The Best Japanese Ryokan in Kyoto (And Why You Must Stay in One)

by | Jan 24, 2024 | 0 comments

Trust me when I say that you cannot visit Japan without staying at a Japanese ryokan in Kyoto.

A ryokan is a Japanese inn with traditional Japanese-style rooms (called “washitsu” in Japanese). These rooms are how you picture traditional Japanese living—sliding rice paper windows, impeccable zen gardens, tatami floors and oftentimes elaborate bathing amenities.

Basically, if you want to experience authentic Japanese culture during your trip, it doesn’t get more authentic than staying in a ryokan in Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan.

japanese ryokan best kyoto

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How Do You Pronounce Ryokan?

If English is your first language, the easiest way to understand how to pronounce “ryokan” is by dropping the ‘r’ or making it silent so the word is simply “yo-kan”. This is the most similar to how Japanese people pronounce it and trust me when I say that they probably won’t know what you’re talking about if you say “ree-o-con”. Speaking from experience.

kyoto ryokan with bar

Book Your Kyoto Ryokan in Advance

Japan is such a popular tourist destination, that many things sell out or are booked way in advance, including all the nice ryokans in Kyoto.

When planning your stay in Kyoto, book your ryokan in advance to have the most options to choose from. My husband and I traveled to Japan last minute during our trip to Siargao, and we tried to book a ryokan in Kyoto the week of. We called probably 10 ryokans and every single one was booked, until FINALLY we lucked out with one for just one night. And it turned out to be the best one!

ishibekoji muan ryokan in kyoto bedroom

The Hidden Gem Ryokan in the Oldest Part of Kyoto

Ishibekoji Muan isn’t just another nice ryokan in Kyoto, it’s the BEST ryokan in Kyoto!

Located in the oldest part of Kyoto, right near the historic Gion district, this small establishment boasts phenomenal service, stunning traditional amenities, Japanese breakfast, a bar and more. Trust me when I say you’ll feel right at home here and never want to leave.

Ishibekoji Muan is tucked away on an old lane with traditional Japanese houses just a 10-minute walk from Gion Shijo Station.

Book Ishibekoji Muan ryokan here.

ryokan best kyoto origami

Our Experience at Ishibekoji Muan

First, I have to say that we had the most incredible experience at Ishibekoji Muan all thanks to our amazing host, Sae (pronounced “sigh”). She made us feel so welcome from the moment we arrived, and even taught us origami while we waited to check in. Sae helped us make reservations, gave us tips on where to eat and taught us so much about Japanese culture in the modern day while we sampled Japanese whiskeys at the bar.

When you arrive, you’ll immediately take your shoes off at the door and walk around the ryokan in your socks. The host will take your luggage and give you a detailed tour of your room before leaving you to relax.

yukata in kyoto ryokan

Once you’re settled in your room, you’ll love snuggling up in the yukata (light kimono robe) Ishibekoji Muan provides you with during your stay. You also get soft toe socks that you get to take with you.

nice ryokan in kyoto
japanese ryokan in kyoto

One of our favorite amenities at this Kyoto ryokan was the self-filling bathtub. The large bathtub has an electronic panel where you set the temperature you want and it automatically fills the tub. It then plays a chime sound to let you know the tub is full. It’s such a huge, luxurious tub—you’ll be in heaven.

ryokan in kyoto with traditional breakfast
affordable ryokan in kyoto

In the morning, the host will knock on your door and bring in a full Japanese breakfast. Talk about service!

gyukatsu kyoto katsugyu
Wagyu katsugyu at Gyukatsu in Kyoto
matcha beer at gyukatsu kyoto
Ryan drinking matcha beer at Gyukatsu in Kyoto

Our Favorite Restaurant Near Ishibekoji Muan

We also had the best meal of our entire trip just around the corner from Ishibekoji Muan at Gyukatsu. At Gyukatsu, you can get traditional gyu-katsu, which is the version of katsugyu with wagyu beef instead of pork.

Trust me when I say eating gyu-katsu is a whole experience.

Your sliced wagyu beef will come out raw with tempura around the edge and you cook it to your desired doneness on a small stone pot with a flame underneath. Then, you dip your piece of meat in like seven sauces before eating it. It is so out of this world—you must try it!

historic kyoto streets near gion district

How Much Does a Ryokan Cost?

Prices per night for ryokans vary greatly, but you can safely expect to pay between $150-200 per night for a nice ryokan in Kyoto. Though, don’t be surprised when you come across famous and luxury ryokans charging $500+ per night.

While you’ll be able to find more budget-friendly ryokans (for prices under $100 USD/night), know that they won’t have the level of service or amenities as full-scale ryokans. It will likely be a room with tatami floors and a futon.

best hotel in kyoto
Beds at Tomoya Residence Hotel in Kyoto
tomoya residence hotel in kyoto
Tomoya Residence Hotel in Kyoto

How Long to Stay in a Ryokan in Kyoto?

I recommend staying in a ryokan for 2-3 nights. You can stay in one for as little as one night just to get the experience, but you’ll likely be sad to leave after just one day (we were 🥲).

Most ryokan’s tend to be on the expensive side so it’s totally fine to book a standard hotel in Kyoto for most of your stay there and a ryokan for just a couple nights.

I highly recommend staying at Tomoya Residence Hotel in Kyoto when you’re not staying in a ryokan. I absolutely fell in love with this hotel. It’s a boutique hotel with traditional Japanese flair and all the cool little Japanese amenities. The suite was huge, with rice paper window shades and fluffy beds, and the staff was so kind and helpful.

What Is the Difference Between a Ryokan and an Onsen?

An onsen is a bath fed by a natural hot spring. There are communal and private onsens throughout Japan. Some ryokans have communal or private onsen (spring-water-fed baths) inside. Ryokans with onsen are known as “onsen ryokans”.

pin of ryokan dining room

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