If you've never stayed in a ryokan, Kyoto is one of the best places to do so. With the exception of hot-spring resorts, Kyoto has more choices of ryokan in all price categories than any other city in Japan. Small, usually made of wood, and often situated in delightfully quaint neighborhoods, these ryokan can enrich your stay in Kyoto by putting you in direct touch with the city's traditional past. Remember that in upper- and midpriced ryokan, the room charge is per person, and though the prices may seem prohibitive at first glance, they do include two meals, tax, and usually the service charge. These meals are feasts, not unlike kaiseki meals you'd receive at a top restaurant where they could easily cost ¥10,000. Ryokan in the budget category, on the other hand, usually don't serve meals unless stated otherwise and often charge per room rather than per person, but they do provide the futon experience.
Be sure to make reservations in advance, particularly in spring when flowers bloom, in autumn for the changing of the leaves, during summer vacation from mid-July through August, and during major festivals. Some accommodations raise their rates during these times. In any case, accommodations are expensive in Kyoto, almost on par with Tokyo.
Because Kyoto is relatively small and has such good bus and subway systems, no matter where you stay you won't be too far away from the heart of the city. Most hotels and ryokan are concentrated around Kyoto Station (Shimogyo-ku Ward), in central Kyoto not far from the Kawaramachi-Shijo Dori intersection (Nakagyo-ku Ward), and east of the Kamo River (in the Higashiyama-ku and Sakyo-ku wards).
Taxes & Service Charges -- The 5% tax levied by hotels is included in room rates. Mid- and upper-range hotels also add a 10% to 15% service. Unless noted otherwise, all rates in the listings include tax and service charge.
A Note on Directions
For all hotel istings in this guide, directions provided are from Kyoto Station unless otherwise indicated. Numbers in parentheses after stations and bus stops refer to the time it takes to reach your destination on foot after alighting from public conveyance.
A Double or a Twin?
For the sake of convenience, the price for two people in a room is listed as a "double" in this guide. Japanese hotels, however, differentiate between rooms with a double bed or two twin beds, usually with different prices. Most hotels charge more for a twin room, but sometimes the opposite is true; if you're looking for a bargain, therefore, be sure to inquire about prices for both. Note, too, that hotels usually have more twin rooms than doubles, for the simple reason that Japanese couples, used to their own futon, traditionally prefer twin beds.
There's another inexpensive lodging option in Kyoto -- in one of its temples. Note that payment is in cash only. Shoho-In, Omiya-Matsubara Nishi-iru, Shimogyu-ku (tel. 090/8988-2998; ask for Kato-san) offers three rooms for two or more persons beginning at ¥5,000 per person, including a large room for up to seven persons and a two-bedroom condo, complete with kitchen and its own entrance, for stays of a week or longer. No meals are served. Be sure to take a peek inside the small 200-year-old temple, famous for its thousand-year-old statue of Amida. To reach it, take bus no. 206 to Omiya Matsubara.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.