Review: Yuzuya Ryokan Kyoto (Higashiyama)

Jyaga loves (5/5)

Yuzuya Ryokan Kyoto

Nearest Airport : ITM (45 km away)
Neighbourhood : Higashiyama, Kyoto
Website :
Address : 545 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan
Chain : none/independent

Yuzuya Ryokan is a small eight-room traditional inn (ryokan) located in the historic Gion district of Kyoto. The ryokan prides itself on its fine cuisine – served at its sole restaurant, Isshinkyo. As the ryokan likes to put it, Yuzuya is a restaurant that happens also to have rooms. Frankly, such sentiments have not been disappointing since the food here is indeed, exceptional. I encountered Yuzuya by chance a few years back when passing by the Yasaka Shrine, and since then, it has become my favourite place to stay in Kyoto!

Booking Yuzuya Ryokan

I booked Yuzuya Ryokan through their official website for a sum of JPY75,020 for one night. This rate includes daily breakfast and dinner. Though I wanted to stay for longer, the inn was sold out for my dates. Bizarrely, the inn’s reservation system did not ask for credit card details for a deposit, which worried me for a bit. But a week before my stay, Yuzuya reached out to confirm my reservation (still without requesting credit card details). Interesting!


Yuzuya Ryokan is located in the Higashiyama Ward, close to many of Kyoto’s historic curiosities — like Sannenzaka, Kiyomizu Temple, and the Gion District. Specifically, the ryokan is located next to Yasaka Shrine, a Shinto temple famous for its matchmaking properties. As Yasaka Shrine enshrines the married kami (gods) of Susanoo and Kushinadahime, many Kyotoites visit to pray that their marriage will thrive like those of the kami.

Arrival and Check-in

After taking the hilariously short Shinkansen from Osaka, we headed straight to Yuzuya Ryokan by taxi. That in itself took a painless 15-minute ride, although the line for the taxis took longer than that. Soon enough we were dropped off right in front of Yasaka Shrine for Yuzuya Ryokan.

Yuzuya Ryokan entrance

After we pressed the bell located at the entrance of the ryokan, two staff members hurriedly went down the stairs to help us with our bags. They then confirmed our reservation name, before advising us that check-in only starts at 15.00, as standard at any ryokan. Knowing so in advance, we headed to Sannenzaka to look around.

Stairs going up to the reception

Precisely at 15.00, we came back to the ryokan to check in and collect our room keys. After filling out a short registration form, we were requested to select a time to have our dinner and breakfast. Then, a staff member graciously explained to us a bit about the ryokan and walked us to our room. As we did so, I got a chance to marvel at the beautifully set-up lobby, which evokes a very intimate and cozy aura.

Lobby at Yuzuya Ryokan
Lobby at Yuzuya Ryokan

We then headed into the courtyard garden to access the staircase that goes to the rooms.

Courtyard garden
Courtyard garden

Ryokan etiquette

As expected at any ryokan, homes, and other traditional places in Japan, it is requested that shoes are to be taken off before going inside. A similar concept applies at Yuzuya in which shoes will have to be deposited in a shoe rack before heading up to the rooms. The shoe rack is located next to the staircase heading up to the rooms, with labels corresponding to each room. In exchange, you’d put on a pair of indoor slippers located by this area.

Shoe rack
Shoe rack and staircase

These black indoor slippers are expected to be worn when walking on the stairs and on the carpeted corridor when heading to the rooms.


A separate set of slippers is placed on the opposite staircase for guest use when heading to the restaurant or when using their public baths.

Line of slippers

Our Room

We were assigned an 8-tatami room called Shiro (white), equipped with a Western-style bathroom. Before entering our room, it is customary to take off the indoor slippers. As is traditional, there is a step from the doorway into the corridor, before which the slippers are to be taken off. This is so that the room remains clean.


The room faces the Yasaka Shrine, which is cordoned slightly with a wooden fence. Despite that, it is still very easy to see the grounds of the shrine.


As you ought to find in a ryokan, the rooms are quite small in terms of space. However, the space feels spacious nevertheless due to the lack of a bed. As we entered, we found our bags and luggage already set up on one side of the room, which was a nice touch. Since there isn’t much space, the bags are placed on a cloth layer so not to ruin the tatami.

Room Shiro
Room Shiro

The focal point of the room is a chabudai table placed in the middle. Whilst the tatami is meant to be sat on, there are two zaisu (legless chairs) that complement the table. A tea set is offered next to the chabudai table, featuring a traditional Kyoto blend of green tea. Whilst a kettle is not available, a hot water flask is provided to prepare the tea.

Tea set
Tea set

On the two interior walls are the storage compartments of the room, including one that stores the futon mattresses that will be setup at night. There is also a small television and a telephone located in the tokonoma (alcove), complete with a traditional yuzu painting and a flower. Next to that is a closet with a safety deposit box and a minibar with complimentary water.

Room shiro
Tokonoma of room Shiro
Minibar and safe
Bath towels

In addition, there is one last closet in which the yukata are placed, complete with a guide on using one. This yukata is meant to be worn to go to the public baths and also when eating at the restaurant. It can also be used as a pyjama. Finally, there is also a dehumidifier next to this closet, as you’d often find in Japan.

Room Shiro
Closet and dehumidifier


The semi-wooden private bathroom is located by the doorway and features a standard bathtub and shower combination, alongside a metal sink. Whilst relatively small, I really liked the look of the bathroom, which feels upmarket yet traditional. For one, I felt that the hues contrasted to those of the rest of the inn, and features green and warms yellowish browns reminiscent of yuzu peel.

Sink and bathtub

Impressively, the bathroom is equipped with a very nice Toto Neorest toilet, which I didn’t expect. Conversely, as you’d expect from an inn called Yuzuya, there are bunch of yuzu fruit placed by the other toiletries, which include yuzu bar soap. Nice! The bath gels and shampoo were from POLA, however, similar to those you’d find at Nagoya Tokyu Hotel.

Toilet and sink

In-room refreshments

As we settled in our room, we were requested to wait whilst they prepared a refreshment. Sure enough, 10 minutes later, we were brought two glasses of roasted green tea and a small bowl of pickled daikon. Yum! What a refreshing way to start the summer.

On arrival refreshments

Turndown service

During the dinner service, the room would have been proactively turned down by the staff. This would mean having the futon mattresses set up on the tatami flooring in preparation for sleep. With this the chabudai table is moved to one corner and a lamp is placed next to the futons.

Futons set up at night

Public Baths

n addition to the private bathrooms, Yuzuya Ryokan also offers a shared bath facility near its lobby. This bath is akin to a sentou (public bath) you would find in hot spring resorts. The baths are separated by gender and feature a small changing room. Towels are available here. 

Public bath
Public bath

Whilst the water here doesn’t contain any specific healing properties (as far as I’m aware), it is a nice change to the restrictively small bathtubs in the rooms. There’s also the benefit of a constant stream of water that keeps the bath hot. 

Public bath
Public bath showers

Across from the bath are a couple of showers, that have to be used before getting into the bath. Also, bear in mind that you would have to use the bath without any clothes.


Every meal at the ryokan is served at the sole restaurant, Isshinkyo. As implied by the hotel’s name, Isshinkyo specialises in fine cuisine featuring the yuzu citrus. With that comes a distinctive twist on Kyo-Kaiseki, widely regarded as the finest meal in Japan. Given the ryokan’s expertise in food, I left not a single meal feeling even the slightest disappointment.

Isshinkyo Restaurant
Isshinkyo Restaurant
Dinner setup
Kyo-Kaiseki dinner menu

Below is our kaiseki meal, every dish of which was incredible. Each and every dish is carefully thought out and very balanced. Combined with the exceptional quality of ingredients, this was sure the recipe for an excellent dinner. I for sure would recommend opting-in for dinner when you get a chance to visit Yuzuya Ryokan.

Karasumi (bottarga) on tea-cooked rice
Sea bream and onion in a spinach soup
Seasonal sashimi
Roasted hairtail with fava beans
Roasted hairtail with fava beans
Sweetfish, udo, and sweet potato tempura
Pike conger hotpot
Pike conger hotpot
Yuzu congee
Yuzu congee
Orange jelly



Like the incredible dinner, a similarly wonderful breakfast is served at the Isshinkyo Restaurant. We came at the predestined time that we agreed upon during check-in. Coincidentally or not, we were at the same table where we had dinner.

Isshinkyo Restaurant

To start, we were offered a warm oshibori (wet towel), alongside a glass of sweetened yuzu juice. This is followed by an elaborate platter of traditional small side dishes.

Oshibori and yuzu juice

Going clockwise from the left, the dishes included Beef Sukiyaki, Mibuna Leaf with Sesame Sauce, Japanese-style Rolled Omelette with Daikon, Grilled Miso-flavoured Wheat Gluten, Marinated Firefly Squid, and Shantung Vegetable with Tofu Skin. The middle two small dishes are Grated Taro with Salmon Roe and Sannsho Pepper-boiled Anchovies.

Eight small dishes platter
Eight small dishes platter

Shortly after the platter was offered, our gracious server came back with the main meal set of Kyoto-style Miso Grilled Gindara (black cod), served with white rice, a simmered sweet potato dish, and White Miso Soup.

Square platter
Square platter

After the meal, we were offered a choice of hot coffee or tea. I asked for roasted green tea, which was a very nice conclusion to the meal.

Hot breakfast tea

Like the dinner, everything about the breakfast tasted exceptional and high-quality. Even the act of typing all this and having to see these pictures makes me hungry for Yuzuya’s food! Yum!


As expected from a traditional Japanese inn in Kyoto, the service is polished and well-thought-out. Virtually every staff member we encountered was very polite and courteous, although not necessarily everybody spoke great English (as expected). They were also very quick to work on any requests made, like when calling for a taxi. Coming in knowing what to expect from a ryokan, we were very happy with the service at Yuzuya Ryokan. However, as a lot of ryokans are traditional and family-run, some things may come across to be rather stiff and inflexible. For instance, check-in and check-out times are set in stone and cannot be bent, and mealtimes have to be set in advance.


Overall, I had an excellent stay at Yuzuya Ryokan. Between the incredible food, courteous service, beautiful design, and unbeatable location, I had nothing more to ask for from the ryokan. If anything, my only disappointment was not being able to stay longer given how fully booked Yuzuya is! In any case, Yuzuya will always hold a special place in me, and is my preferred place to stay in Kyoto.

Read more from this trip here!

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