Ever since coming to Japan on a working holiday visa more than 25 years ago, Melbourne’s Danny Matheson has been infatuated with all things Japanese. A self-confessed Japophile, Danny made Kyoto his home 3 years ago. Having worked in the travel and hospitality industries in Australia for 20 years, he opened his own guesthouse – the wonderful Jam Jar Lounge and Inn. Danny regularly hosts visitors from around the world, including RAW Travellers who are walking the ancient Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route. Read on to find out why eating, drinking or staying here is a must-do experience.

What makes Jam Jar unique?

Jam Jar Lounge & Inn is housed in a beautifully restored traditional ‘Machiya’ townhouse in a suburban setting, close to the major tourist sites. The building’s original features have been retained and modern conveniences, including a bathroom, air-conditioning and heating, have been incorporated. Traditional tatami mats and futons are provided, and there is a fabulous cafe onsite, which offers Melbourne-style coffee and imported Aussie wines.

Why do people have such a memorable time at Jam Jar?

My partner Kazuo and I are both very proud of our newly adopted city, and do our very best to ensure all of our guests make the most of their stay with us. When guests arrive we talk about their needs and expectations over a cup of coffee and work on an itinerary together to maximise their time and interests in this beautiful city. Often we will join our guests for dinner at a local restaurant, or we host a dinner at Jam Jar with neighbours and friends. This creates a very special local experience not accessible to most visitors to Japan. We are Australian/Japanese owners so we can offer great local advice in English, Japanese and Italian to help make our guests’ stay stress-free and memorable.

RAW Travel clients and owner Danny Matheson having dinner at Jam Jar Lounge & Inn, Kyoto, Japan

Describe the building’s history

It was built in 1915, originally as a textile (silk) weaving factory, indicative of this neighbourhood. These buildings were known as Kyo-Machiya (or Kyoto Townhouses) and were abundant in the Nishijin area, famous throughout the world for the textiles used for making the finest Kimono.  Unfortunately these buildings are dwindling due to the financial upkeep and the need for newer modern homes. The building offers a unique Japanese experience. We have kept all of the original structure and added modern facilities in the guest rooms, and a cafe on the ground floor.

What do you love best about Kyoto?

I love the living history, food, culture, people and change of seasons in Kyoto. The biggest advantage of owning a guesthouse is the broad cross-section of people I meet who staying here. The world comes to me.

What are your staff like?

All our staff are Japanese nationals from various parts of Japan, and they have all lived in Australia at different times. They are all dedicated travellers; one of our staff has visited more than 52 countries! They have a genuine affinity and interest in foreigners from all countries, especially Australians. I find that as a fellow Australian I can easily put my guests at ease and offer advice on things to do, places to see and sometimes to avoid. My partner Kazuo, being a Japanese national, has unlimited knowledge of Japan and Japanese culture which gives guests an authentic experience. We have all bases covered.

Describe the atmosphere at Jam Jar

Jam Jar has a smell of tatami and wood. The cafe has a chilled Melbournesque atmosphere. Unlike Tokyo and neighbouring Osaka, Kyoto is relatively quiet, especially at night. In the mornings it is not unusual to hear early prayers being chanted from various temples in the area.

Dining tables and library inside Jam Jar Lounge & Inn, Kyoto, Japan

What type of coffee do you offer?

Espresso coffee is still a novelty in Kyoto and usually only sought after by travellers or Japanese people who have travelled to overseas destinations like Melbourne or Europe. This makes Jam Jar quite unique in Kyoto. As a result, we attract a diverse clientele – from university students, housewives, businessmen, expats, and locals searching for the perfect Melbourne latte.

What food do you recommend in Kyoto?

No-one can dispute Kyoto’s well-earned title of Japan’s cuisine capital, and Jam Jar is blessed with a neighbourhood full of local restaurants and bars. Within a 10 minute radius we have a variety of venues offering everything from traditional Kaiseki cuisine, to local ramen shops, Japanese curry bars, Spanish tapas, buzzing Izakayas, Yaka-tori bars, world famous tofu restaurants,  as well as several tiny ‘hole in the wall’ mum & pop home-cooking cafes. Most venues offer English menus and eager-to-please staff. World-renowned Japanese convenience stores Lawsons and 7-11 are literally a 2-minute walk from our front door.

Toasted sandwiches and coffee, Jam Jar Lounge & Inn, Kyoto, Japan

Where is Jam Jar located?

Jam Jar is a short bus ride from Kyoto Station. Its location makes it ideal for jumping on and off the various tourist buses that circle the city, taking in many of Kyoto’s world-renowned sites. You will be in walking distance of the beautiful Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Ryoanji Temple and its famed ‘Zen Garden’, as well as Kyoto’s oldest geisha district (Kamishichiken). The nearby train transports you to Arashiyama’s enchanting bamboo forest – an added bonus for those who appreciate nature. Being within a 5-minute walk of Kamishichiken, we are often visited by various Geiko and Maiko enjoying coffee between work engagements. As you would imagine, they make quite an impact not only for our guests, but for our Japanese customers. They are always very gracious taking time to talk to customers about the various aspects of their profession, and posing for photographs.

Can you stay the night at Jam Jar?

Yes. A typical stay at Jam Jar is 3 nights; however, we do take bookings from 1 to 30 nights! Rooms are ideal for singles and spacious enough for couples to enjoy. Most of our guests are first-time international visitors to Kyoto, looking for an authentic, local experience.

Room 1 is a very relaxing ground floor tatami room featuring a private Japanese garden, accessible only to guests staying in this room. Features include:

  • 2 single futons (can be set side by side to create a double)
  • Western bathroom and toilet
  • small fridge
  • basic coffee and tea making facilities
  • flat screen television offering cable and a wide range of programs
  • reverse cycle air-conditioner
  • bath towels, hand towels, body soap, hairdryer, all bed linen.

Room 2 is a spacious 1st floor tatami room featuring a high sloping ceiling indicative of this style of building. Features include:

  • 2 single futons (can be set side by side to create a double)
  • kitchenette and fridge
  • private Western bathroom/toilet
  • flat screen television offering cable and a wide range of programs
  • reverse cycle air-conditioner
  • bath towels, hand towels, body soap, hairdryer and all bed linen
  • coffee & tea making facilities
  • plates, cutlery

Inside one of the accommodation rooms at Jam Jar Lounge & Inn, Kyoto, Japan

What do travellers say about Jam Jar?

A huge thank you for a fantastic stay in Kyoto. We especially appreciated the great company and conversation as well as the fantastic insider knowledge of the bars and restaurants. Great to share some time with you and get to know you too. Let us know next time you’re in Melbourne and we should have a few drinks!  – Chris & Nick  (Melbourne),  February 2018

If you’re looking for an authentic experience, the Jam Jar Inn is your home in Kyoto. This 110-year-old Machiya beats any hotel you could stay in. It is the essence of why we all even travel to Japan, right? Danny, the Australian ex-pat, along with his Japanese partner Kaz, were grade-A hosts. They put so much love and work into the inn. Stay here!  – Abagail (San Francisco),  April 2018

Words cannot describe this beautiful place. Danny is such a nice guy and was so helpful. Definitely going to stay here again. – May (Saudi Arabia),  April 2018

Danny is a perfect host; he is super nice and really willing to help you all the time: from tips on how to move around to booking restaurants. His ‘machiya‘ has been perfectly restored and it is great to experience a real local Japanese stay. The bar is also very nice. We would definitely recommend this place to other travellers to Kyoto. A little gem off the beaten track! – Giulio  (Milan) March 2018

From the welcoming vibe to the local tips and tricks, our stay at the Jam Jar exceeded expectations in every way. Danny and his team were lovely, the cafe was a welcome spot for a coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the afternoon, the room was comfortable and clean, public transportation was just outside…perfection! – Kathryn  (Sydney), February 2018

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