Japan has a distinct culture that tourists will want to discover and explore. If you’re traveling to this country with a thirst for cultural experience, stay in a ryokan, a Japanese-style inn providing more than just a place to sleep.
A ryokan will let you experience the traditional Japanese hospitality and lifestyle, thus, making it a perfect accommodation option if you are a “culture vulture” type of traveler. It is also a popular place to stay for the travelling Japanese.
The kind of ryokan you choose to book will depend on how much you can spend for and how intimate you want your experience to be. There are the family-run places with only a few rooms, which are usually affordable and allow you to interact with other guests or know more about the staff. There are also the hotel-like establishments with modern amenities such as a television if you don’t want to deprive yourself of the comforts that you’re used to. A basic, plain ryokan experience will cost an average of 8,000 yen per guest. If you prefer a truly luxurious one, you’ll have to prepare around 40,000 yen.
A Home Away from Home
But whatever the type of ryokan you will choose, the elements that contribute to the Japanese hospitality atmosphere are generally the same. For one, guestrooms are constructed with sliding doors and tatami flooring, which are typical in traditional Japanese homes. In most establishments, the rooms are furnished with a table and some tea making items, which is reflective of the Japanese’s cultural activity for ceremonial tea preparation.
At night, you’ll have a futon as bedding, which will be spread out on the tatami flooring. In short, you’ll typically eat (if you bring your meals into your room) and sleep in the same place just like what the Japanese do. Serving as housekeeping, the ryokan staff (called nakai in Japanese) will clean your room, move the table to the side, and spread out the futon.
A Delectable Meal Experience
In most cases, the price you’ll pay for a stay in a ryokan will include breakfast and dinner. But you’ll need to verify it first before booking to be sure. In any case, having the meal is one of the ryokan experiences that you should not miss because it consists of the traditional cuisine in Japan called kaiseki. This Japanese dinner with multiple courses generally features regional specialties, thus, you’ll be enjoying different tastes depending on where you are in Japan.
To be able to truly enjoy your kaiseki experience, you have to make sure that you’re punctual for your meal. Each of the dishes served is best enjoyed when they’re at the proper temperature. Ryokan owners, especially those who run the traditional establishments, take pride in their local dishes and thus, will often stress to you and other guests the importance of coming on time for your meal. So they usually will ask you to confirm the time you want to eat.
While most ryokan will serve your meals in your room, there are also some establishments that have a shared dining area where you will have the chance to know other guests staying in the inn.
Relaxing in a Hot Spring
Common bathing areas, called ofuro in Japan, are other features of ryokan establishments. It is for this reason these Japanese inns are often aplenty in areas with natural hot springs such as those near the mountains or the sea. Don’t worry though, as the baths are segregated by gender. In some establishments, especially the high-end ones, there are private bathing areas that you can get into.
In conclusion, if you’re traveling to Japan for the first time, consider staying in a ryokan for a memorable cultural experience. If the price of the inn is tough on your holiday budget, just make sure that you get to stay in one for at least a whole day.