If you happen to stumble across Kinse Inn while browsing on Airbnb, you might feel as though you’ve discovered a hidden treasure. Something rare, old, and precious. While this former ryokan offers the experience that many tourists hope for–sleeping in an authentic and traditional Japanese atmosphere–the reviews by airbnb guests make it clear that they not only admire the historic building, but also the hosts.
Kojiro and Seanacey, a newly married couple, are the owners of Kinse Inn.
Although Kojiro grew up in Tokyo, he moved to Kyoto ten years ago. At first his only thought was to take a break from the big city and slow life down by working at a record shop. But he kept looking around the Kinse building, left untouched for 20 years since his grandmother closed the ryokan business.
In 2009, Kinse was reborn as a cafe/bar and the guestrooms on the second floor were reopened in 2013.
Seanacey, from Portland, Oregon in the U.S., joined in as Kojiro’s fellow innkeeper after their June 2013 wedding.
They are connected with the arts in very different ways. Kojiro was a DJ and promoter of concerts in Tokyo. Seanacey has been dabbling in letterpress, ikebana, and tea ceremony. Both love the outdoors, biking before cafe/bar hours and exploring hiking trails in the hills skirting Kyoto.
Your favorite coffee and tea breaks in the city?
S: I love efish for its atmosphere and the nice warm cocktails in the winter months, like the rum+chai. It also has a great and peaceful view of the Kamo river.
K: I recommend Hygge, a cafe located in a renovated machiya (old style Japanese house) just several steps away from our place. You can try drinking their excellent selection of tea and browsing their carefully curated antiques.
Local breakfast/lunch spots?
S: There are some small restaurants in The Kyoto Central Wholesale Market, within a few minutes easy walk from here. If our guests are feeling adventurous, I’ll take them for a market breakfast, usually traditional Japanese-style with fish, rice, miso soup, pickles, and tea. I also like to order Ochazuke, a quick dish made by pouring green tea over steamed rice. These places are really local, meaning no English menus, but somehow there’s always a welcoming atmosphere no matter the language barrier.
In the past, we spent a lot of time biking around Kyoto and trying out new cafes and restaurants. But lately, we’ve been really into exploring our own neighborhood. There are so many restaurants close by–Okonomiyaki, Tonkatsu, Ramen, Teishoku (home-style set meals), and more that we still want to try.
K: Yes, this neighborhood is a popular district that has retained many local specialty shops. I think it’s interesting to take a walk around here and stop for a cup of coffee or a breakfast set at a small coffee shop. There is also a tofu-maker a couple of blocks away where you can buy very fresh soymilk.
Where do you take people to impress them in Kyoto?
S: I like the bamboo groves at Arashiyama and Nenbutsu-ji Temple. It’s a smaller, more personal escape from the crowded places in the city–the atmosphere is totally magic. You can also turn it into a day trip and hike up Mt. Atago from that area; I really recommend it if you enjoy the outdoors! It takes about 5 hours round-trip. The best part for me is the shrine at the very top of the mountain. You can get a sense of the connection between nature and Japanese culture.
K: If you don’t have so much time, the basic recommended spots is Sanjusangendo, Philosopher’s path and the comparison of The Golden Pavilion and The Silver Pavilion. If you can find a time to stroll the streets without any special plans, it’s fun riding a bike along Kamo river.
And then I often recommend our guests Miyatake, a fish restaurant managed by a fishery. They serve all kinds of fish dishes like Sashimi, Sushi, Tempura. You’ll like the lively open-kitchen, friendly cooks as well as good quality of fish at a reasonable price. Also English menu is available.
Best Kyoto places to spend the night?
S: For a funny experience, Izakaya, casual japanese style bars serving food to accompany the drinks, give us some surprises. For example, foreign people often have certain images about Japan like quiet, calm, but we would discover the opposite side of Japan at Izakaya where the servers are very energetic.
And I hope Kinse Inn would be home base during your stay in Kyoto, spend a relaxing time as you like at the end of the long sightseeing day.
K: I suppose Kyoto isn’t really a city for nightclubbing, so you should stop at small bars such as Ost and Oil.