What kind of boutique ryokan is Luxury hotel SOWAKA?
In early June, during the rainy season, when the sky was covered with thick clouds and rainy days were becoming more and more frequent, my husband and I visited Osaka, so we decided to move to Kyoto that afternoon and stay at Luxury hotel SOWAKA, located in the Gion area, which we had wanted to stay at for a long time. Recently, numerous attractive ryokans and hotels have been opening in Kyoto one after another, and as Kyoto lovers, we are always at a loss as to where to stay each time we visit the city.
It was a particularly hot and humid day, not as refreshing as early summer, and we do not like gloomy weather, but Kyoto’s ryokans and Japanese gardens look much nicer in the rain or snow than in sunny weather. When we visit Kyoto during the rainy rainy season in June, we choose to stay at a ryokan with a beautiful garden, as it gives us a more authentic feeling of Kyoto.
To get straight to the point, we enjoyed our stay in the elegant sukiya-style architecture and the beautiful and elegant Japanese garden. In addition, the ryokan is in a great location for Kyoto lovers. It is dotted with great restaurants and famous tourist attractions. It was a two day and one night trip, but it was satisfying enough.
We arrived at Kyoto Station around 15:00 and took a cab to the ryokan. The trip took about 10 minutes and cost about JPY1,800. The ryokan was near the south gate of Yasaka Shrine. It is easy to find the ryokan if you tell a cab driver that it is near the south gate of Yasaka Shrine. Since it is a small ryokan, some cab drivers do not know it.
Then, as we got out of the cab, we saw an elegant white noren curtain hanging over the entrance to the main building, which was in the sukiya style. The entrance was so small that it seemed to blend in with its surroundings, and if we were not paying close attention, we could have walked right through it without noticing it. After passing through the white noren curtain, we walked along a narrow cobblestone path planted with quaint moss, and upon arriving at the entrance, we were greeted by a staff member. We took off our shoes here and were led directly to a lobby lounge. The entrance with the white noren curtain and the narrow path to the front door were in a small space, but the lobby lounge was so spacious that it was hard to imagine from the outside.
While we were sitting on a sofa in the lobby lounge going through check-in procedures, champagne was offered to us. On a hot and humid day, the chilled champagne tasted even better. The lobby lounge, with its modern interior and furniture, was very unique. Since the space was formerly used as the kitchen of a famous ryotei restaurant, the well, cauldron, and hidden staircase were left in their original state and blended into the modern space as interior design.
After a few moments, a staff member showed us to our guest room. The 23-room Japanese-style sukiya-style ryokan had a main building and a new wing, each with a different interior design. For our visit, we booked a deluxe garden view room. After navigating the maze of corridors, we climbed through a door to our room and entered to find a beautifully landscaped Japanese garden outside a large window. It was so wonderful that I could not help but gasp in admiration, and I was reminded once again of the charm of Japanese gardens. The light rain that had been falling earlier had stopped, and the soft sunlight illuminated the rain-soaked plants and moss more vividly. Listening carefully, we could constantly hear the sound of water gently flowing in the garden’s pond.
Upon entering the room, we felt the comfort of walking barefoot on the tatami floor. For those of us who live in modern houses and have been away from the warmth of tatami, it was rather like an extraordinary experience. In the middle of the traditional Japanese-style room, twin beds were placed on the floor facing a bamboo engawa. It was a novel layout, but we were impressed by the modern comforts of the room, while still maintaining the taste of a sukiya-style building. Then as I entered a bathroom, I could smell the scent of hinoki cypress. Unfortunately, this ryokan does not have a hot spring. The modern, contemporary bathroom had a hinoki bath, shower, and double sinks, which were easy to use. Bath amenities made with camellia oil, typical of Kyoto, were even provided.
We took out a bottle of beer from a mini-bar and sipped it while gazing out over the bamboo engawa at the magnificent Japanese garden. The sun had been shining earlier, but it was now covered by thick clouds and a light rain was falling. We almost lost track of time as we listened to the quiet sound of the rain and gazed at the sigh-inducing beauty of the Japanese garden. It was truly one of the most memorable and beautiful Japanese gardens for us.
Then we realized that it was past five o’clock. We had made a reservation at a teppanyaki steak restaurant called Kobe steak restaurant near Gion-Shijo Station, so we decided to head out. On the way to the teppanyaki restaurant, passing through the precincts of Yasaka Shrine and looking out over the streets and shopping arcades of Gion, we noticed a lively atmosphere filled with students on school trips, couples in yukata, and elderly tourists. Since it was the season for school excursions, we saw many students. We, too, visited Kyoto for the first time on a school excursion.
The restaurant where we had dinner was a 15-minute walk from the ryokan. It was our first time dining there and we were happy to enjoy delicious Kobe beef course meals. The hospitality and service of the chef who cooked the meat was excellent and made us want to come back to the restaurant again and again.
We then left the restaurant around 19:00 and decided to go out to Tofukuji Temple to see the illumination of blue maples. A two-minute walk from the restaurant brought us to Gion-Shijo Station. From here, we boarded the Keihan Main Line and got off at Tofukuji Station, which took about 6 minutes. From there, a 10-minute walk brought us to Tofukuji Temple. The area around the temple becomes dark at night, but during the illumination period, the path leading to the gate is brightly illuminated with lights, so we felt safe on our way.
At this time, the sun was already setting, a solemn mood enveloped the area, and a massive gate called “Kusaka-mon” stood out beautifully in the bluish sky, illuminated by the light. After passing through the gate with great anticipation, the first thing that struck us as we entered the precincts of the temple was the impressive sight of the huge hall towering in the darkness. Further on, large maple trees, glowing a beautiful green color, covered the night sky. We were moved by this mystical sight. The temple grounds were spacious, allowing us to freely stroll around in the fantastic and ethereal setting. Then, at the Tsutenkyo Bridge, the symbol of Tofukuji Temple, the trees and leaves were wet from the rain that had just fallen, and the light reflected beautifully, creating a spectacular view that was different from that on a sunny day.
Tofukuji Temple is especially famous for its illuminated autumn foliage, but the beautiful maple trees that can be viewed from the bridge over the canyon from early summer through summer were also a sight beyond words. It was pleasant to take a walk in the temple on an early summer evening with a cool night breeze blowing refreshingly while listening to the murmuring of the river flowing under the bridge. The festival runs from early June to early August, and the temple is open from 18:30 to 21:30.
We then returned to the ryokan a little after 21:00, entered our room, opened sliding shoji doors, and found the Japanese garden lit up. We turned off the lights for a while and decided to sit on the engawa to relax and enjoy some fresh “DARI K” chocolates and whiskey from the mini-bar. As we gazed at the elegant and picturesque Japanese garden, which we never get tired of seeing no matter how many times we see it, we could hear the chirping of bell bugs.
The next day, we woke up a little after 6: 00. We brewed a pot of drip coffee and enjoyed the aroma of the coffee as we watched the soft morning light pouring down onto the Japanese garden from the engawa. It was a moment that reminded us of the charm of this ryokan.
We then decided to take a walk around Kiyomizu Temple before breakfast. It was about a 20-minute walk from the ryokan. During the daytime, the temple is so crowded with tourists that it is difficult to get a sense of its atmosphere, but early in the morning, the atmosphere was incredibly peaceful and quiet. There are many narrow stone-paved paths around the temple, and traditional townhouses with tiled roofs and warehouses line the streets, giving one a mysterious feeling of time travel just by walking around the temple. We have visited here many times, but when we visited early in the morning, it was like a different world.
After returning from our morning walk, we had breakfast at a restaurant called La Bombance in the ryokan at 8:00. It was a full Japanese course, including Broiled Miso-marinated Black Cod, dashimaki rolled egg, rice with green tea called ochazuke , etc., which was appropriate for a morning in Kyoto. We usually prefer Western-style breakfasts, but we were reminded that Japanese food was also good.
After breakfast, we returned to our room and sat on the engawa again, never getting tired of looking at the Japanese garden, which changes from moment to moment according to time and weather. Yesterday, the garden was shrouded in thick clouds, but this morning, unusually for the rainy season, we had clear, crisp blue skies. According to the weather forecast, it was supposed to start raining again in the afternoon, so we checked out before 10:00 and visited Saiho-ji Temple. We were looking forward to seeing beautiful mosses spreading all over the temple, as this is the only time in the rainy season when you can see them. It looked as if it was covered with a carpet of green. Reservations are required in advance. Moreover, visitors need to be junior high school students or older.
If I were to venture to raise a fault, the historic appearance of the main building is very charming, but because it is an old Japanese house, the sounds of daily life could be heard from time to time. For example, the sound of cars and motorcycles on the nearby road, footsteps and voices in the hallway, etc. If you are concerned about this or value privacy, the new building is recommended.
Also, there is no lounge, gym, library, onsen or spa treatment store. We spent most of our stay in our room. If you are looking for full amenities, this is not the place for you.
Check Availability and Pricing for the ryokan on Agoda or Booking.com
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Is the location easy to access?
The ryokan is a 15-minute walk from Gion Shijo Station. If you have a lot of luggage or are visiting Kyoto for the first time, you may want to take a cab from Kyoto Station. It takes 15min and costs around JPY2,000.
Most of the cab drivers do not know about this property. If you can, please tell them the location on the map. Alternatively, show the address and TEL No. in the below Japanese as they can enter the phone number into the car navigation system to confirm the destination.
Luxury Hotel そわか
電話番号 075 541 5323
If you drive a car, you can park at Times Yasaka Shrine South. Only the first night will be free.
*I wouldn’t recommend renting a car in Kyoto because all parking lots in the city are small and expensive, just like in Tokyo. Kyoto city can be toured smoothly by train, bus, or cab.
Where is the best accommodation for anniversaries in Kyoto?
If you are looking for a good place for a special occasion in Kyoto, the property is one of the best. The staff arranges flowers and cakes to celebrate an anniversary at additional charges if you request in advance.
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Rooms I would recommend?
The property has a new building and the main building. If you are going to stay here, I would rather recommend a room in the main building. The ambiance would be more charming, elegant, and quaint.
Our garden view room is located in a maze of corridors, and when the staff opened the door to our room, we were greeted by a beautiful garden, just as the name suggests. I can’t help but marvel at the spectacular view and was reminded of the charm of Japanese architecture and gardens.
*Children under 12 years old are not allowed to stay in the main building, but they are allowed in the new building.
How about toiletries & in-room amenities?
All of the amenities are taken care of including enough toiletries, samue, bathrobes, a coffee machine with capsules, a complimentary mini-bar, and a Japanese tea set. In the mini-bar was white, red wine, Japanese sake, beer, welcome champagne, fruit juice, tea, water, and fresh cream chocolate. The camellia oil-based bath amenities are also very Kyoto-like. Also, there is no TV in the room. Instead, there is a tablet and wooden speaker. Overall, the lighting in the building is dark. Room service is not available. There is a convenience store nearby. The free WiFi reception was excellent.
How about In-house Facilities?
There is an amazing traditional courtyard. Don’t forget to take a walk during your stay.
There are no large communal baths, but each room has its own cypress bath with the scent of cypress.
Then this is dog-friendly. If you want to bring your dogs, you may want to inform staff in advance. There is only one room No.111 you can stay with your dogs.
Then this is an almost universal design in the new building. The wheelchair is not available for borrowing. If you bring someone with weak legs, you may want to inform the staff in advance as they arrange a room near the lift.
Have a nice trip! Welcome to receive any questions about the property from the below space. Check Availability and Pricing for the ryokan on Agoda or Booking.com
Info about Luxury hotel SOWAKA
|Check-in and out times
|Estimated Price||80,000 JPY for 2 adults per room|
|Internet Connection||Free wifi in the ryokan|
|Facility information||Wheelchairs are available in the new building
Dogs are allowed in a room called No.111
The parking lot is available
|Location||Luxury hotel SOWAKA’s MAP|
|Access||15min by taxi from Kyoto Station
|Address and TEL||Tel +81 75-541-5323|
|Official Homepage||Luxury hotel SOWAKA’s HP|
*All information above is as of the date that I posted on my blog.
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