We spend a couple of nights soaking in some wa.

Every now and again our resident Kyoto expert Udonko needs somewhere to relax and rejuvenate. Kyoto has no shortage of unique places to stay, but Udonko was in the mood for something a little more traditional, so when she came across Ryokan Tori, she was immediately intrigued.

Udonko is a huge fan of ryokans (Japanese inns) but this was no ordinary ryokan, it was a converted machiya — a traditional wooden townhouse that originally functioned as both a residence and a place to do business. There are machiya all over Japan with some dating back hundreds of years, but they are particularly famous in Kyoto, where they’re referred to as kyomachiya.

▼ Ryokan Tori is a machiya that has been converted into a guesthouse.

This was Udonko’s first time experiencing a kyomachiya, and she started imagining all the things she might do and see during her stay. But nothing could have prepared her for what awaited her when she made her way to the entrance.

▼ What is this feeling? It’s so…wa.

Udonko’s mind was flooded with the word wa (和), which is often translated as ‘harmony’ but is more commonly associated with things that are traditionally Japanese. This ryokan was overflowing with wa!

Wa, wa, wa everywhere she looked!

Even before she’d made it past the main entrance to the ryokan, Udonko was swimming in a sea of wa. The ryokan’s proprietress guided her towards her sleeping quarters, and opened the sliding doors to reveal where Udonko would be spending the next two nights.

The room had a relaxing atmosphere, with a faint aroma of incense. The floors were made from tatami straw mats, and there was plenty of room for Udonko to stretch out and get comfortable. She couldn’t imagine a better place to do some hardcore relaxing.

But before maximum relaxation could be achieved, it was time for some traditional Japanese tea sweets, called ochagashi. As the name suggests, the ochagashi was to be served with a cup of hot green tea.

”Wow, the proprietress is really going all out to make me feel as comfortable as possible!” thought Udonko, as she looked at the treats in front of her. Little did she know that this was merely the beginning of a tidal wave of hospitality coming her way, as Udonko’s quaint, relaxing room suddenly became the venue for her own private tea ceremony.

The proprietress prepared some tea right in front of her, telling Udonko “please, make yourself at home,” but everything was so dignified and ceremonious that Udonko found it hard to truly relax — especially as she wasn’t super familiar with tea ceremony manners and customs.

Luckily, the proprietress was more than experienced enough for the both of them, and gently guided Udonko through the ceremony by telling her the appropriate time to eat her ochagashi, all whilst preparing the tea with graceful movements. Just as Udonko began to get lost in the beauty of the proprietress’ elegant motions, the green tea was ready. As expected, it was delicious, with a mildly bitter taste.

… Unfortunately Udonko was so keen to act with the correct tea ceremony manners that she was too nervous to take a picture of the green tea, so you’ll just have to take her word for it.

Once the tea ceremony was over, the proprietress went to draw Udonko a hot bath…

…and the next morning, breakfast was brought to her in her room. Ryokan breakfasts are usually extravagant affairs and this one was no different!

All in all, Ryokan Tori was a pretty special and unique way to spend a couple of days, even for a Kyoto expert like Udonko.

Staying in a kyomachiya at least once is definitely something worth adding to your bucket list, and at the moment Ryokan Tori is offering reduced rates until March 25. One night at the ryokan will usually set you back 21,500 yen (US$182) but you can currently stay there for a reduced price of 15,800 yen ($134). Udonko enjoyed her stay there so much that she’d consider going back to stay even when the prices return to normal, though.

So the next time you find yourself in Kyoto and are looking for somewhere traditionally and unequivocally Japanese, Ryokan Tori might be the perfect place for you.

Related: Ryokan Tori (Japanese only)
Images: ©SoraNews24
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