Ryokan : Traditional Style of Accommodations in Japan

Ryokan - A style of Japanese Inn or Resort

Ryokan is not only a form of unique travel accommodation. It offers a chance to experience the sensory richness of relaxation in traditional Japanese culture.


The Ryokan experience

Experiencing 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.

E.g: Japanese onsen (hot springs) in a traditional Ryokan

E.g: Japanese dining in the traditional style at a Ryokan

Since Ryokan is a very traditional Japanese accommodation, with no comparable experience in western accommodations, Ryokan follows 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 in old style with shoes, please remove your shoes off at the entrance. At hotel-like large Ryokan allow people walk inside with shoes, (except for the inside of guest rooms.) You will be supplied with slippers at the entrance or the guest room. After you check in, a Ryokan staff takes you to a guest room.

A guest room interiors is always in the traditional Japanese style, with a Tatami mat floor. A tatami mat is a type of 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.

Hirugami Onsen, Nagano
E.g: Entrance at a ryokan inn
Wakatake-no-sho Ryokan, Kinugawa
E.g: Lobby at a ryokan inn

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.

E.g: A guest room at Ryokan

E.g: Rooms at large Ryokan often provide beds.

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 are 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.

Ryokans 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 beforehand.

E.g: dining in a Ryokan's room
E.g: Dining in a Ryokan's room
dinner at Koshitsu dining room
E.g: 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

E.g Open-air bathtub
Taking a Japanese bath in the traditional style at a Ryokan
E.g: Washing area
Wash your body before you go inside the bathtub

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 may 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.