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  2. Travel back in time in this beautifully preserved schoolhouse brought back to life as The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu

Travel back in time in this beautifully preserved schoolhouse brought back to life as The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu

Travel back in time in this beautifully preserved schoolhouse brought back to life as The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu

Socio de contenido

ONESTORY endeavors to explore various the destinations in Japan and to present the sensibilities brought by the story of the journey.

Socio de contenido

ONESTORY endeavors to explore various the destinations in Japan and to present the sensibilities brought by the story of the journey.

The building was built in 1933 when the elementary school was relocated to its current location. It was recognized at the time for its unique architectural design, especially the decorative details and interior design. ©Forward Stroke inc.

A historic elementary school building from the 1930s takes a new role as an up-scale hotel

The Hotel Seiryu Kyoto Kiyomizu was established on March 22, 2020 in Kiyomizu, Kyoto, converting the eighty-year-old building of Kiyomizu Elementary School, to become a hotel that blends the building’s past with the present. “Seiryu,” also known as the “Azure Dragon” or “Qinglong,” has been worshiped as a guardian of these eastern mountains of Kyoto City where Kiyomizu is located. It is a luxury hotel with forty-eight rooms, a restaurant, private baths, and a fitness gym.
A view from a room window looking out on Kyoto. The building of the elementary school has had an iconic presence on the mountainside where it stands surrounded by low buildings.

Elementary schools in Kyoto were centers of local self-governance and traditional communal activities

The history of elementary schools in Kyoto is unlike any other region of Japan. In the late 1800s, a total of sixty-four elementary schools were built in Kyoto for the respective local resident organizations that were called “bangumi.” This was before a national elementary school system was established in Japan. These elementary schools of Kyoto were unique in that they were funded and planned by the local residents of each community. For this reason, each school had a different architectural structure and design reflecting the financial capacity, philosophies, and hopes for education of each community.
The elementary school building stands out with its structural design that is adapted to the inclined ground of the mountainside. Three wings stand at different levels in a U-form, connected by the large stairs in the middle. ©Forward Stroke inc.

An elementary school building of elaborate Western architectural design with a view over Kyoto City

The construction of Kiyomizu Elementary School, which was originally the twenty-seventh bangumi elementary school of the former district of Shimogyo (the southern half of central Kyoto), was funded by donations from residents of the Kiyomizu area who envisioned a beautiful town for their future. The building was built when the school relocated to its current location in 1933, on a high ground along the steep road leading from Higashioji-dori to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, with a view encompassing Kyoto City. It is a three-story, reinforced concrete building. The arched windows, the Spanish tiled roof, the wooden corbel decorations below it, and the fine details such as grooved-surface tiles give it a distinctive exterior appearance.
The lobby has two separate reception desks and a concierge desk, allowing the staff to seamlessly interact with each guest. ©Forward Stroke inc.

After the school closed, a project to carry on the building’s legacy began

The merger of local elementary schools sadly caused Kiyomizu Elementary School to close down in 2011. Various planning of ways to preserve this valuable building, with the memories that many former pupils and local residents had of it, in a way that would allow it to survive into future generations followed. And in 2016, NTT Urban Development started a project to convert the building into a hotel that also functioned as a venue for events and gatherings of local residents and as a shelter in case of disaster. The aim was to make a hotel that inherited the role of Kiyomizu Elementary School by contributing to the learning and communal activities of the local residents.
The junior suite. A simple design scheme that doesn’t clash with the classical features of the school building’s architecture was adopted.

The creative team’s work to design the comfortable atmosphere beyond the building’s past and present

Ryu Kosaka, creative director at Nomura Co., Ltd., supervised the overall design of the new hotel, including the interior design. Commenting on his job in this project to convert the closed-down school with a history of almost ninety years into a hotel, Mr. Kosaka said:
“I attempted the fusion of nostalgia with novelty, carrying out architectural and interior space design in a manner of adding new functions to the historical Western architecture and its interior space, to which I paid the utmost respect. From architecture, landscaping, and interior design to graphics, uniforms, artwork, furniture, fixtures, and equipment; I worked closely together with the creators; creating a place that is both new and distinctively of its own origins.”
There are three private baths named after local motifs: “Sakura,” “Yamabato” (turtle dove), and “Kiyomizu.” Each can be used by up to four persons for ¥6000/90mins.

Restaurant Library The Hotel Seiryu: The hotel’s restaurant that offers in-season food of Kyoto

With design blending different elements together, such as Japanese with Western and modern with antique, the former elementary school became a building reflecting distinctive characteristics of the local area. The wing that used to be a lecture hall was converted into Restaurant Library The Hotel Seiryu, a restaurant that seats forty-four people, making use of the high ceiling for a spacious atmosphere. The many books that decorate the restaurant symbolize the time when the building was a part of the school. The “Kyoto breakfast” served in the morning is a wholesome and nutritious breakfast with a selection of main dishes to enjoy with the day’s buffet that includes salads, porridges, and soups. Non-hotel guests can also dine here. The restaurant can also be used as a multipurpose space for various events or meetings.
High shelves hold many books, giving the restaurant a calm, academic atmosphere. ©Forward Stroke inc.

Benoit Kyoto, a restaurant supervised by Ducasse Paris

It is also notable that Kyoto’s first Benoit restaurant has opened in another wing. Supervised by a Michelin-starred restaurant established by Alain Ducasse, Benoit serves the food loved for more than a century by food connoisseurs around the world. In addition to Benoit’s most beloved dishes, Benoit Kyoto rolls out original bistro dishes reflecting the local terroir with ingredients that are in season in Kyoto. The prix fixe lunch menu includes courses made using foods in season. For dinner, you can choose appetizers and main dishes that go well with wine, as well as desserts, from an à la carte menu. The executive chef is Anthony Bâcle, who has years of experience working at Michelin-starred restaurants.
Benoit Kyoto is also open to non-hotel guests. It has sixty-eight indoor seats and twenty terrace seats.
“Today’s fish Grenobloise with sautéed spinach” and “Kyoto beef Rossini” are examples of the main dishes served at Benoit Kyoto.

A rooftop bar & restaurant by a representative local bar of Kyoto

On the hotel’s rooftop is the K36 bar overlooking the city. Minoru Nishida, bartender of Kyoto’s well-known K6 bar, took part in the establishment of K36, which is composed of K36 The Bar, an indoor bar with an authentic, upscale atmosphere, and K36 Rooftop, which is a rooftop bar & restaurant with a view over the city. K36 offers rare whiskeys and wines and has an ample food menu, making it a suitable place for various occasions.
The rooftop bar and the lounge have a close view of the Yasaka Pagoda.

Encounters with art and intellectual stimulation in a space where past and present intersect

Mr. Kosaka says he purposefully avoided altering the hallways and stairs that elementary school students use to run up and down. Meanwhile, a step into one of the former classrooms, where children used to study, brings you into an entirely different, contemporary world. Various places in the hotel including the rooms, the entrance, and the restaurant display artworks, many of which are by local artists or artists who have ties to Kyoto. A guest can enjoy, and be intrigued by, various artworks during a stay at this hotel.
The elementary school that once embodied the local residents’ bright outlook for the town’s future and its children is now taking the role of bringing the local community and the rest of the world together. A night in this luxurious place that is both new and old would certainly be a quality way to stay in Kyoto — a quality journey in time.
This hallway, with its classical look, may evoke childhood memories to some.
Address: 2-204-2 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City
Telephone: +81-75-532-1111
Price range: (Standard King Room) ¥69,286 to ¥135,700 per night including breakfast 
Taxi: About 15 minutes from Kyoto Station
Kyoto City bus: About 20 minutes on the bus from Kyoto Station, plus about 5-min walk from Kiyomizu-michi Bus Stop, or about 10 minutes by foot from Gojozaka Bus Stop
Keihan Main Line (train): About 20-min walk from Kiyomizu Gojo Station
(Photos provided by NTT Urban Development Corporation)

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