Rokkon Guesthouse



  1. Focuses on fair trade, handmade products, and local goods to support both people and the environment.
  2. Offers fair-trade amenities, organic homemade breakfasts, and rooms decorated with natural materials.
  3. Serves organic and dietary-friendly breakfast sourced from local Kyoto farms.

SOC 2★: A fair trade accommodation that impacts lives.
ENV 1★: Uses Minna Denryoku for renewable energy.
(About Sustainability Impact score)

Experience the Warmth of Fair Trade at the Kyoto Townhouse Inn “Rokkon Guesthouse”

Located a short distance up Teramachi Street from Kyoto City Hall Station is Kikuya General Store, a store that celebrated its 17th year in May 2023, specializing in fair trade and handcrafted goods. Though it might not be considered a long-established business in a city like Kyoto, where businesses can have histories spanning decades or even centuries, it is undoubtedly a pioneering store when it comes to fair trade.

Introduce Rokkon Guesthouse, a lodging facility started by Kikuya Zakkaten, or Kikuya General Store, with the intention of offering people an experience of fair trade and handcrafts. The guesthouse is about a 6-minute walk from Karasuma Oike Station, one station away from Kikuya General Store.

Tucked between two buildings, the machiya has an unassuming presence that you might miss if you aren’t looking closely. Upon opening the door, you are greeted with a warm smile by the owner, Kayoko Okamoto.

The welcoming smile from her is, for everyone who visits, the initial “Rokkon Guesthouse experience.”

When two loves meet

Discussing Rokkon Guesthouse necessitates talking about Kayoko’s connection with fair trade. Why did she choose fair trade in the first place, especially during a time when the term was not widely recognized?

When asked about this, Kayoko said, “Firstly, it’s an interest in people. Even as a student, I was concerned with social and environmental issues, as well as crafting and art. I am drawn to rustic, human-centric crafting. The convergence of these interests was fair trade, so walking a path involved with it felt quite natural to me.”

Moreover, at the core of Kayoko’s interest in people is her upbringing in a shopping district. Every household runs a shop, and doors are always open. As she walks down the street, she knows everyone. This environment likely nurtured the sociable and caring Kayoko that we see today.

Comrades in shared ideals

The international fair trade products that Kikuya General Store and Rokkon Guesthouse offer are mainly sourced from People Tree, which has been producing ethical fashion for about 30 years, and Sisam Kobo, born in Kyoto in 1999.

Both companies are pioneers in the fair trade sector and have gained Kayoko’s absolute trust, established through regular interactions with their executives and staff. “I consider anyone involved in fair trade or eco-friendly manufacturing as comrades. We are in the same place,” she says.

When asked about her criteria for selecting products, Kayoko’s answer was, “Ultimately, it’s the people!” Though she considers the background of the items, people come first. “Understanding the character of the person helps us understand their approach to crafting,” she adds.

Forged through human connections

The next challenge for Kayoko, who had been running a fair trade shop for 16 years, was Rokkon Guesthouse. “I want both those who are familiar with, and those who are not, to feel fair trade more closely and to accelerate consumption with fair trade in mind. Everyday consumption can lead to more robust support,” she says.

Rokkon Guesthouse is set in a townhouse that is over 100 years old and was renovated, with the interior work also done by her carpenter husband. Interestingly, they heard about the property from a farmer who provides vegetables for Kikuya General Store. Kayoko laughs, “It was all through human connections.”

In December 2019, she even attempted crowdfunding to gather start-up capital, achieving her target. She was aiming for a start early in the following year but then, unexpectedly, the world plunged into a pandemic. “But it turned out to be a preparation period, as this is my first time in the guesthouse business,” she remains optimistic. The full-scale operation began around the fall of 2022.

Ethical highlights of Rokkon Guesthouse

Rokkon Guesthouse encompasses themes like fair trade, handmade products, and locally sourced goods. Everything is tied together by a common thread: choices made with consideration for both people and the environment.

They offer amenities that meet stringent fair trade standards, boast homemade breakfasts primarily featuring organic vegetables from Kyoto, and even the rooms are adorned with walls and furniture dyed with natural pigments made from Kitayama cedar. Moreover, they have contracted with Minna Electricity for renewable energy supplied by ‘visible producers’.

Just by staying here, it’s evident that you’re contributing to eco-friendly and socially responsible actions.

The breakfast features organic, fertilizer-free, and compost-free vegetables grown in Kameoka, Kyoto, by “Poton Farm” and freshly delivered rice and vegetables from “Wildlife Life” in Kyohoku. They also accommodate vegetarians, vegans, and those with allergies.

That familiar sense, even if it’s your first time

Despite being located in the heart of Kyoto City near Karasuma Oike, entering the guesthouse evokes a feeling of nostalgia as if it’s not your first time.

This sense of warmth is not just due to the friendly smile and warm welcome from the proprietor, Kayoko, but also the enveloping atmosphere typical of historic townhouses.

Upon entering, you’re led to a room in the back of the first floor. The first thing that catches your eye is the private “tsuboniwa” garden, visible over the bed. It’s small but even features a petite veranda.

Next, you’ll notice the environmentally friendly pellet stove that uses biomass energy, TOYOTOMI’s “MUUMUU”, funded through crowdfunding. It exudes an impressive aura, making you want to experience a stay in winter. The stove burns compressed waste wood from Kitayama in Kyoto, which, according to Kayoko, “burns really well due to its high density.”

The room also features lamps purchased through fair trade from South Africa and bedding and pajamas from People Tree. Guests can actually use and sleep in these during their stay. Experiencing these elements is one of the reasons why Rokkon Guesthouse was established.

When guests say they had a great night’s sleep the next morning, that’s when you feel the true charm of the place. If you fancy any of the items, they can be purchased on the spot if in stock, or delivered later.

An experience similar to homestay

Though unintentional, most of the guests are foreigners due to the traditional Japanese townhouse lodging. Interactions with guests actually begin before they check in.

Especially since Kyoto has regained its pre-COVID vitality, Kayoko helps guests by making dinner reservations in advance due to crowded conditions. She confirms food preferences and intolerances, then makes the booking.

Even during the interview, she was coordinating reservations for an incoming guest over the phone. While it may be demanding, Kayoko smiles and says, “The higher the hurdles and the more requests we get, the harder it is to say goodbye.”

Guests are fortunate to receive such care, akin to the treatment one receives during a homestay. Kayoko’s approach to people reflects the underlying principles of fair trade. It goes beyond the framework of charity or volunteering, teaching the richness of human connections.

Interestingly, many of the Japanese guests are young people in their 20s, some even saying, “I came here with my first paycheck.” This makes Kayoko very happy.

Towards future goals of Fair Trade producers

When asked about future plans, Kayoko gave an unexpected answer: “Eventually, I want to close the guesthouse, relocate overseas, and produce items that are in demand in Japan.”

“Right now, through managing the guesthouse and Kikuya General Store, we are collecting various information on what people really want. We want to produce super-items that people will truly appreciate, and sell them through fair trade to make both producers and consumers happy,” she added with a laugh.

As people gain experience, many tend to think, ‘Let go and let the situation manage itself.’ However, Kayoko wants to personally go to the field and work hands-on with the global workforce. It’s likely because she wants to witness and experience both the process of enrichment and the end result of happiness. This is a very likeable and typical goal for Kayoko.

Final thoughts

When asked about the joy of running a guesthouse, she simply replied, “I want people who come here to have good memories. Whether the breakfast was delicious, the bedding comfortable, or the restaurant reservation was a hit, any positive feedback makes me feel it’s worth doing.”

Whether or not you’re interested in fair trade, your time spent here will be filled with the warmth of human interaction and delightful encounters with pleasing items. If you’re planning a trip to Kyoto, Rokkon Guesthouse is definitely worth considering for your stay.

Originally published on Livhub.


(updated 5 September 2023)

Brand name Rokkon Guesthouse
Genre Machiya, Guesthouse
Website Homepage
Address 720-5 Shimomatsuyacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-0034, Japan
Google Map
Contact Info rokkonguesthouse {@}
Opening Hours

Check In: 3 pm ~ 7 pm
Check Out: 10 am

Instagram Account Instagram URL
Facebook Account Facebook URL
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