Staying at a Ryokan in Japan
A trip to Japan is not complete without a stay in a traditional Japanese inn, also called a ryokan. Being enveloped in Japanese tradition and culture, enjoy great gastronomy, and an onsen bath after is part of the deal. You’re going to be welcomed with warm Japanese hospitality!
When you arrive at the ryokan, you take off your shoes at the entrance and put on the provided slippers. Use your slippers for walking around inside the ryokan, and you will take them off right after entering your room. Your regular shoes will be placed at the entrance for when you want to go outside. If you want to take a short walk near the ryokan, you may also take the ryokan sandals or ‘geta’ (wooden clogs) provided.
After you check-in, you will follow the hostess to your room. When you get to your room, take your slippers off before you walk on the tatami (straw mats). You can only walk on the tatami with your socks or barefoot, not with your slippers. The front desk at a ryokan usually closes early. So it is a good idea to confirm both the check-in and check-out times before arrival.
Your room will usually have a tokoma (an alcove built into the wall used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls), a glass-enclosed sitting area separated by a shoji (sliding paper door), and several zabuton (cushions for sitting). You will not see any beds, as the futons will be prepared by the staff after dinner.
Your hostess will show you where to place your luggage. Usually, a maid will bring tea for you, and you can sit on the zabuton and relax. Relaxing is best done in very comfortable room wear, so a yukata (robe) is provided for you. You can wear the yukata in your room, around the ryokan, and even when you take a short walk near the ryokan. If it is cold, a tanzen (outer robe) will also be provided. You can wear the tanzen over the yukata.
Before or after dinner is a good time for taking a bath. Some rooms come with a private bath area, but the traditional way of bathing in a ryokan is by using the large public bath that is always on the premises. The public bath often has real hot spring water with medicinal qualities, and sometimes there are saunas as well. When you arrive at the public bath, you can put all of your clothes into the baskets in the changing room. Take the small towel provided for you, and go into the bathing room.
The large public bath you will see is only for soaking your body. Cleaning your body is done in the shower area outside the public bath. There will be small plastic stools, soap, shampoo, and a mirror provided for the guests. When you have finished cleaning yourself and there is no soap left on your body, you can enter the public bath. If the public bath is too hot for you, you can often adjust the temperature a little by running cold water into it.
Dinner and Sleeping in a Ryokan
In the evening, the maid will serve your dinner in your room or you will eat in the dining room. Dinner is usually very extensive and of superb quality. A ryokan meal will often include beef, fish, miso soup, various vegetable side dishes, and rice. When you have finished eating, the maid will clean your room and prepare the futon (quilt bedding) for you to sleep on.
When Japanese people go on a relaxing short trip to a ryokan, most of them will go to sleep relatively early. So it is best to plan on going to bed early as well. Breakfast is served quite early in the morning, usually between 7 am and 8.30 am. Breakfast will usually consist of rice, miso soup, fish, and some pickles. Some ryokan serve a western-style breakfast or buffet as well, but many ryokan still only serve the Japanese-style breakfast.
Your Japan Tour
If you are thinking about making a trip to Japan, as seasoned Japan experts we can help you create your perfect Japan tour, including a stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan. Contact us to start planning your unforgettable holiday to this fascinating country. Japan is full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, culture, history, nature, and delicious food!