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Ryokan - Traditional Japanese Inns with Unique Flair

Ryokan - Japanese Inns

When on a Japan trip, staying in one of the traditional Ryokan inns is particularly interesting. Apart from the décor and distinctive style of these lodgings, guests here enjoy an authentic experience in a serene and aesthetic environment. Rooms in such hotels can be booked for just one night for those seeking a brief insight into Japanese way of life. For those wanting a more thorough relaxation, extending their stay in a Ryokan allows them to immerse themselves in the culture of old Japan with numerous amenities.

This type of Japanese inn has existed since the Edo period and has largely preserved its unique charm over many centuries. The simplicity of the rooms, their modest furnishings, and the courteous hospitality of the hosts create a reputation of fine exclusivity. Ryokan inns embody an important part of Japanese culture, vividly preserving ancient values and behaviors.

Ryokan shoes on the floor

What characterizes a real ryokan?

In Japan, small and cozy inns are referred to as Ryokan, traditionally furnished to pamper guests with a quiet and harmonious environment. The room in a Ryokan serves as a living space, bedroom, and dining area all in one. It features minimalist furnishings, typically consisting of a low table with two chairs and very few decorative elements. Sliding doors with paper screens act as room dividers, providing a soft and pleasant dimming of light.

The floor in this Japanese accommodation is often covered with Tatami mats made of rice straw, which feel soft and finely textured. A traditional Japanese futon serves as a bed, a relatively thin mattress that is simply rolled out on the floor for sleeping. During the day, this mattress can be stored in a closet, providing more space in the room.

Many Ryokan in Japan are located near hot springs, known as Onsen. Access to these Japanese healing springs is sometimes designed as a private Onsen, where guests can have the place to themselves.

How to behave in a ryokan in Japan?

Upon checking in at a Ryokan in Japan, guests are warmly welcomed. The staff, dressed in traditional Kimonos, escorts guests' luggage to their rooms. In the hallway of the Ryokan, outdoor shoes are removed, and slippers are provided, which are then taken off and left outside the room before entering.

The chambermaid guides guests, serves a welcoming tea, and then provides directions to the Onsen and other facilities within the Ryokan. A Japanese cotton kimono is also provided in the guesthouse, suitable for wearing in the Onsen, in the room, and on the Ryokan grounds. Visitors should generally behave politely and quietly in Japan, and this is especially important in a traditionally run hotel like the Ryokan.

Particularly in the Onsen, emphasis is placed on peace and relaxation. Before entering the hot spring water, a thorough cleansing of the entire body is recommended. Separate washing areas are provided for this purpose. Small towels for wiping away sweat and large bath towels are always available in the adjacent rooms of the Onsen, freshly laundered and slightly warmed. In general, in Japan, when visiting baths, great importance is placed on meticulous hygiene. When visiting the Onsen, it is crucial to keep the thermal water clean and to thoroughly rinse off soap, shampoo, or dirt before entering the bathing pool.

Baden im Onsen im Magazin lesen »

Where to Find the Best Ryokans?

Ryokans can be found throughout Japan, practically in all provinces. Particularly beautiful and well-managed hotels of this class are found near Tokyo and Kyoto. These Japanese accommodations are often located near hot springs, but can also be found in the mountains or by the sea. Some places with hot springs and multiple Onsen Ryokans include:

  • Arima Onsen near Kobe (one hour by train from Kyoto)
  • Gero Onsen near Nagoya
  • Atami near Tokyo with many small and large Ryokans; there is also a Ryokan Museum here
  • Yumoto Onsen near Nikko with hot springs and many nearby attractions

What's Included in a Stay at a Japanese Ryokan?

In addition to tea, a Japanese breakfast is usually served. Additional meals may also be included in the booking. It's important to note that meals cannot be ordered separately in a Japanese Ryokan. Before dinner, guests typically enjoy a hot bath for relaxation. Following that, they can savor a delicious Kaiseki Ryori. This multi-course menu offers a fascinating variety of superbly prepared small dishes, soups, and main courses, known for its high quality.

Between meals and bathing, visitors pass the time with a stroll around the area and the springs, hiking, or visiting historical landmarks.

Onse in Japan with wooden bridge

Understanding Japanese Culture Better

If you want to better understand Japanese culture, staying at some of the most beautiful Ryokans in the country is highly recommended. No modern hotel can provide this unique ambiance. Even if your budget is a bit tight, consider including at least one night in such an accommodation in your travel plan. A trip to Ryokan hotels in Hakuba-mura, Hakone, or Kusatsu could be a great option. Most of these places are easily accessible by train or bus. Enjoy exploring these unique inns and experiencing Japanese hospitality!

Between meals and bathing, visitors pass the time with a stroll around the area and the springs, hiking, or visiting historical landmarks.

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