests on the comfortable futons.
As with all Japanese ryokans, you are provided with indoor slippers. The E-room can comfortably fit two persons with sufficient storage for those totting around large suitcases. The room contains an immaculately clean washroom. There is no shower in the E-type rooms, however, there is a pristine communal bath outside the room that is spotless.
Matsubaya Inn (Room Type A). Please note that I couldn’t find a picture of Room Type E, the one I stayed in. Photo courtesy of Matsubaya Inn.
Price: 4200 yen ($46US)/ person
Internet: Wifi available
Helpful hint: I thought that the map given by the hotel was a little confusing perhaps because I am inherently bad at reading maps. I recommend printing the directions from Kyoto Station on Google Maps. You can also go to the 2nd floor of Kyoto Station, proceed to the tourist information center and the staff will happily help you to your location.
2. 9 Hours
9 Hours is the personification of modern Japan. Innovative, unusual and inspiring seem to be the ideology behind this truly unique hotel. The capsules in this hotel mimic space pods and teleport guests into a seemingly different dimension.
In a country where space is limited, capsule hotels have redefined the hotel experience. My best friend from Trinidad and Tobago was in awe upon entering 9 Hours. The sleek design and monochromatic colours give guests an out of this world sleeping adventure. I have been to many capsule hotels in Japan but none comes close to the sophistication of 9 Hours.
Space is limited in this hotel. Large pieces of luggage are given to the cordial staff who keep it at the front desk since the lockers are tiny. The location is par none. Nestled in the heart of Kyoto City, it is in the center of many beautiful restaurants and bountiful shopping arcades.
9 Hours may not be for everyone, and perhaps not for long stays, but it certainly provides a distinctly Japanese experience. Six months have gone since my friend came to Japan and the novelty of this place remains one of her fondest memories.
Price: 5100 yen ($55 US)/ person
Internet: Available in the lobby
Helpful hint: If you are a light sleeper you may want to walk with ear plugs, or you can buy them at the front desk.
3. First Cabin
I love First Cabin! This hotel is stylish, modern and inexplicably original. When I first entered my first class cabin, I couldn’t believe how big it was. It had immediately surpassed my expectations. Fitted with a large plasma television, LAN internet, an alarm clock and other amenities needed for the busy traveler, First Cabin is a cut above the rest when it comes to budget accommodation proving the fact that quality does not have to be expensive nor compromised.
Japan is a country based on the honour system, and the cabins do not have doors, which surprises many tourists, but instead it has magnetized screens that you close and then escape into a calm retreat. There are draws with locks to safely put away your belongings if you wish to do so. It should be noted that men’s cabins are separated from the women’s.
The location is perfect. Not far from the main bus and subway route and steps away from the Shijo Shopping Street, First Cabin is a classic example that sophistication can come at an affordable price.
I have since returned to First Cabin Karasuma and I am anxiously awaiting my next visit.
First Class Cabins. Photo courtesy of Plantec Associates.
Price: 3000 yen ($32US)/ person (I got a fantastic deal on Agoda.com)
Internet: Wifi available in the lobby and LAN available in the cabins.
Helpful hint: The hotel is very strict when it comes to checking out. For each hour after 10:00 a.m., you have to pay an additional 900 yen per hour.
4. Nishiyama Ryokan
Nishiyama Ryokan is the definition of Japanese hospitality. A short walk away from Kyoto’s City Hall and the city’s downtown area, the Nishiyama Ryokan is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.
To ensure your have an authentically Japanese stay, Nishiyama provides all its guests with yukatas, or summer kimonos. The staff is more than happy to take photos of you and your family in its exquisite, well manicured zen garden.
One of its best features is its relaxing onsen, or hot spring. Onsening is an almost ritualistic pastime enjoyed by millions of Japanese every day. Once you get over the initial shock of being in the nude in front of strangers, you realise than onsening is more than a bath, it is a cathartic experience.
Nishiyama Ryokan has many activities within its premises for its guests. My best friend was introduced to the art of the Japanese tea ceremony and learned to make Japanese shaved ice, a popular summer treat. These little offerings are what make this ryokan truly special.
Our 8 tatami mat room was large and inviting finding the just right balance between traditional Japanese design and the comforts of modern amenities. Fitted with LAN internet, a welcomed refrigerator, a considerable closet (for the secret shopper that resides in all of us) and an adjoining bath, the washitsu (Japanese styled room) is a lovely reminder that you are truly on vacation.
Nishiyama Ryokan entrance. Photo courtesy of Nishiyama Ryokan.
Price: 7000 yen ($75 US)/ person
Internet: Wifi available in the lobby and LAN available in the rooms.
Helpful hint: When making a reservation for a Japanese breakfast or dinner, you will have to inform the hotel the night before.
5. Capsule Ryokan Kyoto
Touted as the world’s first tatami capsule ryokan, Capsule Ryokan Kyoto is indeed just that. What makes it different from other capsule hotels is its homey embrace and, of course, the capsules are lined with tatami. The bilingual staff always make a conscious effort to know their guest which I loved.
The lobby is simple yet welcoming with an adjacent kitchenette and dining area for those wanting to cook their own meals. I stayed on the first floor and my capsule was on the top and frighteningly comfortable. The capsule was equipped with a small television, reading lights and a fan (which I didn’t need in winter). After a long day in Kyoto, I had a wonderful sleep in the world’s first tatami capsule.
My cabin, 105, at the Capsule Ryokan Kyoto. Photo by me.
Price: 3500yen ($38US)/ person
Internet: Wifi available in the rooms.
Helpful hint: Towels are not provided but you can rent a large towel for 70 yen and a small one for 30 yen.
6. The Kyoto Royal Park Hotel
Located in the heart of Kyoto’s elegant nightlife, The Kyoto Royal Park Hotel captures minimalist design with great warmth. The lobby feels eccentric, its quirkiness gives it a museum-like ambiance. The concierge could have easily been from some of the best hotels in the world-knowledgeable, patient and kind.
The room was comfortably sized completed with everything a busy traveller or leisurely vacationer could ask for- a cozy bed to dive into, a small lounge area and view to just sit back and enjoy. The fixtures in the room in itself and darling pieces of art. The bathroom is stylish and spa-like having a much appreciated fogless mirror.
Apart its top notch staff, the hotel boasts a basement restaurant specializing in local ingredients and its pride and joy, Shinshinjo, an old and well respected bakery. When I was about to leave, I all I could think was, “That was a truly satisfying stay.”
The Kyoto Royal Park Hotel beautiful lobby. Photo courtesy of Japan Traveler Online.com
Price: 7000 yen ($75US)/ person (another great deal I got on Agoda.com)
Internet: Both wifi and LAN internet are available.
Helpful hints: I highly recommend getting the Kyoto City Bus All Day Pass for 500 yen. Not only will it save your money, the bus stops along many of Kyoto’s most famous sites.
7. K’s House Kyoto
I can honestly admit that I loathe hostels. I respect those who enjoy the backpacker lifestyle but it simply isn’t me. When I first came to Japan, I went on an autumnal trip with my friends we stayed at K’s House and it could not have been more pleasant.
Once voted as the best hostel in Asia, K’s House is charming, quaint and simply delightful. The staff are always helpful when harried, the rooms are basic yet comfortable, the cafe is beautifully designed and food is delicious and cheap.
I stayed in a triple room but luckily for me, my friends never actually slept there giving me free range and a peaceful night’s sleep.
K’s House is located about 10 minutes walk from Kyoto Station. For those yearning for the night life, K’s House is somewhat far but definitely walkable but then again, strolling in Kyoto is easily one of its charm.
K’s House Kyoto communal area. Photo courtesy of Hotels-World.com
Price: 3000 yen ($32US)/ person
Internet: Wifi available.
Helpful hint: If you want to discover Kyoto in a unique way, try renting a bicycle from the front desk.
Jenson recommends: Sharing your thoughts on your favourite accommodations in Kyoto. =)