An essential part of the Kyoto experience is a stay in a traditional inn or ryokan, including a tatami-matted room, impeccable service from maids in kimonos, a soak in a deep wooden tub, and an elaborate meal. It's important to note, though, that these inns don't have amenities such as Internet access—or, for that matter, beds (instead, there are futons). You're almost always required to vacate your room during the day, which is a drag when the weather is miserable or you're jet-lagged. Baths may be shared, and most ryokans still require you to take, or at least pay for, both breakfast and dinner (usually kaiseki—a multicourse meal of small, traditional dishes, artfully presented).
If you're feeling a little tatami-shy, you can dip your toe into the experience at the Hoshinoya, a ryokan-hotel hybrid accessible only by boat that combines Western-style amenities with the service and traditions of a ryokan. Or, you can rent a machiya, a traditional town house restored with modern comforts. At the other end of the spectrum is the Hyatt Regency, a hypercontemporary Western hotel that pays homage to Japanese artistic traditions. Most Western travelers choose to sample both sides of Kyoto, with a few nights at a Western-style hotel followed by a night or two in more traditional ryokan or machiya lodgings.