Aoi Kyoto Stay

Tenno-cho 145-1, Kiyamachi-dori Bukkoji-agaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto

Aoi Kyoto Stay is a collection of six lovely wooden Kyoto-style machiya townhouses located in enviable spots near the most attractive tourist areas of Kyoto. Many are situated alongside rivers and have views of cherry trees or surrounding mountains. And while these houses may look old from the outside (most are over 100-years old), inside it’s all mod-cons, including radiant floor heating, hi-speed WiFi and HD TVs with Blue-ray DVD players.

The interiors of these homes have almost a Scandinavian hipster vibe and feature traditional Japanese touches like tatami mats, kinoko cypress bathtubs and small peaceful Japanese gardens.

All of the townhouses are a quick walk to Gion corner, where the Geisha and Maiko roam. And though the houses have functioning kitchenettes, you probably won’t be preparing sushi and miso soup during your stay in Kyoto, but that’s ok—Aoi Kyoto stay can have breakfast or dinner delivered to your townhouse (for an extra fee), from various nearby restaurants.

Expect organic Imabari towels in the rooms (Imabari is famous in Japan for it’s high-quality towels), high-grade futons (for the townhouses without beds), lovely handmade Washi stationary (for penning elegant letters back home!), and paper tableware. So many Japanese traditions and crafts brought to life under one roof.

Some townhouses have small gardens

Exterior of "Ayankojibashi"

The most Western of the houses is Ayanokoji-bashi, which features big comfy reading chairs, a Bose sound system (with record player and plenty of jazz LPs), twin beds and a large sliding glass door that looks out over Takasegawa river. This almost feels like it could be in Amsterdam— not Japan.

Of the more traditional Japanese townhouses, we like Kamogawa-tei, which blends antique and modern furniture and has a gorgeous terrace that is almost on top of Kamo river. This was a former sake storage house, but we have to think its present state is a better use.

One thing to note if you are staying at an Aoi Kyoto townhouse, be careful not to break anything. The houses come with folding screens from the Edo-period and many pieces of 100 year-old Japanese and Chinese pottery, all of which really add to the charm of these houses.

As these townhouses are old, some have steep staircases and might be a bit drafty in cold months, while noise insulation from the street might be an issue in others. Overall, however, it's well worth trying this unique Japan/Kyoto experience.

The only fear when booking a machiya through Aoi Kyoto Stay is you may be tempted to spend more time in your cozy and chic little townhouse. Pricing depends on the number of guests, so can be very reasonable if you have three or four in your party.

Detail of "Kamogawatei"

Stunning location along the Kamogawa river

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