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“An oasis in the city of Kyoto” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Tawaraya Ryokan

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Tawaraya Ryokan
278 Nakahakusancho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8094, Japan   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #13 of 194 Kyoto B&B and Inns
Sydney, Australia
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
5 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
23 helpful votes 23 helpful votes
“An oasis in the city of Kyoto”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 26, 2012

From the moment you enter the Tawaraya Ryokan you are immediately transported into a traditional Japanese oasis. We were greeted by the ever polite and humble staff with warm down slippers and served tea in the waiting room whilst our rooms were made ready. Our luggage was whisked upstairs by a tiny older japanese man before we could assist him. The room was a delight with small sitting nooks with heated floors, traditional japanese floor mats, and beautiful cushions and mats to sit on at a low table with a view over an exquisite japanese garden. We were served home made sweet rice crackers and rose tea as we took in the exquisite surroundings. The wooden tub filled with steaming hot water was welcome at the end of a long day. The finishing touches to the room were the hand detailed tissue boxes, sewing kits, tabi socks, japanese robes in the cupboard, fluffy towels and lovely toiletries, as well as fragranced sacks attached to the coat hangers in the cupboard. When we returned from our dinner, our luxurious futons were laid out with their marshmallow soft duvets and pillows, a small Tiffany clock and lamp placed beside them. In the morning we were woken to be served freshly squeezed orange juice and green tea, then served a unique japanese breakfast all beautifully presented. The inn is a special and unique experience of japanese culture and history and is highly recommended.

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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80 people have reviewed this hotel

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Location
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (4)
Date | Rating
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English first
Antibes
Senior Contributor
25 reviews 25 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 11, 2012

We were invited by our good Japanese friends to share their favourite Ryokan in Kyoto. This was saved for our last night in the city and was certainly a cultural experience. To be clear, this is a very elitist experience! You are greeted and waited on hand and foot. We had a large suite with a private garden to look out on. We had a massage in our room, provided by two expert elderly ladies. We joined our friends in their suite for a private dinner. We were all properly dressed in kimonos with warm Japanese jackets. We were served by one young lady with various others assisting her as necessary. The entire multi-course meal was served by this young lady arriving each time on her knees. The supply of saki was non-stop! We returned to our room were futons had been prepared and we slept soundly!

In the morning we were served an excellent European breakfast in our room with newspapers etc. there is also good WiFi along with the original antique artwork.

It was a very special experience but be aware, this is very expensive and you also have to be a bit prepared for the extreme level of service which some might find too subservient by today's standards - but of course, that is the whole point, this is a cultural and historic monument!

  • Stayed December 2012, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Muscat, Oman
Senior Contributor
42 reviews 42 reviews
21 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
34 helpful votes 34 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed December 6, 2012

Tawaraya is one of those special places that you encounter so rarely that it makes you go home and tell everyone about what you just experienced. It's the kind of place that transports you to a different time and place and allows you to experience a life very few have. Tawaraya is a perfection in Japanese hospitality and minimalist Japanese design. Tawaraya should be in everyone's bucket list.

Stayed January 2012, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, California
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
3 helpful votes 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 4, 2012

Staying at Tawaraya is a unique and highly valued expereince, providing one with the delights of enjoying pure Japanese culture in luxury. The owners have tastefully inegrated modern necessities, like toilets, to indulge the traveler in comfort and ease. The attentiveness of the staff is something that cannot be bought. Although Tawaraya is very expensive, the genuine smiles and the kind of service offered is beyond excpetional. The staff noticed one of our party was limping a bit and hot compresses showed up at her door a few minutes later. Another day one of our party came back to Tawaraya and mentioned something about being a little hungry. Some delecious cookies and tea came to their room. I could go on about the service, how they really want to please, how they are so efficent, kind, thoughtful, kind of like staying with an ideal relative. The food is delecious, the japanese soaking tub, the garden outside your room, the linen sheets on the silk stuffed futons, the service, the great breakfast, the silence and good feeling in the room. Tawaraya is an expereince we will always cherish. We feel very fortunate the same family has taken such good care of this extraorindary luxury inn for 300 years.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
geneva
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
16 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
29 helpful votes 29 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed May 13, 2012 via mobile

I had previously stayed at a modern Ryokan, so was looking forward to visiting this old one... But actually preferred the new Ryokan for comfort and space.

Food was good and excessive, service very sweet but with limited English.

Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kyoto, Japan
Top Contributor
55 reviews 55 reviews
27 hotel reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
57 helpful votes 57 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed May 1, 2012 via mobile

Stayed in a 1st floor room. Important because they have private gardens. Room was spacious with a delightful soaking tub that looked out onto the garden. Staff was attentive. Meals appeared precisely on time. Enjoyed a kaiseki dinner, Japanese and western breakfasts in the room. We enjoyed a delightful tempura dinner at a separate restaurant owned by the Inn and were escorted there by an Inn staff member, as it was a couple of blocks away. There were no real negatives. This is a historic property and challenging for tall westerners and there are few English speakers among the staff. Nonetheless, it is a far more genuine experience than one would encounter at western style hotels in Kyoto.

Stayed April 2012
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco
Top Contributor
59 reviews 59 reviews
21 hotel reviews
Reviews in 29 cities Reviews in 29 cities
69 helpful votes 69 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed April 23, 2012

We dropped our bags off early in the day, as we had to check out of the Okura Hotel where we had been staying. The Tawayara staff was probably a bit surprised to see us arrive at 10:00 in the morning in order to do that, but they swiftly welcomed us and took our bags for safekeeping. The bags were already in our room when we returned in the afternoon. They also graciously held our bags when we checked out two days later, as we did not plan to leave Kyoto until late that afternoon, well after checkout time. When we finally did return to collect the bags and get a cab to the train station, we sat in the small downstairs study to review our train materials for a moment. Up popped tea! The service never ended, to the somewhat embarrassing, at least for me, way that they send you off. While I didn't want to turn around and watch from the cab, I had seen other guests leave the ryokan before us. The front staff -- 4 people typically -- stand out in front and bid you adieu, but they don't then just turn around and head back inside. They wait there until you are no longer visible, and the whole time while they are waiting for that to happen, which may involve waiting for the light to change from red to green if you are in a cab, each one of them is in a full-on bow. It's a humbling gesture that is consistent with the rest of the experience.

Our room was on the second floor, and the woman who was designated as the concierge showed us in and explained various aspects of the room. It was quite large with both a seating area that is shown the photos, another open area where the futons were set up closer to the bathroom that could be closed off with shoji screens from the dining area, and an interesting low-ceiling, rice paper covered small room with daybed, which we ended up using as a dressing area and place to store our luggage. At first I didn't see the value in that area, but since the beds get put away before breakfast, it made for a spot to stretch out during the day should you grow tired of sitting on the floor, though as the photos show, there are chair backs and an arm rest for each person. That little room also helped us maintain the spare and elegant aesthetic in the rest of the room.

There is a TV, but it is hidden behind sliding screens, and we never really watched it and wouldn't have even known that it was there had the woman not pointed it out to us. They have a laptop that is available for guest use from 5:00p.m. until around 11:00p.m. or so, upstairs in a study area. There is no wireless, but at a place like this you really want to fully unplug anyway.

The bathroom had heated cork floors, the full TOTO, and a lovely sunken cedar tub that somehow always seems to be full and at the right bathing temperature. I have no idea how they manage that trick, but they do. It overlooked its own window-box garden. In fact, I have no idea how without a front desk per se or any other real common area (e.g., no dining room/bar, lobby) they manage to know when you are coming, when you are going, or what you want, but somehow they do. The place was full, but we only saw one other couple inside when we went into the upstairs study one evening.

Our personal assistant set up the beds each night, broke them down before breakfast, and also served our breakfasts and the one dinner that we ate in our room. She was very sweet, and obviously happy that we liked the meals, which we thoroughly did. The keiseki dinner was really too much food; the courses went on and on, and while the portions seem small the cumulative effect makes for a very big meal. Fortunately, your bed is only a few feet away! Since she had to break the sleeping area down (e.g., deconstruct the futons and put them into closets) before breakfast, I think that she also appreciated that fact that we didn't want breakfast before 8:30 or 9:00. If your dinner runs late, your assistant doesn't get much personal time if she has to be back at the crack of dawn to break down the futons and then serve your breakfast. You have one personal assistant for your entire stay, at least if you are only there for a night or two. If you are not accustomed to lots of fish, be sure to let her know that; otherwise, you are going to get primarily a fish-based 8-10 course keiseki meal for dinner. We chose the Western breakfast, and it was great (e.g., eggs, toast made in your room, fruit, ample coffee, juice). You can somewhat customize what you get, so we asked to skip certain things and stick to the above for breakfast.

Let me just mention one other thing about the beds. They are generally quite firm in Japan, whether a mattress or futon. Especially after a long day of walking, they can be tough on the back and hips. The Tawayara's futons are quite luxurious, as are the linens, but I nonetheless found them a bit firm for my taste. It was easy enough to just take an extra comforter or two out of the closet and fold them up to form a futon topper. That helped quite a bit. As for the pillows, those were just fine and there were plenty of them. And they provide sleepwear as well.

We did opt to eat at a tempura restaurant run by Tawayara called Tenyu. It's just a short walk away from the ryokan; one of the staff escorted us over. The tempura was quite good -- better than what we had in Tokyo at Tenichi. We especially enjoyed the tempura shiso leaf as well as the tempura nori cups filled with delicious uni. The tempura shrimp were good as well, because their smaller size made the heads easier to eat. I like the heads but here in the States you usually have to take them apart because the shell, in parts, is too thick to comfortably eat. These were smaller, so the head, which was served separately from the body, was a very tender single bite. We sat right at the "tempura bar," so we were able to watch the chef in action. Another option to consider if cost is a factor, of even if you just want to try different places while in the foodie heaven that is Kyoto, would be to just pay for the room and breakfast on the second night and opt to eat out anywhere you'd like. If your meals are included, then you can either have the keisiki dinner in your room or go to Tenyu. I think that there may be a limit on the number of rooms that they will reserve without the dinner option or without dinner and breakfast, and I wouldn't recommend skipping either just to stay in the ryokan for one night, but if you are staying longer it might be worth considering.

I don't even want to go back and look at how much it cost to stay here for two nights; suffice it to say that it's very expensive, especially if you are in one of the suites, which was all that was available at the time that we made our reservations in February. I can't in good conscience call it an "excellent value." Having said that, it was a fabulous and unique experience overall, and we are glad that we stayed for two nights instead of just one. It really gave us time to savor the peace, tranquility and seamless service of the place. If you go, basically plan to spend the bulk of your time in the ryokan, wandering around in your yukatas, tabis and slippers, taking a bath, eating in, spending a bit of time in the lounge and study areas. It's not just a hotel; it's more of a side trip while you are in Kyoto. We hope to stay again one day.

Room Tip: We did not see all of the rooms, but ours was considered one of the larger suites and was on the sec...
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Tawaraya Ryokan

Also Known As:
Tawaraya Ryokan Hotel
Tawaraya Ryokan Hotel Kyoto
Address: 278 Nakahakusancho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-8094, Japan
Location: Japan > Kinki > Kyoto Prefecture > Kyoto
Amenities:
Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #13 of 194 B&Bs / Inns in Kyoto
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
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