7 Secret Ryokans In Kyoto For A Japanese Traditional Experience In 2024

Biwako Hanakaido Otsu Kyoto Ryokan Japon

You’ve probably already heard of ryokan, the traditional Japanese inns that offer an authentic experience and a profound understanding of the local culture. So if you’re going to Kyoto and staying in ryokan-style inns, that’s exactly the kind of authenticity you should expect… After all, Kyoto was once a Japanese imperial capital, right?

For this selection of seven ryokan, I used Selected Onsen Ryokan, a standard website in Japan that classifies inns and hotels according to customer reviews and that is updated regularly.

So this selection should definitely be a reliable one for you to check out. I even cross-checked everything with comments from other hotel booking platforms to give you the most relevant options.

But first, what is actually a Ryokan?

What is a Ryokan ?

Utaimachi Ryokan Kanazawa 2

The concept of ryokan hotels dates back to the Edo period in Japan. This period was characterized by border shutdowns that were set by the Shogun Tokugawa military regime at the time.

People were bound to get bored at some point so they had to find something to keep themselves busy and that’s how many customs and traditions saw the light in Japan, like kabuki theater for example.

By the way, take a look at this video; it’ll explain to you the history of Japan in less than ten minutes! Hilarious, right?

So during the Edo period, people started travelling across the country more often. They figured if they weren’t getting out of it, they might as well get to know it better. So ryokan started to open here and there to accommodate those restless travellers.

When we talk about staying the night in a ryokan, two things come in mind: tatami and futon. So were you to visit one, you’re most likely going to sleep in a futon bed on a tatami mat! You’ll also be wearing a yukata which is something like a kimono Japanese people wear indoors only. Most ryokan also have onsen and sento, which are traditional Japanese baths.

If you want to know more about Japanese traditional inns, feel free to also read this blog post: What is a Ryokan.

Now that you know what a ryokan is, here’s my selection of Kyoto’s best ones!

1. Arashiyama Benkei

rashiyama Benkei Ryokan Japan Kyoto

Arashiyama Benkei is one of the best rated ryokan inns. Its exceptional location is mostly what makes it so special. The region of Arashiyama, known for its wonderful bamboo groves, gave its name to this ryokan that is surrounded by entire forests of bamboo.

Forest Bambou Groove Arashiyama Kyoto Japan

2. Momijiya Annex

Momijiya Annex Ryokan Kyoto Japan

The second best rated ryokan in Kyoto is the Momijiya Annex, a very cozy and warm place to try. It is also situated in a beautiful natural scenery, along the Kiyotaki Gawa river. All rooms come with individual bathrooms and sliding French doors with a view of the beautiful forest. I guess it must be an amazing experience to stay there, especially during the winter.

3. Biwako Hanakaido

Biwako Hanakaido Otsu Kyoto Ryokan Japan

The Biwako Hanakaido ryokan is situated more towards the outskirts of Kyoto, in the city of Otsu. It is nonetheless easily accessible by train and the ride shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes from the Kyoto station to the Ogoto-onsen station. This ryokan also has a magnificent Japanese-style garden with a view of the Biwako lake.

Lac Biwako Otsu Kyoto Ryokan Japan

4. Toshiharu Ryokan

Toshiharu Ryokan Kyoto 1

The first word that comes to mind when describing Toshiharu Ryokan would be: Zen.

Of all the amazing features and amenities that this ryokan offers, its stunning Japanese garden is one of its purest and most appreciated qualities (by past guests!). Seeing it for the first time will send you back in time, to when gardens were prized possessions and were maintained to be fit for royalty. It’s that impressive.

Toshiharu Ryokan Kyoto 1

Toshiharu Ryokan is also a registered cultural asset, having been built in during the illustrious Meiji Era. The fact that it’s still standing today is a testament to the popularity, maintenance, and care that this ryokan has been given and also gives.

All traditional features of a ryokan are on offer here, from tatami flooring to Japanese futon bedding, as well as a Yukata robe and green tea on arrival.

Toshiharu Ryokan Kyoto 3

Despite its authenticity shining through, you also have the option of a Western-style or Japanese-style breakfast (if requested), as well as a location that’s quiet and ambient, yet also close to various amenities.

Toshiharu Ryokan is the best of both worlds.

Book It Now: Toshiharu Ryokan

5. Yuzuya

Yuzuya Ryokan Kyoto Japan

Yuzuya Ryokan Kyoto is the epitome of comfort! And of good food, because it has a chef who specializes in fine cuisine. The Yuzuya ryokan is located in the old district of Gion where you could come across a geisha or a maiko, if you’re lucky enough!

6. Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St.

Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St

This four-star Ryokan accommodation is truly a head-turner in every way. Combining traditional ryokan elements such as tatami mat flooring and serving authentic kaiseki meals with modern-day creature comforts such as aesthetic design, western-style bedding, and private bathrooms – this ryokan truly has it all.

Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St

Whilst many of the bedrooms have been tastefully designed with contemporary foundations, the neutral color palette and minimal decor very much take you back to a nostalgic Japanese time. The highlight of this ryokan would be the beautifully-designed private baths in the garden area – talk about serenity.

Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St

Located minutes away from Omiya Station, this place is a dream!

Guests Tips: It’s not located near any popular attractions, but you can easily hop on the train nearby or take a taxi.

Book It Now: Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St.

7. Kyo no Yado Sangen Ninenzaka

Kyo no Yado Sangen Ninenzaka Ryokan Kyoto Japan

Let’s end this list with a less extraordinary but not less distinguished ryokan: Kyo no Yado Sangen Ninenzaka. This one is a bit more affordable for people on a budget. So it doesn’t make it to the list in the Selected Onsen Ryokan website but it definitely looks like it’s worth a try according to customer reviews.

You can also take a look at the pictures on the Booking website; you’ll be delighted! The ryokan is situated near the famous Kiyomizu-dera temple and has an onsen on its roof!

I hope this article helps you choose the best ryokan for you in Kyoto. If you have any questions or just want to share your opinion on something, please leave a comment below, I’ll make sure to answer it! And if you want another type of accommodation, feel free to read this guide: Where to stay in Kyoto.

By the way, if you are also looking for a ryokan in Tokyo, make sure you check my selection of the best Ryokan in Tokyo.

Until next time, let’s keep in touch on social media for a lot more blog posts, pictures and videos of my trips to Asia: Facebook Page, Facebook Group, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter.

Talk to you all very soon,


PS: If you are looking for more Japanese inns recommendations in Japan, make sure you check out our Ryokan Collection.

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