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Sowaka, a unique 23-bedroom luxury hotel, is now open for international guests. This innovative hotel in the heart of Kyoto is a revolutionary new interpretation of the Japanese ryokan style of accommodation, skilfully blending centuries of tradition with an exquisite contemporary finish. Sowaka.com

Sowaka was created through the meticulous renovation of a century-old sukiya-style building. The hotel is centrally located in Kyoto’s famous geisha district, Gion, known for its Buddhist temples, lush gardens, ancient shrines and picturesque cobbled alleys – a place where geisha glide effortlessly through the streets and history is embedded in the city’s very foundations. The hotel is ideally located just steps from the bustling Yasaka Shrine and minutes from some of the city’s most famous landmarks and heritage sites.

Garden Suite in Main Building

Sowaka’s main building comprising 11 bedrooms, and its contemporary 12-bedroom annexe, are the forward-thinking vision of award-winning Kyoto architect Shigenori Uoya. For nearly a century the property served Kyoto’s elite as a teahouse.  Now as a renovated luxury ryokan hotel, it still retains many original features including ovaline windows, elevated alcoves (once reserved for guests of the highest rank) and tranquil inner gardens. Over 100 highly skilled craftsmen worked on the reconstruction of the main building, using traditional materials and centuries-old artisanal techniques. Features such as traditional tatami flooring andshoji sliding paper doors add to the tranquil ambience. The result embodies Japan’s wabi-sabi philosophy of understated elegance and authenticity.

Room 203 in Annexe
Where the main building adds modern elegance to traditional architecture, the annexe infuses its contemporary design with the integrity of Kyoto’s local traditions. Its graceful corridors are reminiscent of the city’s alleys and its minimalist décor and clean lines are graced with luxurious touches, including antiques and art.

In both the main building and the annexe, every room is individual and unique. Guests can select from rooms with a wide variety of styles and amenities including outdoor bathtubs, private gardens, or traditional flourishes like a wooden naguri wall or a tea ceremony room.

Each of the 23 well-appointed bedrooms boast sumptuous beds each with densely cushioned camel hair and cashmere mattresses crafted in Kyoto. The hotel is a showroom of antiques unmatched by any other ryokan, all handpicked by local antique specialist Masa. Sowaka sources its water directly from Kyoto’s natural aquifer, fed via the pristine mountains surrounding the city; the water is said to be blessed with a spiritual power, and its low levels of ions help richly benefit the skin.

Exclusive customised guest experiences are at the heart of any stay at Sowaka. During Japan’s famous cherry blossom festival and the equally dramatic autumn foliage season, guests can enjoy a private after-hours tour of Kodai-ji Temple, special sunrise or sunset tours of Kiyomizu-dera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a bespoke guided tour of the gardens of Nanzenji, Murinan and Chishakuin. These special opportunities give visitors the kind of exclusive private view into Kyoto’s past and present that make a trip unforgettable.

Sowaka’s innovative restaurant, La Bombance, offers impeccable, original dishes that fuse traditional Japanese cuisine with creative modern flair. La Bombance is overseen by the team behind the Tokyo establishment of the same name, which has received a Michelin star for 10 consecutive years.

The hotel also features an intimate private bar, a well-equipped lounge, a delightful Japanese garden where the splendour of Kyoto’s remarkable seasons is on full display, and a rooftop balcony boasting wonderful viewsof Higashiyama.Discreet staff dressed in modern style kimonos move quietly through the corridors. “Sowaka” is a Sanskrit word meaning happiness or wellbeing, and is found in the ancient Buddhist sutras that echo through Kyoto’s many temples. Like the word itself, Sowaka has its roots in history, infusing the authentic hospitality of a traditional ryokan with a modern sense of luxury to create a truly exceptional experience.