When I was sixteen, I spent a year in Strasbourg, France as a Rotary Club exchange student. It was an intense year in both great and terrible ways. Although it was hands-down the most difficult year of my life, it was also the most rewarding. One reason I appreciate it so much was the fact that I was completely immersed in the daily life of each household I was in – I was a part of the family.
While it’s hard to achieve that level of immersion when you are only passing through a country for a short time, one way to approach the experience is to stay at a guest house – a place where the host lives there, too.
We were all looking forward to staying at the Oil Street Guest House in Kyoto.
Oil Street Guest House and Space is a traditional “Machiya” style house with two guest rooms upstairs and a spacious living room and kitchen downstairs. It’s located in northern section of downtown Kyoto.
We were there for five nights. The four of us slept in the same room, all in a row, on traditional futons that we unfolded when it was time for bed. I honestly have not had such a restful and comfortable sleep in months. I think maybe it was the buckwheat pillow: I need to figure out where I can get one for my regular life. My kids slept really well, too. My son Bear, who normally wakes up between 5:30 and 6 am, slept in until 7:30 one morning – a new record.
Our hosts were Yasu – the owner and host of the guest house – and Burrito, one of the most mellow dogs I’ve met in a long time.
Yasu has spent time in the States, so his English is very good, both linguistically and culturally. It was relaxing and fun to hang out with him and swap stories. He got our jokes. 😉 He and Burrito are also great with kids.
There is a small kitchen where you can make meals, or you can just keep a few things in the fridge if that’s more your speed. There are a few different markets nearby where you can pick up dinner fixings (fresh fish, produce, rice) or pre-made food (sushi, bento, etc.).
There is always tea, coffee, and a few snacks available, plus Yasu makes breakfast every morning: fruit, yogurt, a plate of meats and cheeses, plus an assortment of rolls and breads.
The guest house is peaceful and quiet. There is a little outdoor area in back where Yasu burns a woodsy-smelling incense each morning.
I was a little nervous that my kids would be too loud for the environment, but that wasn’t the case at all. While we tired to keep our voices down early in the morning when the guests in the other room were still sleeping, during other times of the day we didn’t really have to worry about it.
The neighborhood is also quiet. The house is located on a tiny little street that is off the main road. In the morning, we saw kids walking to school and listened to old women gossiping as they gardened in their front yards (of course we don’t speak Japanese, so we didn’t understand a word).
The guest house is located in an area of Kyoto that is within walking distance of a TON of sights and activities. We walked and took the local bus and subway all over the city, and the location of Oil Street was very convenient for us. For example, we were able to walk to the Golden Temple with no problem.
You can also borrow one of two cool bikes to get around. We weren’t able to do this because there were four of us, but Josh did grab a bike a couple of times in the evening to ride solo to the Onsen, or pick up dinner at the local market.
I’m thrilled that I found the Oil Street Guest House. It was the perfect blend of quiet and convivial, local and central. The comfortable setting and peaceful vibe made it the perfect place to relax and refresh after a long day out in the city. I highly recommend it.
If you go, please tell Yasu we said hello, and give Burrito some banana chunks for us.
Have you stayed in any fabulous guest houses? Where were they, and what made them great?