House: Sujiya-cho Machiya
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Type: Traditional Townhouse available for rent from Iori
Size: 2,600 square feet — easily sleeps up to 10 guests
This house tour is unique because no one lives here for very long — it's a rental in a traditional Kyoto townhouse from the 19th century. I was lucky enough to stay here for three days and experience something close to traditional Japanese living. After four days in a Tokyo hotel (tiny!) the machiya was a mansion!
The wood frame building was both the home and workspace of a successful Kyoto merchant — the front of the building was the merchant's shop (pictures in the gallery) and the back of the first floor was the family home.
Shoes are removed in an effort to keep the tatami mats clean. Tatami mats, made of tightly packed rice straw, have a wonderfully clean smell and are comfy underfoot. Tatami are exactly twice as long as they are wide and are a common measurement tool in traditional Japanese buildings (ie. this is a 12-tatami room).
Sparsely furnished for renters, the home has the necessities — futon bedding, simple furniture for dining, and a few comfortable chairs — but seems even bigger due to the tons of built in storage that is underutilized in the homes current function.
The home took some getting used to — the absence of hallways and the narrow and steep stairs made it a bit maze-like. Because most of the rooms are connected by sliding wooden doors, it is similar to a railroad apartment. Having to walk through 4 or 5 rooms (all with sliding doors) to find the bathroom at night can be complicated!
My favorite feature was the stone bath and traditional Japanese shower!
Interested in renting a historic machiya in Kyoto? Iori rents 9 traditional homes in Kyoto that range in size and style. The Sujiya-cho Machiya is their largest and oldest machiya. I highly recommend a machiya if you are staying in Kyoto!
For more information on accommodations, see the Iori website.
(Images: Aaron Able)