Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Stay At A Traditional Machiya In Gojo City, Nara
Written by Haruka
Enjoy a night at a traditional Japanese house for an authentic experience. Here is a review of the time staying at Yanase-ya in Gojo city, Nara.
If you are visiting Japan, why not stay at a traditional Japanese house for an extra special experience?
A friend visiting Japan requested to see how an authentic Japanese house was like, so this time we decided to journey out to stay in a traditional machiya house! A machiya is a historical type of Japanese home, typically found in the downtown areas of historical cities like Kyoto and Kamakura.
This time we stayed at Yanase-ya in Gojo city, Nara.
Yanase-ya is not a standard ryokan-style inn commonly found in Japan. It is a type of accommodation that rents out the entire house to one group per day.
There are no curfews and you can spend time in the house as if it were your own.
An Important Cultural Property of Japan: Shinmachi Street in Gojo
Nara is famous for the Great Buddha statue in Todaiji Temple, however Nara has many great places to visit aside from that. One of them is the Gojo Shinmachi area that was classified as an important area of preserved traditional buildings of Japan in 2010.
The oldest house of Japan is also located in the Shinmachi street. Records say it has been standing since 1607 and is now an important cultural property of the country. Yanase-ya is also located in this historic district.
Harmony of Nature and Wooden Houses
After walking through the heat, we have arrived at the accommodation. Once we stepped in, we noticed how cool it felt at the entrance.
Making our way past the sliding doors, we decided to take a short break at the room with the hardwood floors.
Japanese houses made of wood allows the air to flow to keep the humidity out. Yanase-ya has air-conditioning, but most Japanese houses are constructed in a way so people can spend time comfortably in any season.
Just looking at the Japanese garden from the engawa balcony lets you relax.
There are also rooms with tatami mats as well.
This space in the room that is slightly elevated is called the tokonoma. At Yanase-ya, there was a hanging scroll and flowers placed for decoration.
When we asked the owner of Yanase-ya, we learned that some people who stay here are visitors from outside of Japan, coming to study the culture. At times like that, the owner invites tea masters and flower arranging instructors to the machiya in order for the visitors to fully enjoy their time in Japan.
Yanase-ya's rooms come in two types, either the annex or the storehouse. This time, we requested the larger annex.
From the second floor, you can enjoy a great view! Behind the accommodation was the famous Yoshino river. The views combined with the landscape reminded me that Nara was once the capital of Japan.
The annex of Yanase-ya is quite spacious and can be shared among large groups of people. It may be great to use for a family outing!
Indulge in the Baths in Japan
Japanese people love baths. A must-do when visiting Japan is to enjoy the unique bath culture.
Most public baths and hot springs do not allow people with tattoos to enter the baths. However, if you have a private bath at an inn, you can enjoy bathing even if you have a tattoo.
At Yanase-ya, they have a fragrant cypress bath that will allow you to relax while taking a nice dip in the warm waters.
Why not enhance your experience by wearing a yukata (light cotton kimono) after bathing?
Savor Dinner at a Restaurant
After taking a break at the machiya, take a walk around the neighborhood to explore.
This time, we have decided to stop by a restaurant called GIROCCO that is located on the street right behind the machiya. It is a restaurant that was made by renovating a traditional Japanese house.
The exterior appears to be an authentic Japanese house, but inside has strong western decor influences. While the streets were quite empty along the way, the store was filled with customers enjoying their meals. It is a restaurant popular with the locals.
Along the way, you will find many other restaurants that use local ingredients and vegetables. Perhaps you can take a walk and find a restaurant that is perfect for you!
We ended talking at the restaurant until late in the evening. Once we returned to the accommodation, we laid the futon out on the tatami mats and had a good night's sleep.
Try a Japanese Breakfast
Next morning, we had a sumptuous breakfast like the photo above.
Eating many smaller dishes along with riceis the traditional breakfast of Japan. At Yanase-ya, you can savor the traditional tea-porridge in the morning.
Enjoy the Rainy Days
Unfortunately, it was raining the day after we arrived, so we decided to stay in and enjoy the atmosphere of our machiya instead.
As we gazed at the garden from the machiya, we savored the peaceful atmosphere created by the lush greens and the shimmering rocks in the garden.
While touring around Japan, why not spend a day to relax and fully appreciate the culture in a traditional house? Time spent in a beautiful location like this is sure to make for some pretty amazing memories of your trip to Japan.
To get a better appreciation for what a stay is like, please take a look at this video of our time at Yanase-ya.
Address: Nara, Gojo Honchi 2-7-3
Credit Cards: No
Other Languages: Nara Multilingual Call Center (You may use the translator at the multilingual call center to tell the inn any messages.)
Nearest Station: Gojo Station, JR Wakayama Line
Access: 15 minute walk from Gojo Station (pick-ups available)
Price Range: from 20,000 yen
Website: Yanase-ya Website (Japanese)