Since our first brief visit to Kyoto, over two decades ago, Rosemary has spoken of wanting to return for an extended stay in that alluring city. In that pre-Web era, making travel arrangements for Japan involved some serious effort or the services of an experienced travel agent. Flash forward twenty-two years to when travel agents are almost extinct and AirBnB offers a plethora of accommodation choices that one can view in seconds. (Here is our AirBnB choice)
Now we are comfortably ensconced in a delightful machiya — a traditional Japanese townhouse usually occupied by merchants and craftsmen — next to the historic Gion district near downtown Kyoto. It is certainly a pre-WWII structure: Kyoto suffered minimal damage from American bombing but was at the top of the atomic bomb target list until it was removed at the insistence of Secretary of War Henry Stinson who recognized its cultural significance and had fond memories of the city from his honeymoon visit many years earlier. The dozens of ancient temples and extraordinary traditional gardens, and the tens of thousands of people who lived here in 1945 (some no doubt still alive and walking the local streets) were saved by one man’s romantic nostalgia. So instead of Kyoto, the United States targeted the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Nagasaki.
The interior of this machiya was extensively remodeled by the current owner, an English expat who lives in Kyoto with his Japanese wife and has numerous rental units available in the city. Our unit features a full kitchen, dining and living area, downstairs half bath, with the large bedroom and full bath upstairs. The traditional enclosed tsuboniwa garden provides a serene view from the living area. The decidely non-traditional toilets are integrated bidet models with every control imaginable and heated seats, which are common in Japan; I am already planning on how to install one in our bathroom at home!
(Photo credits: Machiya owner Chris)
Next post about our Kyoto trip >>> Renewal: Mixing Old and New