Japanese onsen (hot springs) in a tradtional Ryokan
The Ryokan experience
Expereincing Ryokan is considered the optimal in relaxation, so it is worth trying to stay at Ryokan at least once in your travels to Japan.
Japanese people make a point of staying at Ryokan if they travel around Japan and we believe staying at a Ryokan should be the focal point of your travel to Japan experience.
Since Ryokan is a very traditional Japanese accommodation, with no comparable experience in western accommodations, Ryokan follow very formal and traditional rules of conduct. To truly experience Ryokan, it is best to have a basic knowledge and awareness of Ryokan before you arrive.
Entering a Ryokan
When you arrive at Ryokan, Ryokan staff 'Nakai-san' welcomes you. As nobody is supposed to walk inside of Ryokan building with shoes, please remove your shoes off at the entrance. You will be supplied with slippers. After you check in, a Ryokan staff takes you to a guest room. (At hotel-like large Ryokan, it might allow people walk inside with shoes, eccept for inside of guest rooms.)
A guest room interiors is always in the traditional Japanese style, with a Tatami mat floor. A tatami mat is type of a modular flooring having the dimensions 3' x 6' which also determine the dimensions of rooms. Please don't step on the tatami floor with your slippers, please remove your slippers and it is also recommended not to walk in your room on the tatami floor in the slippers from the washroom( toilet) room either. Considered bad taste.
When Ryokan staffs show you your room, you will be informed of a few rules and the time of dinner and the available hours for bathing.
Inside the guest room, Yukata (Kimono-like robe) is provided. You can wear Yukata for pajamas or as a robe around the Ryokan. You can go out of your room wearing Yukata and even out side of Ryokan. You can change your clothes into Yukata right after you come to your room to relax. Also in the guest room, there is a dish with little sweets and hot water for green tea for free.
Dining at a Ryokan
Dining is designated at a certain time by Ryokan. Ryokan staff inform you when dinner time is, after showing you your room.
Note: In case you know you will arrive late at the Ryokan (later than 6:00pm), it is best to inform the Ryokan staff about the delay beforehand. Otherwise, you will miss your dinner.
For dinner, there are 2 styles of eating, depending on the Ryokan. One style is to go to the dining room and the other is to have your dinner in your room. In case of having dinner in your room, the Ryokan staff will bring all dishes to your room.
Please take note, breakfast and dinner is included in room service. There are some Ryokans that offer rooms without dinner, though, please remember the most enjoyable part of staying at Ryokan is dining in traditional Japanese style.
Ryokan's usually provide basic Japanese food, pre-arranged, set by the properties. If you have special requests, for example vegetarian dishes, it is recommended to inform Ryokan when making a reservation. Some Ryokan's may meet your requests and provide a special menu for you. Please check before hand.
Japanese dining in the traditional style at a Ryokan
Bathing at a Ryokan
Bathing is the centrepiece of the relaxing ambience of a Ryokan. Most Ryokan have Ofuro or Daiyokujou (communal bathing facility). The size of the bathrooms depends on each Ryokan. Some of them have real large bathing rooms like a swimming pool and others have open air bathing rooms in a garden.
Recently, Ryokans have introduced a private Japanese style bath in each guest room. Also, if you have a chance to stay at a Ryokan in a region that has Onsen (hot springs) we highly recommend enjoying a hot spring at Ryokan.
To enjoy the best of Japanese bathing, it is best to know how to take a Japanese bath, please refer to How to take a Japanese bath at Ryokan
Taking a Japanese bath in the traditional style at a Ryokan
Sleeping - the end of a beautiful experience
The bedding at Ryokan is always a futon on tatami mats. Ryokan staffs prepare the futon on the Tatami floor in your room usually while you are having dinner or taking a bath.
In the morning, a traditional Japanese breakfast is prepared for you. The time to have breakfast is issued by Ryokan staff. Remember, staff will wake you up at the appropriate hour. After or while you are having breakfast, if you eat your meals out of your room, Ryokan staff come to your room and put away all futons.
Check out time is around 10:00 or 11:00 AM usually earlier than most western hotels, please check beforehand.