The Japanese have a word for it: shibui. It refers to a restrained, timeless quality of beauty, or, as is the case at this 29-room inn, just the right amount of cool. An eight-minute walk from Kyoto Station, Hotel Kanra is already a hit with design-minded hipsters on the lookout for a chic downtown pied-à-terre that leaves your bank balance as well as your street cred intact. Expect a clever hybrid of traditional ryokan elements—sliding paper screens, tatami and stone flooring—and high-tech functionality with iPod-friendly sound systems, ambient lighting, and ingenious storage systems that utilize every inch of space.
A dozen deluxe rooms, modeled after the elongated Kyoto townhouses known as unagi no nedoko (“eel’s nest”), feel spacious despite the narrow layout, and their cedar soaking tubs are a godsend after a weary day of sightseeing. The Kanra Suite goes one step further with its own sunset-facing outdoor rotenburo bath.
185 Kitamachi, Karasuma-dori Rokujo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku; 81-75/344-3815; hotelkanra.jp; doubles from US$300
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