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Shiraume, Kyoto 

Shinbashi-dori, Shirakawa-hotori, Gionmachi
Japan 605-0080
Tel: 81 75 561 1459
Fax: 81 75 531 5290
view web site ›'s insider take:

Though less rarefied and far less expensive than Tawaraya, Shiraume ryokan ("White Plum Inn") is poised on a picturesque canal along one of the most beautifully preserved streets in the Gion district. Reachable only by its own miniature footbridge, it's ridiculously charming—especially in spring when the cherry and plum trees bloom. The service is warm and motherly, and the rooms are delicately decorated with flower arrangements and hanging scrolls. Still, nothing is so overwrought that you're afraid of committing some horrible foreigner faux pas (bathroom slippers in the bedroom!). Shiraume's six rooms don't have private baths, but bathing times are deftly juggled so you'll have all the privacy you need (and there's a Jacuzzi). The inn has comfort food—like lower-priced nabe (one-pot) dinners in winter—along with the usual expensive kaiseki meals. And, in a nod to modernity, Shiraume offers rooms sans meals, at a substantial savings, for those who'd rather dine out. Unusual for a ryokan, Shiraume also serves a kaiseki lunch. When you reserve, ask for the ground-floor room with the garden view.

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