We stayed at Tazuru for 2 nights in December 2013, whilst travelling around Japan. It was the last stop before Tokyo, and is in a really cool part of Kyoto. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, and would recommend it for anyone willing to give something a little bit different a go.
The staff are very friendly and welcoming, although most speak little to no English (we expected this to be a common theme through Japan anyway, so it wasn't a problem). The room was quite big and comprised of a small hallway with shoe storage, the main living and sleeping area, a separate, smaller TV/ storage room (behind the Shoji screens), shower room and toilet room. When you arrive, you are shown to your room and are asked to remove your shoes at the door. You then don a pair of room slippers and go into the main living area, which is lovely and is just the way you imagine a traditional Japanese room to be; tatami floor, Shoji screens separating the parts of the room etc. Upon arrival, there is a table and some chair mats on the floor. The bed is actually a futon, which is hidden away in a cupboard.
Once you leave for the evening meal (either in the hotel or out in Kyoto), the staff go into the room, move table out of the way and lay out the futons, which are surprisingly comfortable to sleep on. This was quite unexpected for me. We only ate breakfast in the hotel as the evening meal was extra and quite expensive (be aware of this as many Ryokans offer the evening meal in the price, as it's traditionally a meal served in the room), so can't comment on how it was.
I've read that many Ryokans impose fairly strict curfew times, and although the main doors at Tazuru are closed at midnight and they do prefer guests come back by this time, they are obviously used to tourists who stay out a little longer and will provide a door code for late night entry.
The breakfast was different on both days. You can choose to go down for breakfast in the loose cotton yukata (similar to a kimono) provided, for the full experience. It was very well presented, and seemed to be of good quality. Although it is strictly served at certain times in the morning. We opted for the latest time of 8:30. As you can imagine, fish is not the most appetizing thing to eat early in the morning, and the breakfast comprises lots of fish and seafood-related products (I couldn't even identify half of what I ate), and the pink fishy-smelling "goo" was probably the least appetizing of all. But I found the best thing to do was to just dive right in and try everything. Failing that, there are some standard breakfast items like toast and coffee.
There are public baths at Tazuru, which are gender separated, depending on the time of day (they alternate which of the baths is male and which female). I didn't go in, but my partner did and she loved it.
So, there you have it. I'd definitely recommend a stay in a Ryokan if visiting Japan, and Tazuru is near to the Gion district of Kyoto, which is very close to bars, restaurants (there's a great Korean-style barbecue restaurant just down the street) and shopping areas. Although you can get the full experience from just 1 night, so if you're travelling round and on a budget, you might not need the 2.
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