What is a Ryokan?
A typical ryokan is an Japanese-style inn. Like a
Western-style inn, maintaining the special, atmosphere
and appearance is more important than providing the latest modern
conveniences. A ryokan is for travelers who wish
to experience Japanese culture and enjoy the comforts
of Japanese hospitality and service.
There are, of course, many different styles of ryokans and our Ryokan Styles page
will help you determain which ryokan style is best for you.
A Brief History of Japanese Ryokans
Ryokans have been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. Some
of the earliest ryokans were (and some still are) located on the
Tokaido Highway which connected the capital city of Edo (current day Tokyo) and the
Imperial Palace in Kyoto. It was a very busy highway as samurai,
traders, and others made their way between the two popular
destinations in the country. Ryokans were built to welcome
these weary travelers who needed to rest before continuing on their
long journey. Some ryokans were very simple and offered extra rooms
in their homes for travelers while others were more elaborate and served the higher ranks of the government. In any case the owners worked hard to make their guests feel as welcome as possible as they still do today.
Inside a Ryokan Guest Room
A typical ryokan guest room contains:
- the "agari-kamachi" (after opening the door guests
step into this small area and take off their shoes)
- "shoji" (sliding paper doors) which separates the
agari-kamachi from the room
- "tatami" mat flooring (reed floor matting)
- low wooden tables
- "zabuton" (sitting cushions)
- futon (sleeping quilts)
- a "tokonoma" (an ornamental alcove built into the
wall used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls)
- an "oshiire" (a closet for futon sleeping quilts)
- an "engawa" (a glass enclosed sitting area separated
from the room by a shoji)
Many ryokans are composed of different buildings such as:
- "Honkan" (original building)
- "Shinkan" or "Bekkan" (secondary or annex buildings)
Experiencing a Ryokan - is it for you?
Staying at a typical ryokan is a traditional Japanese cultural
experience, and it is not like staying at a Western-style hotel.
For example ryokans do not have central heating and in the winter
this means you will be staying in a room with a portable heater
(kerosene, gas, electric). While your room may be heated, your
private bathroom (if you have one) will probably not have a separate heater.
In the summer time, your room may have an air conditioning unit
but again your private bathroom (if you have one) will probably
not have one. Many ryokan owners wish to preserve the traditional
atmosphere of their ryokan, and this means maintaining old fashioned
heating systems in order to preserve the traditional architecture,
design, and atmosphere of the ryokan. If you prefer to sleep
in a double room with twin queen-size beds and have: a full modern
bathroom, carpeted rooms, perfect room temperature, insulated silence,
the latest high tech gadgets, and every member of the staff speaking
fluent English then a ryokan might not be for you. However, if you wish to see, taste,
touch, and feel traditional Japanese culture then a night at a
typical ryokan is just the thing for you. While most of the staff
at ryokans speak very little English, this authenticity adds to
the experience. Ryokans are only available in Japan and it is an experience not to be missed.
Ryokans charge per guests and not per room. The average price of a one night stay at one of our ryokans is
about 15,000 yen per guest plus tax. For example, if there are
two of you traveling together, this means a total of 30,000 yen
per night plus tax. If you are staying at a ryokan with an "onsen" (hot
spring baths), then there is an additional onsen tax of 150 yen
per guest per night. The prices of our ryokans range from about 7,000 yen
to 110,000 yen per guest plus tax.
At a ryokan some of the following factors determining prices are:
- room size
- room location
- room view (a view of a river, a view of a Japanese garden,
- room facilities (indoor hot spring bath, outdoor hot spring
- day of the week
- season and holiday season
- number of guests
- meal(s) served and so on
Ryokan Price List (Per Guest)
We have divided our ryokans into different price catagories. The catagories are to give you an idea of the price and is not a formal ranking system.
- Category D: 7,000-10,000 yen per guest
- Category C: 10,000-15,000 yen per guest
- Category B: 15,000-20,000 yen per guest
- Category A: 20,000-30,000 yen per guest
- Category A+: 30,000-50,000 yen per guest
- Category A++: 50,000-70,000 yen per guest
- Category A+++: 70,000 yen and up per guest
Your payment will need to be made in cash (Japanese yen) unless otherwise stated. Some ryokans do accepte credit card (of course, different ryokans accept different credit
cards) though Japan is still a cash society so please be prepare if you need to pay your bill in cash. The most widely accepted credit cards are VISA and MasterCard while American Express and others are not accepted as much.
Other Useful Ryokan Information
Your Stay at a Japanese Ryokan
Ryokan Customs dos and don'ts
at a Ryokan including ryokan types of cuisine
For more information about dining on Japanese "kaiseki," please
see Japanese "Kaiseki" (traditional,
A Ryokan Experience,
a guest describes his stay at a ryokan in Miyajima
Kyoto Ryokan Owners and their experiences hosting foreign
How to Put On a Japanese Yukata (cotton robe) - A step-by-step guide
Here is a description about the dos and don'ts of Japanese
Here is how to use a Japanese-style
toilet (if necessary)
How big is a tatami mat room? Go to this Tatami
Mat Conversion Table and find out.
Read David Paget's story about his stay in "Japanese
Buddhist Temple Overnight" on Mt Koya. Also a guest's experience about A Night on Mt Koya.
Read guest's Comments about
their ryokan stays