Ryokan are difficult to find in Tokyo and other large cities because many are usually much more expensive compared to modern hotels and hostels. As elsewhere in the world, hotels have become a standard in Japanese urban tourism.A ryokan is a type of traditional Japanese inn that typically feature tatami-matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner.
For an authentic experience of Japan, tourists are seeking an insight into the traditional lifestyle of Japanese people. Traditional Japanese inns called Ryokans can be found all over the country and offer visitors the chance to indulge in Japanese tradition and culture. We list 5 of the best.
Tokyo-based Sadachiyo is a modern ryokan decorated and styled in the same manner as the Edo period rooms. Unlike many ryokans, however, Sadachiyo’s owners have an eye on the desires and customs of the contemporary traveler. Each of the 20 rooms boasts its own bathroom and toilet, while tea, coffee, and wifi are available in the lounge area. In spite of being situated in Japan’s bustling capital, Sadachiyo’s owners go that little further and provide a selection of ‘courses’ or ‘entertainments’ for their guests, including a ‘Tosenkyo’ course (in which guests aim to hit a target with a fan), an array of musical entertainment, and a ‘Yakata bune’ course (a karaoke night on a chartered boat). Traditional cuisine is provided and traditional customs followed. Staff informs new arrivals of etiquette on arrival over green tea. It is expected, not just in Sadachiyo but in every ryokan, that guests will follow the basic rules of Japanese living.
Sumiyoshi is loocated in the mountainous region of Takayama of the Gifu Prefecture, on the Miyagawa River, a place that can accurately be described as idyllic. With rooms overlooking either the river or the Sumiyoshi gardens, guests are hard-placed to find a better situation in which to unwind. The owners of Sumiyoshi have endeavored to maintain the architecture and style of the Taisho period building. Ornaments from the period fill the ryokan. Traditional Japanese cuisine is served in private rooms, and any questions about what is to be eaten, and even how to it eat, are happily answered.
* Tokyo Ryokan
Tokyo Ryokan in Tokyo has maintained a traditional stance on communal bathrooms, but the ryokan is small (only three rooms, sleeping up to three people) and all facilities are kept to the highest standards of cleanliness. The ryokan owners do not provide meals or amenities, other than a towel, as most modern-style hotels tend to. With respect for conventional Japanese living, guests are encouraged to treat the ryokan as a home. The most outstanding feature of this ryokan is the interior. Like most ryokans, paper walls and doors are in abundance, but unlike some of the larger spaces, the wooden ryokan is kept clutter-free with minimal decoration. The space is ordered and run according to fundamental Buddhist principles; the website introduces guests to the idea that the ‘innermost concludes the universe. Atman is Brahman’.
Eko-in is a remarkable place to stay, being situated in a 1000-year-old Buddhist temple. Guests stay in the temple itself, in Japanese-style rooms and using communal facilities. One room includes a private onsen, but all boast views of the inner garden. As might be expected of a temple ryoken based in Mount Koya, guests are encouraged to use the Ajikan Practice Hall (the meditation style of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism), to attend morning services and can join the Goma fire ritual. Lessons in Buddhist sutra writing are also on offer. More conventional recreation includes use of the public onsen (divided by gender). Cuisine is traditional Japanese vegetarian, which is eaten in the guests’ private rooms.
Ryokan Sanga, a remote ryokan situated in Kumamoto Onsen town in Kyushu, offers an escape from busy city life. The ryokan is remarkable for its setting alone; natural materials are preferred to concrete, Mount Aso sits overhead instead of flashing neon signs, and taxis and public buses are the only means of accessing the remote location. A world apart from the Toyko-based ryokans, Ryokan Sanga offers guests the chance to bathe in onsen, or naturally-occurring hot-spring baths, which are held in high regard as healing spaces. The ryokan offers three types of onsen, including public outdoor baths, public gender-specific indoor baths, and private baths. Rooms are private, and encompass a small variety of ryokan room-types. The more expensive include private baths, as well as a larger living space.