Kyoto is world famous for its temples, shrines, geisha, and culinary prowess. These things are just filler to something more special to Kyoto and part of the reason what makes it a very special and unique place.
Machiya, are what really separates Kyoto from the rest of Japan. While most of Japan has been heavily industrialized, covered in concrete, and modernized; Kyoto has kept their traditions intact. Anyone walking through Kyoto will often see such old wooden houses along street, some falling to piece. Some, being rebuilt and renovated to restore their ancient beauty. However getting a chance to experience the interiors of these buildings is unfortunately rare.
What makes these places really special is the use of space and the aesthetics used inside to create atmosphere. Machiya use any number of Japanese aesthetics in their design, construction, and decor. Often utilizing what is available near-by, and getting inspiration from nature are key in their uniqueness. Bringing the outside, inside, gives an illusion of a wider space. While placing a garden that is hidden from the outside provides a small sanctuary for inhabitants. Even though these buildings aren’t exclusive to Kyoto, they are used in a very ingenious way. In the past these buildings were used as residence and business. Usually craftsmen had their workshops on the first and lived out of the second.
Today though, these building are being utilized from retail space, to luxury private-inns. But the real gem is the cafe. Kyoto is renowned for its tea culture, but the people of Kyoto are experts when it comes to the cafe. They manage to utilize these old buildings and give refuge to those wishing to escape the mundane corporate cafes crowding every main street. One can totally feel totally secluded in an at-home environment.
Because these places are rare and hard to find, people tend to keep their favorite ones word-of-mouth only. Each one is unique and will appeal to people differently, but once you have found your favorite it will be like that place where anything seems possible, and your imagination can run wild.