Saturday, January 21, 2017

Seikoro Ryokan, Kyoto, Kyoto

One week after our overnight stay at Katsuragi no Sato and subsequent afternoon at Matsumoto Castle, hubby and I met up C. and A. again at Seikoro Ryokan in Kyoto City, Kyoto.

Two months prior, we had combed through out little book on onsen ryokans, hoping to find one in Kyoto on the same quality level as Iwanoyu and Katsuragi no Sato. The book had served us so well and we'd loved the two places we found. Crazy enough, of all the hundreds of ryokans in Kyoto, none made the cut in the book, probably because their onsens weren't natural hot spring water, an important criteria. Ack, what to do?!

The small side street where Seikoro is situated. Some of the houses there were really traditional and old-looking.

So we dropped our onsen requirement and I restarted our search from scratch for just a good ol' ryokan. Then we narrowed down to the area within Kyoto City for easy access to most of the sightseeing we planned to do. However, several pages into traveler reviews via TripAdvisor and the likes, I realized I was merely wasting my time.

Why? Because majority of those complaints or bad reviews came from folks who were either unaware, or worse, completely ignorant of general ryokan culture. They were expecting Western-style hotel treatment and amenities (why not just book a damn hotel room then?!) and were quite taken aback by Kyoto-style ryokan hospitality. Some people were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed themselves nonetheless, but others hated the experience and likened it to "staying with nagging Asian aunties", calling it overrated and overpriced. In short, traveler reviews weren't helpful to me at all in this case.

I tried a different route and found Seikoro Ryokan via the Michelin Guide, which gave the place a rating of "top class comfort." There was also a great and thoughtful review of the ryokan in the Washington Post. And last but not least, listings like this one from Inside Kyoto.

Seikoro Ryokan has two official websites, one in Japanese and another English. You can secure bookings online using a credit card but actual payments are made onsite at the time of checkout, 10:30am.

The ryokan's front courtyard, tiny but no less beautiful. 

Hubby and I agreed to meet with C. and A. at 4:30pm but we arrived half an hour early just in case. After checking in, as usual I took a quick tour of the facility for photos. You see, before dinner at 6:30pm, C. and I were to participate in a special kimono trying and photographing session. It was an extra $60 for two (ladies-only, unfortunately) but was so much fun for everyone involved, be they the gentleman observers or lady participants. It was worth every penny and I really recommend it!

Coming towards our guestroom. 

The room had an entrance area with a screen divider and sliding door. The bathroom, toilet, and sink were also in this area, though separated.

After having a whole gigantic room to just me and hubby at Iwanoyu and Katsuragi no Sato, the four of us crammed into a much smaller ryokan room at Seikoro. After all, it was Kyoto, and like Tokyo space was a luxury there. And it was also mid August, the peak travel season in Japan. Last but not least, Seikoro was popular enough that most rooms were already booked two months in advance. But I'd already warned C. and A. of the above so they'd temper their expectations accordingly.

Here's the main living and sleeping space. There was a tiny study in the far back left corner, and a small sitting area by the screen door that opened to a small courtyard.

Study was tiny but could still fit two people side by side.

Sitting area and courtyard.

The tiny screen that separated the main living/sleeping space and the entrance area and the sliding doors behind it. The place was traditionally decorated and there wasn't a refrigerator in our room--something to keep in mind when you plan a stay at a ryokan, as most places won't provide a mini refrigerator or microwave unlike a Western-style hotel.

The rest of the ryokan had really calm, almost mysterious ambience. The hallways were lit but not blasted with lights, something we appreciated having coming in from a bright (and hot and humid) sunny day.

Leaving hubby to unwind in the room, I wandered around by myself.

I peeked through the sliding doors in the above photo and found this tatami room, complete with a set of samurai armor! No worries, the doors were already cracked open so I knew I wasn't snooping on another guestroom :P In fact, later we returned to this room for the kimono trying and photographing, with the armor in the background and everything!

Back in the hallway, I found some interesting lacquered artworks. No flash-photography of course. I seldom use flash anyway.

Down a different hallway.

Now onto the public bath, separated by gender.

The women's bath was rather small and basic. This particular ryokan wasn't known for its public bath, so no disappointment here.

Next up: Kimono trying and photographing, kaiseki dinner, and breakfast!

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