Kyoto Landscape Policy 2007/ Kyomachiya Renovation Adapting Tourism

Kyoto Landscape Policy 2007 specifically stated Kyomachiya, a traditional Kyoto house, as one of its unique landscape forms “interweaving with abundance scenes of nature”. On the one hand, the strengthened height regulation of the policy delimited certain districts where the maximum height of buildings was reduced. Accordingly, for residential districts,  the limit was 15 meters, 16 meters lower than the limit of the artery roads to protect the two-story high Kyomachiya from being blocked. On the other, the policy provided support to the Kyomachiyas themselves by proposing a specific plan for the preservation of the delimited historical streets and subsidizing local Kyomachiya owners to repair their houses. As the Landscape Policy prescribed the protection of Kyomachiyas, which were evidently regarded as the significant traditional architectural form of Kyoto, more targeted Kyomachiya renovation plans were also carried out [1].

A typical traditional Kyo-machiya, Japan Center for International Exchange, 2010
Kyomachiya before and after renovation, 2011

Traditionally, the most frequent form of Kyomachiya was rather a residence or a residence plus business. Besides protection from the policy, development of tourism also encouraged Kyomachiya to be equipped with various new functions parallely[2], such as hotel, hot spring, and tea houses to cater to tourists, especially from foreign countries. Artists also show respect to them to use them as galleries or for appreciating art. Some Kyomachiyas were designed precisely by professional architects to accommodate particular programs so that the renovation work of Kyomachiyas did not stop at the superficial stage, but also vitalized the usages of them since most of the Kyomachiyas were abandoned on account of the high cost of maintenance and its deficient capacity of  surviving from fire as well as earthquake [2].

Shiki Juraku entrance with front gate designed by Tsuyoshi Tane Kyoto, Yuna Yagi, Champ-Magazine, 2017 (a 100-year-old traditional Kyomachiya townhouse-turned contemporary overnight stay. The spectacular front gate and Juraku salon dining area are designed by architect Tsuyoshi Tane,  in coordination with a “plant hunter” Seijun Nishihata designing the position of the plots)


The Gion district, Kyoto’s characterized geisha district, can be a perfect example of revitalized historical districts, full of Kyomachiyas on both sides of the road. While the Kyomachiyas, as representatives of traditional identity,  were under careful renovation and protection, they get along well with the modern lifestyle which was mostly influenced by tourism within the modern context.

Old Gion District, the 1890s
Hanamikoji Street in Gion District, 2014


[1] Fusae Kojima. “An Overview of the Kyomachiya Revitalization Project”. (2013). Retrieved from Accessed 19th December 2018.

[2] Yuhei Miyake. “Modern Kyomachiya: Livable Architecture for Kyoto”. (2011).

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