Maana Homes, established by two friends and former designers, Hana Tsukamoto and Irene Chang, is a collection of restored machiya (traditional Japanese wooden merchant houses) guesthouses. With two properties open, Maana Kyoto and Maana Kamo, and a new project underway, the aim of Hana and Irene for Maana was to embrace but reimagine Kyoto’s simple but meaningful way of life. Working with acclaimed Kyoto architect Uoya Shigenori to overhaul the interiors of both properties, they have managed to effectuate balance and harmony to create a comfortable space with the modern luxuries expected of a five star stay, whilst preserving the atmosphere of the centuries-old wooden structures.
I arrived to sun-dappled earthen walls, light streaming in through frosted windows, casting shadows on wooden floors at Maana Kyoto. Warmth and tranquility seep into muscles tense from a day of navigating Kyoto’s koyo, immediately beginning to loosen them like a wave, from toes to torso and up into the neck and behind the eyes, the minimalist interiors inducing an equally uncluttered state of mind.
Waking with the sunlight flooding in through paper shoji (sliding screens) is refreshingly pleasurable. The morning light is ideal for surveying the surroundings, a stark ikebana arrangement with an almost petrified beauty is softened against an original wall painted in a deep, calming blue. I sit for a minute and gather my thoughts before heading down the semi-open staircase to prepare some tea. I investigate wooden cabinets and shelves filled with hand-crafted kitchenware to find a small, ceramic teapot. Carefully weighing out some leaves, I leave the kettle to boil while I head to the bathroom to fill the tub, a huge, ceramic receptacle hand-crafted by local artisans in nearby Shigaraki, a famed potters town. Tub and tea steaming, I gaze out onto the private garden whilst the warm water transports me to thoughts of onsen (hot spring) bathing. Pure bliss.
Maana Kamo has a different feeling entirely. I’m immediately drawn to the dark and sultry interiors, with little to distract the eye in the form of ornaments, the visual void is remarkably stimulating, priming the senses to turn inwards. My mind wanders, I reflect on my time in Kyoto, what it has taught me about everyday life; finding beauty in the mundane and seeking patience after frustration. It’s easy to get lost in thought here. I head to one of the guest rooms on the second floor, a traditional tatami-matted space that is faultless for yoga and meditation and capitalise on my Maana-induced-introspection.
Each property makes exceptional use of space and light, both staying true to their roots but with their own unique flare. The spaces are truly havens of relaxation. Design elements throughout have been carefully curated to complement the aesthetics, and wherever possible, pieces have been crafted in Kyoto and her surrounds. From Wataru Myoshu pottery pieces that ooze wabi-sabi elegance (a selection of which can be bought through the Maana website, along with a number of the property’s other curated homewares), to subdued lighting instilled from Kyoto’s Miura Shomei glassworks, the intentionally sparse decor highlights the structural soul of the buildings.
Maana Homes is working with local fishmonger and chef, Ototojet, who uses only the finest, fresh fish, seasonal herbs and immaculate presentation to provide an indulgent bento and kaiseki style in-home dinner delivery service. They can also arrange in-room shiatsu or oil massage, restaurant reservations and even taxi bookings during your stay.
Rachel E T Davies