A hotel with a twist – the Japanese ryokan

TIRED of faceless hotels without any special features? Want to experience distinctive hospitality,  you will never forget?

Booked.net writer Svetlana Malukha investigates ryokan – a Japanese hotel, where you are unlikely to see familiar beds, where you wear a special kimono – yukata, which symbolizes tranquility and peace, and taste food cooked on hot stones.

The tranquil surroundings of a Japanese ryokan.

The first ryokans appeared in 1603 and since the concept has been greatly modified, yet one thing remains stable – a strong feeling of genuine Japanese hospitality, sensed as soon as you reach the doorstep.

But don’t expect to just casually walk through the door.

Once you are in a ryokan, you need to be aware of the etiquette you are expected to comply with.


Firstly, do not hurry to enter a ryokan. Guests are not allowed to come into the hall, until the owner of the hotel has come out and invited them.

If you want to impress the owner, do not forget to say “Gomenkudasai” (hello), which shows respect to Japanese culture and the ryokan.

As a rule, a guest room in ryokan is a spacious one-room area with one low table with tea facilities on it.

Wall decoration is sparse. And, while you will find a small wardrobe, do not expect to see a bed in ryokan; instead you are going to sleep on a “futon”, which consists of a mattress, sheets, pillows and blankets, all placed on the floor before you come back to your room after dinner.

Do not take a lot of clothes with you, as yukata kimono, offered to every guest of ryokan, is suitable attire both, in the hotel and out of it.

The floor in a ryokan is covered with traditional tatami and entering the room in shoes is forbidden. Guests can tread upon tatami barefoot or in socks only. Shoes are usually left outside.

In addition, most ryokans close their doors at 11pm, so do not forget to come back to the hotel in time.

The personnel in ryokan, also called “nakai”, predominantly consist of women, who will treat you with a great care and attention.

If you like how you are treated, you can tip a hotel employee. However, there are also special rules how to give tips. It is common to give tips at ryokan only once per stay and directly hand it over to the person (do not leave it in the room). In addition, do not forget to take envelopes with you, where money should be placed. If you do not have an envelope, wrap money in a white paper instead.

Usually, ryokans do not have private bathrooms in every room, but include common baths “ofuro” with separate areas for women and for men. However, there are exceptions, like in the hotel Ryokan Kohro, where every guest accommodation comes with a private bathroom, while at the Hotel Watazen Ryokan guests have a chance to visit a real communal Japanese bath.

Ryokans are popular throughout Japan and can be found in every city and town, however it is better to find somewhere away from suburbia, near a hot spring, also known as “onsen” to immerse yourself in a tranquil environment somewhere deep in Japan.

Check Booked.net‘s costantly updated list of hotels in Japan and book a stay with a difference – in a Japanese ryokan.

One Response to A hotel with a twist – the Japanese ryokan

  1. Pete says:

    There’s definately a great deal to know about this topic. I love all the points you’ve made.

Leave a Reply to Pete Cancel reply

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