unless otherwise noted, all photos by Kai Nakamura / Tsubame Architects

If you’re looking for an affordable and authentic stay in Kyoto, check out Utsuwa, a new designer hostel that opened last year. It’s centrally located — a 15 min walk or a 5 min cab ride from Kyoto station — and was designed to give visitors an authentic, local experience.

Tourism to Kyoto is on the rise and fancy new hotels are popping up here and there, explains Tsubame Architects, who designed the hostel. Meanwhile, Kyoto us suffering from an aging local population, just like all of Japan, which leaves many homes vacant.

So an appropriate strategy for building tourist accommodations would be to use old Machiya-style homes that meld into the environment. Not only does this add to authenticity, it creates better harmony between the locals, who see that the tourists are living just like they are.

Utsuwa, meaning vessel in Japanese, is meant to be a serve as just that: a place where travelers can come and feel at home. Created with an abundance of local cedar, the 2-story structure has 35 capsule-style booths and a communal courtyard, bathrooms and showers. What’s more, small artworks are scattered throughout the space, creating magical discoveries when you least expect them.

Rates start at 3200 yen (about $29 usd) per night and is perfect for travelers on a budget.

photo by Wataru Suzuki