Kyoto’s power to enchant and draw visitors into the days of old lies in its nurturing of traditions and its embrace of its rich history. Revel in this unique allure when in Japan’s former imperial capital by staying in a charming traditional machiya house built more than 110 years ago. Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St., a luxury ryokan consisting of two rows of renovated houses in an L-shaped alleyway — the “street” of the ryokan’s name — allows you to do just that. 

As you walk down the lantern-lit cobbled street, you’ll feel as though you’ve gone through a time portal and slipped into one of Kyoto’s historical geisha districts. The feeling is so profound that it’s hard to imagine these houses were once on the verge of being razed to the ground. Indeed, this alley of old Kyoto-style houses was slated for demolition, and the plan was for residential buildings to be built instead. As the area isn’t near a high-traffic tourist attraction, it was with some trepidation that the Nazuna group stepped in to save the machiya houses, turning them into accommodation. A few years later, it’s clear the risk has paid off, as Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St. is brimming with guests. 

Designing the Perfect Stay

Walk through the wooden gate and past the verdant weeping willow to find a small indoor gallery and the reception desk. On the second floor, you can relax in the lounge, where free drinks are served from 3pm to 9pm and a tea-tasting set can be arranged for a fee. Upon exiting this building, the charming alley lined with traditional-style houses opens up before you. These 23 individual houses are the guest rooms that make up Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St. Each comes with a semi-open-air bath, a bedroom and a separate living area.

The rooms are categorized under five themes inspired by the natural beauty of Kyoto: Mizu (water), Take (bamboo), Iwa (stone), Hana (flower) and Ha (leaf). Nazuna has a flair for great design, so every room shows elegance and attention to detail. For example, bamboo lattices adorn the ceilings of Take rooms while a light akin to shimmering water dances on the walls of Mizu rooms.

Nazuna collaborates with craft breweries, stocking the mini fridges with local sake, beer and tea. As for food, you can enjoy wagyu beef from Oita Prefecture prepared in myriad ways, from raw bites to shabu-shabu, at the facility’s Wagyu Ryotei Bungo restaurant. Savor the heavenly chawan mushi (steamed egg) made with Oita’s Dragon Egg brand of eggs. The vegetables served change with the seasons, always bringing color and freshness.

When you leave, you can take some of Nazuna’s stylish comfort with you, as the brand’s pajamas, among other items, are for sale. Nazuna’s original green tea and Japanese sweets make a lovely travel gift.

Find My Favorite Japan: Curated Japanese Design Pop-Up Exhibition

To showcase the high quality and elegant design of Japanese products, Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St. is hosting an exhibition of carefully selected products from eight brands. The event, organized by Nazuna and the marketing company Notes, is also sponsored by the design company Kitchibe. The pop-up exhibition is being presented in two parts taking place between February and May 2024.

Part 1: Design for daily life

Feb. 14, 2024–March 19, 2024

This part mainly focuses on furniture and interior design goods such as candles and vases created by popular Japanese brands Kitchibe, P/op, Mobje, Usukiyaki and Nazuna.

One example is the Crinkle Candle by Kitchibe, selected for the MoMA Permanent Collection. The fragrant candle is made from locally produced plant-based ingredients and placed in Japanese porcelain. Tableware enthusiasts can also buy elegant white plates and cups made in the revived Usuki ware style from Oita. Mobje’s woven vases, made with hat-making materials and techniques, are a wonderful example of diversifying a craft, as the brand is an offshoot of a millinery company from Hiroshima. 

All of the products are placed on chic revamped furniture by P/op, a brand that restores old pieces and gives them a pop of color with pigmented plexiglass.

Part 2: Japanese style and fashion

March 20, 2024–May 9, 2024

The second part will feature stylish jewelry, hats and other fashion accessories. The exhibiting brands are Nazuna, Kitchibe, P/op, Someya Suzuki, Fujii Seibo, Yuzen and Fua Accessory.

One of the showcased products is Someya Suzuki’s 2Tone bags dyed with natural ingredients, such as cypress bark and marigold flower. There are also straw hats, glass bead and pearl accessories and other items.

Overnight guests have access to the pop-up exhibition every day. Non-staying guests are welcome to peruse and purchase the items on display on Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 3pm. They are also welcome to attend on March 20, the opening day of the second part of the exhibition.

More Info

Nazuna Kyoto Tsubaki St.

Address: 838 Bomoncho, Omiya Nishiiru, Takatsuji-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto city

Phone number: 075-748-0402

Email: [email protected]

Nazuna operates three other ryokan, as well as eight stand-alone rental houses in Kyoto and Miyazaki that offer outstanding privacy. Check out all the options at the official website