Shiraume ryokan

Day 14 · Ryokan Shiraume, Kyoto Scroll down

The art of welcoming guests is very present in the Japanese culture. Whether you are just a confused tourist at the station, or you need something at a store, or you are a non-Japanese speaker at a no-English menu restaurant, the Japanese will always make you feel welcome and the most comfortable they possibly can. But at the Shiraume Ryokan, that is taken to the very extreme. There, you feel like you are an emperor.

The Shiraume logo is a steady presence in everything inside the ryokan.

The Shiraume logo is a steady presence in everything inside the ryokan.

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Shirakawa stream as seen from the bridge leading to Shiraume.

Shirakawa stream as seen from the bridge leading to Shiraume.

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Located in the old and elegant Gion district, adorned with the wooden facades of Hanamikoji and adjacent to the Shirakawa stream, there lies a special inn, that was once a very important ochaya (teahouse). The name Shiraume means White Plum, certainly inspired by the two plum trees that stand at the entrance of the Ryokan, and the old owner transformed her ochaya, in an inn that welcomes people from all over the world, making them fully aware of the pure beauty of nature, not only from the inside of the building, but from the outside, all over Kyoto and Japan.

Traditional wooden geta, worn by the staff. Us, visitors, get slippers.

Traditional wooden geta, worn by the staff. Us, visitors, get slippers.

Bamboo water clock, a very usual sight in Japan, here in Shiraume's indoors garden.

Bamboo water clock, a very usual sight in Japan, here in Shiraume’s indoors garden.

There are bigger rooms in the second floor, that accommodate much more people.

There are bigger rooms in the second floor, that accommodate much more people.

Everything is quite simple, but achieving perfection.

Everything is quite simple, but achieving perfection.

When we found out about these traditional Japanese inns, we knew we had to try it, at least for one night, so after we slept in for the first time in Japan, we walked from our hotel to Gion and entered the Shiraume ryokan. The first thing that comes to mind when you are inside is that you have somehow gone back in time to the Meiji period (1868-1912). Everything is either made out of wood or paper and all the doors and windows slide to the side. The smell of incense is faint in the air and gets a bit muffled by the smell of natural wood, also so characteristic of the rest of Kyoto.

You can not step on a tatami mat with your slippers on, you must be barefoot to walk inside the room.

You can not step on a tatami mat with your slippers on, you must be barefoot to walk inside the room.

Our comfy silky pjs and our socks, that were a gift.

Our comfy silky pjs and our socks, that were a gift.

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Small hall at the entrance of our bedroom, showcasing the scroll. Lights seem to be positioned with the sole purpose of showcasing what they need to showcase only, tiny details.

Small hall at the entrance of our bedroom, showcasing the scroll. Lights seem to be positioned with the sole purpose of showcasing what they need to showcase only, tiny details.

Sweets and candies, that we already knew of; they were a gift to us, back in Lisbon, from our host in Kyoto.

Sweets and candies, that we already knew of; they were a gift to us, back in Lisbon, from our host in Kyoto.

We are welcomed at the entrance of the bridge that leads inside the Ryokan by Satoko-san, who shows us our bedroom for the night. All the while, we cannot stop smiling in awe: the sliding windows for the stream outside, the wardrobes with the neatly folded futons and, our yukatas and pjs, the tatami floor and the centre table with the floor chairs. As a welcome, we get delicious green tea dango with cookie’s powder and hot green tea, and are reminded that dinner will be served at 7.30 in a kaiseki style.

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When the heat strikes you can always use the fan, but there's an ac in the room working all the time, and the floors are also heated, for winter time.

When the heat strikes you can always use the fan, but there’s an ac in the room working all the time, and the floors are also heated, for winter time.

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Dango and hot green tea as a welcome gift.

Dango and hot green tea as a welcome gift.

For quite some minutes we just stand in full admiration of the whole thing. The surroundings are beautiful and everything is impeccably clean and neatly organized, with some very beautiful cloths and plants and a tokonoma, a small alcove showcasing a scroll and an arrangement of beautiful plants. The bathrooms are, of course, traditionally Japanese. Everything is made out of wood, except the shower head and the faucets, of course. There’s a mirror in front of you and a wood bathtub, where you can have a hot bath, meant for relaxation.

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Tokonoma: it is forbidden to step inside the Tokonoma, unless the scrolls need be changed.

Tokonoma: it is forbidden to step inside the Tokonoma, unless the scrolls need be changed.

The floor chairs are quite comfortable, even though you have to get used to finding the right position for your legs.

The floor chairs are quite comfortable, even though you have to get used to finding the right position for your legs.

The stream running from the mountains.

The stream running from the mountains.

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As a gift, we were also given those little bags with the usual bathroom utilities.

As a gift, we were also given those little bags with the usual bathroom utilities.

You have to shower before you go in the bathtub, and even showering takes on a completely new definition. You are not really showering you are cleansing your body, make it as pure as possible, getting rid of all the daily bad energies. You sit on tiny stool, and start washing yourself, while looking at the mirror, making sure you don’t miss a spot, while a small wood bucket is filled with water. When you finish, you get the bucket and empty it above your head, repeating the process until you are ready, and soap free to get yourself in the bathtub filled with very hot water, and relax.

The scent of the wood completely overwelms your senses once you start to relax.

The scent of the wood completely overwhelms your senses once you start to relax.

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The bath is always very hot, around 40 degrees Celsius.

The bath is always very hot, around 40 degrees Celsius.

This was definitely a perfect bath experience.

This was definitely a perfect bath experience.

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The water is hot enough for you to start feeling your body going a bit numb and when you close your eyes, one can really feel the nice scent of the wood tub, and your body relaxes completely. Yes, this is a redefinition of “taking a shower”, definitely.

The yukatas were fresh and comfortable, perfect for such a hot evening.

The yukatas were fresh and comfortable, perfect for such a hot evening.

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All the details, even the hemming of the tatami mats are exquisite.

All the details, even the hemming of the tatami mats are exquisite.

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