Today we have a guest post from Lucinda Cowing.
Looking for an authentic, conveniently-located, quiet Kyoto accommodation? Travelling on a budget?
The Matsui House is a 100 year-old machiya townhouse in Nishijin, the old textile district of Kyoto. It is the family home of Mrs Matsui, who resides there with her husband. The house was previously a workshop for making kimono and obi (Mrs Matsui tells me the pieces she inherited, sadly, were sold long ago to the Boston Museum of Art). With the decline in the demand for kimono beginning in the post-war era, the weaving industry here has consequently suffered a huge decline, and the sounds of the looms no longer reverberate through the streets as Mrs Matsui recalls well. The Nishijin neighbourhood nonetheless remains one of the most well-preserved in Kyoto. Several years ago, after having restored the main building with the help of the Machizukuri Fund, the Matsuis decided to rent it out as a sharehouse. They also welcome short-term visitors to Kyoto to stay in their guest room.
The Matsui House guest room is a large 12-tatami size room, accommodating max. two people. The room is actually their ozashiki or main reception room — as such it is the loveliest in the house, with a view out to the gorgeous garden. Guests sleep in the traditional Japanese style, on futon bedding, which most people find very comfortable. Mrs Matsui can find you an extra one futon for more “support” if you need.
Guests are welcome to use the large kitchen area. For the consideration of the residents here, please keep it clean! There are two supermarkets (Fresco and Daikokuya) and several convenience stores nearby (Family Mart, Lawson, etc).
The shower and toilet are shared, and located in the courtyard area. Mrs. Matsui will provide towels, but these are quite small so I recommend bringing a towel robe/large bath towel for transferring between the guest room and the shower, as there is not much space to change in the shower area. It might seem a bit daunting being “out in the open” but the reality is not so onerous – please be assured you will have privacy! For the more daring there is also a public bath called Sanken-no-yu just down the street. You might give the locals frequenting the baths a mild shock to start with , but I know they got used to my being there during the bitter winter months and we would end up having some very friendly conversations! A little further away is Kyoto’s oldest public bath, Funaoka Onsen. A guide to public bath etiquette can be found here.
The Matsuis are an exceptionally warm and friendly couple who will do their utmost to make you feel at home. They speak limited English, but with a little patience will do their best to answer your queries. Mr. Matsui is very knowledgable about the city and will be able to point you in the right direction. Some of the Japanese house residents speak a little English, among them is a gentleman from Australia.
I have very special memories of my year living at the Matsui House and I am sure you will love it as much as I do!
Sightseeing in the vicinity:
Temples: Myokenji Temple, Myorenji Temple (which has a small fleamarket), and Hokyo-ji Temple (nicknamed the Doll Temple).
Orinasukan Textile Museum
Nishijin Textile Centre
Tsuruya Yoshinobu – a wagashi (Japanese) sweet-maker and cafe dating to 1803.
A bus can be taken to the downtown area of Kyoto in about 20 minutes.
A cheap and nearby bike rental in Kyoto is Emusica located at Demachiyanagi Station, a short bus ride away. Take the no. 201 or 203, bus from Imadegawa Shinmachi stop and alight at Demachiyanagi Eki-mae stop.
10 minute walk from Imadegawa Station on the Karasuma Subway Line.
15-20 minutes taxi ride from Kyoto Station.
4000 yen/person/night to be paid upon arrival. Mrs. Matsui will bring bread and coffee in the mornings for you.
Please direct enquiries to Lucinda at cowinglucinda[at]gmail.com. She will pass on your request to the Matsuis and give you more detailed access information. She lives a short walk from the Matsui house and will be happy to meet you to explain the workings of the house.
Lucinda Cowing is an Associate Editor at Kyoto Journal.