What kind of ryokan is Ryokan Genhouin?
My husband and I visited Kyoto in mid-May in early summer when the cherry blossom season was over and the greenery was beautiful. We took the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station around 12:00 and arrived at Kyoto Station at 15:30.
Ryokan Genhouin, where we stayed this time, was built more than 100 years ago in the Higashiyama area by Count Yamashina, a member of the nobility, with a magnificent Japanese garden and a sukiya-style building covering an area of about 1,700㎡. This area was a special place that prospered as a vacation home for aristocrats and emperors. Within walking distance are some of Kyoto’s most famous spots, including Heian Shrine, Nanzenji Temple, Philosopher’s Path, and Ginkakuji Temple.
To get straight to the point, for those of us who like to stay in Japanese gardens and architecture created by Kyoto’s top gardeners and architects, this was a very valuable experience. There are few places in Japan where you can stay in an aristocratic mansion with such wonderful tradition and history.
A 20-minute cab ride from Kyoto Station took me to a quiet residential area overlooking the Higashiyama mountains, where the ryokan stands in a corner. Higashiyama mountain range in the background, the elegant Tsukiji wall surrounding the property, and the massive gate, all of which exuded a sense of the Yamashina family’s history and stature.
We got off the cab in front of a gate with a magnificent pine tree. At the gate, a beige curtain with an auspicious design was swaying in the breeze. As we passed through the noren, bells on the noren rang lightly. Above the noren was a shimenawa, a rope made of hemp, decorating the gate of the ryokan. We entered the main building, a sukiya-style architecture, through a wonderful, well-kept Japanese garden. Pulling back the lattice door, we entered the building and were greeted by a traditional aroma. From the moment we arrived here, we felt very refreshed and excited about our stay here.
A reception counter was decorated with crowns worn by court nobles, behind the counter was a gold folding screen-like painting, and the windows next to the reception counter was hung with prestigious traditional blinds. The Japanese garden seen through the traditional blinds was simply beautiful. When we visited, the pink azaleas were in full bloom.
Then next to the reception desk was a magnificent Japanese-style hall with Kyoto craftsmanship. As we took off our shoes and entered the hall, our eyes were taken by the beauty of the Japanese garden seen from the window. It was like a huge folding screen. The beauty of the garden was overwhelmingly beautiful and well calculated, while still looking natural.
The alcove in the hall was decorated with a traditional and historical hanging scroll used for festivals, and at the entrance of the hall, women’s robes colorfully decorated with the Yamashina family crest. Looking up at the ceiling, one could see a latticework of boards and slender square timbers made from a large tree several hundred years old, and the ceiling was decorated with chrysanthemum crests associated with the imperial family and paulownia crests of the nobility carved above the shoji doors and on the ceiling. Visitors can sense the vestiges of the residence where the Yamashina family’s viscounts lived.
When we were seated at our table, we were offered matcha green tea and sweet potato macaroons. The matcha was served in tea bowls decorated with the Yamashina family crest.
After a while, a staff member showed us to a room. This time, we stayed in a room called Emon, located on the first floor of the main building. Upon entering the room, we found ourselves in a Japanese-style room with 10 beautiful tatami mats that let in the soft sunlight through the trees, a large veranda called engawa with chairs and a table on the window side, and a view of a magnificent Japanese garden. The alcove of the room was decorated with chrysanthemum and bellflower ikebana, and in the corner was a lantern made of Japanese paper. It was a traditional Japanese room with a sophisticated ambience.
We especially loved the view from the engawa. We enjoyed gyokuro tea with square rice crackers prepared in the room and spent some time admiring the traditional Japanese garden with its beautiful fresh green maples and mosses. A stone basin right next to the engawa was poured slowly from a bamboo tube, and the sound of running water and chirping birds could be heard pleasantly.
When we came to our senses, it was already past 17:30. The sky was getting darker and darker, and the atmosphere became more solemn with each passing hour. The Japanese garden began to be illuminated by the faint light of the lanterns. The room was enveloped by the faint light through the shoji screens.
We left the ryokan before 18:00 and decided to have dinner at a famous tempura restaurant called Tempura Endo Okazakitei about a 15-minute walk away. We entered the restaurant through the black noren curtain, passed through the garden, opened a lattice door, and proceeded down a stone-paved corridor to find ourselves in a space with a chic Japanese-style interior. We sat at the counter seats and enjoyed freshly made tempura, which the chef deep-fried right in front of us. The crispy tempura, made with seasonal ingredients unique to Kyoto and deep fried by a skilled tempura chef, was truly superb. The budget ranged from JPY15,000 to JPY20,000 per person. It is recommended to make a reservation in advance as it is a popular restaurant.
After dinner, we returned to the ryokan around 20:00 and decided to enjoy a private family bath on the first floor. Our room also had a bathroom with a bathtub, but we decided to use the private family bath because it had a more spacious hinoki bath. We booked the private family bath when we checked in. While soaking in the hot water, we could look out of the small window next to the hinoki bathtub and see an ethereal Japanese garden lit up. The bathroom was equipped with comfortable, high quality bath amenities and Aesop skin care products.
After relaxing in the bath, we changed into yukatas and sat on chairs on the engawa to enjoy Kyoto’s local sake. The beautiful Japanese garden with its fresh greenery, which emerged in the dark night with the faint light, was a different impression than during the day. Then, as we listened carefully, we could hear the chirping of korogi, katydids, and grasshoppers. Hot summer was already around the corner.
The next morning, we woke up around 6:00. I opened the shoji door and looked out the window. It was still dim and before dawn. I made a pot of sencha green tea, sat down on a chair on the engawa, and for a while, listening to the chirping of birds and watching the dawn. The sky was getting brighter by the minute and gradually became blue.
We decided to take a walk around the nearby Heian Shrine. The shrine is open from 6:00 in the morning. After leaving the ryokan and walking for about 10 minutes, we saw the vermilion-colored Gate on our right. The vast grounds of the shrine, built in the image of the Heian-kyo capital, looked like a filming location for a period drama, with its green roof tiles and vermilion-lacquered buildings. The shrine also has four vast and wonderful Japanese gardens. Since the Japanese gardens open at 8:30, we did not enter them this time and returned to the ryokan.
When we returned to the ryokan around 8:00, we were starting to get hungry, so we had breakfast in the hall next to the reception desk on the first floor. The large windows overlooking the scenic Japanese garden, glistening in the morning sun, made for an exceptional breakfast. The Buddhist vegetarian breakfast was prepared according to Buddhist precepts, using only grains, legumes, and vegetables, with no meat or seafood. However, the portions were small for us gluttonous eaters.
After breakfast, we returned to our room and sat on the engawa again, never getting tired of looking at the traditional Japanese garden. We have stayed at ryokans with views of Japanese gardens in Hakone, Izu, Kanazawa, etc., but the Japanese garden in Kyoto, which we viewed while thinking back to an elegant era more than 1,000 years ago, was a grand historical and romantic experience.
If I were to raise any drawbacks, I would say that due to the traditional sukiya-style architecture, the soundproofing system is not up-to-date, so I could hear talking voices and footprints in the hallways. Then again, children under 12 are not allowed to stay, so it is not for families with small children. There was also a bar and library lounge in the main house, a wonderful and sophisticated sukiya-style building, but we were unable to use it during our stay because it was under renovation. We will look forward to our next visit. This time we visited in early summer when the greenery was fresh and beautiful, so next time we would like to visit in the fall season.
Check Availability and Pricing for the ryokan on Agoda
Is the location easy to access?
A cab ride from Kyoto Station will take about 20 minutes and cost about JPY2,500. Most cab drivers will not know this ryokan. The cab drivers can enter the phone number into their car navigation systems to confirm the destination, so please provide the address and TEL number in the Japanese below.
Alternatively, it takes 15min on foot from Keage Station
Rooms I would recommend?
There are four rooms, three in the main building and one in the private villa, and of the four rooms, only the private villa and the room called Emon where we stayed have attached bathrooms. The other two rooms do not have bathrooms in the rooms, but there is a spacious private family bath just outside the rooms that can be used free of charge. Reservations need to be made in advance. This private family bath can also be reserved by guests staying in other rooms.
How about toiletries & in-room amenities?
All of the amenities are taken care of including minimum toiletries, yukatas, and a Japanese tea set, etc. Room service is not available. There is a convenience store nearby. The free WiFi reception was good in our room.
How about In-house Facilities?
This is not a universal design. There is no elevator. If you bring people with weak legs, you may want to request a room on 1F.
How about meals?
Breakfast is served in the hall next to the reception desk and includes Buddhist vegetarian food. If you stay in the private villa, breakfast is served in your room. Dinner is basically not served.
Have a nice trip! Welcome to receive any questions about Ryokan Genhouin from the below space. Check Availability and Pricing for the ryokan on Agoda
Info about Ryokan Genhouin
|Check-in and out times
|Estimated Price||100,000 JPY for 2 adults per room|
|Internet Connection||Free wifi in the ryokan|
|Facility Information||Wheelchairs are not available
Pets are not allowed
The parking lot is available 2,000JPY per day
|Location||Ryokan Genhouin’s MAP|
|Access||20min by TAXI from Kyoto Station
15min walk from Keage Station
|Address and TEL||606-8333 Kyoto Sakyo-Ku Okazaki
Hoshojicho 77 Tel +81
|Official Homepage||Ryokan Genhouin’s HP *Japanese only|
*All information above is as of the date that I posted on my blog.
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