Traditionally home to merchants and craftspeople, a machiya is a type of Japanese wooden townhouse that originated in the Heian period and developed through the Edo and Meiji periods. The city of Kyoto used to be full of these buildings, but today not many are left. Lucky this one was saved and has been lovingly restored into two charming apartments.
During the restoration, master builders, Tsuji Workshop, were convinced to come on board and work alongside a Kyoto-based architecture firm (Asami Architects) to restore the house to its original condition. The goal was to update it to include all the modern necessities, and still try and retain the old-world charm.
The result is an apartment that feels clean, modern and minimalist, whilst the influence of ancient Japan can be felt throughout in every detail and finish.
The interiors feature elements such as wood-beamed ceilings, bamboo window details, tatami-floored rooms, fusuma sliding doors, and small Japanese-landscaped courtyards. A narrow street-level corridor leads to an open plan kitchen, dining and living area that looks out to a small courtyard garden out the back of the house.
On the ground level is the main bathroom, where guests can soak in a deep modern bathtub while looking out to views of the courtyard. Entering from the main street you'll find Japanese-style sitting rooms that are ideal for light meals or quiet meditation. In this sitting room, screens can be slid open to views of the street, or closed for privacy.
Whilst on the upper level is a second bathroom, the main bedroom with western-style beds, and a second bedroom with tatami (woven-straw) flooring and futon bedding.
Both apartments having modern heating and cooling, the bathrooms feature underfloor heating to help keep your feet warm, even in the coldest winter mornings.
Wi-fi is free throughout the house and bicycle hire can be arranged by the hosts.
The BenTen Apartments are located in the Higashiyama District (東山) along the lower slopes of Kyoto's eastern mountains. The area is considered to be the city's best preserved historic districts and despite rapid modernisation has still managed to retain its ancient charm. The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries.
The district is a great place to base yourself whilst you explore more of the Kyoto region and attractions. With ample public transport links and services and is only a 7-minute subway ride from the famous Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Discover more about the Higashiyama District
The apartments can easily be reached by public transport from the centre of Kyoto or from the main Kyoto Train Station where you can then get high-speed bullet trains to the rest of the major Japanese cities.
Address: 605-0822 Kyoto, Kyoto, Higashiyama-ku Kamibentencho 431-3, JapanView larger map