The way to open Japanese traditional culture 丨Japanese inns general knowledge and recommendation

When visiting Japan, where is the best place to enjoy its traditional culture? If you choose to stay at a ryokan for one night, I believe you will find the answer. In this article, we will explain the general knowledge about ryokan and recommend some representative ryokans, so that you can have a preliminary understanding of ryokan.

What you don’t know about Japanese-style inns


About the rooms

The most typical room in a Japanese-style ryokan is the tatami room, which is also called a Japanese-style room. The rooms are usually barefoot, and you can sleep directly on the floor covered with tatami mats. In general, a standard-sized Japanese-style room can have four Japanese mattresses, which means that four people can stay in the room. Therefore, the price of a ryokan is based on the actual number of people staying in the room, not exactly on a “room” basis. Children under the age of 12 are also charged according to their age and plan of stay. This is one of the major differences between the hotel and the general hotel. In addition, there are a few Japanese-style hotels that do not allow children to stay due to environmental and service quality considerations. For guests with children, you should have a general idea of the hotel’s child policy before booking.

The area of a Japanese room is usually measured in terms of the number of tatami mats, which is about 1.6 square meters. For example, if a room is marked as “10 tiles,” the room is about 16 square meters. This area does not include the entrance hall, bathroom, and other parts of the room, so the actual area of the room is larger than the marked figure.

Of course, the traditional ryokan is constantly evolving. In addition to traditional Japanese-style rooms, Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats and low beds have become another popular choice in recent years. This type of room enhances the comfort of living and is designed to meet the individual needs of guests.

About Kazuragi/onsen

When you think of ryokan, images of bathing in Japanese dramas come to mind. Yes, one of the biggest selling points of ryokan is the hot spring. However, it is important to note that a ryokan is not exactly the same as a hot spring hotel, and the availability of hot springs depends on the geological conditions of the area. For example, when we think of ryokan, the first thing we think of is Kyoto, and many people have a preconceived notion that Kyoto is a mecca for hot springs. But unfortunately, you are probably soaking in a “fake” hot spring. Because there is no natural hot spring in Kyoto except the Arashiyama area, the bathing facilities of ryokan are using ordinary hot water. Such a Japanese inn cannot be called a hot spring inn. In this regard, the laws in Japan are very well established, and the composition and temperature of hot springs are strictly defined, and those that are legally recognized as hot springs are given certificates and numbers.

Public bathing facilities in Japanese-style ryokan are open to residents free of charge, including large baths and public open-air baths. For families who wish to enjoy the hot spring together, private chartered ryokans are available to meet their needs. However, not all ryokans have private baths, and the fees and rates vary, so you should do your homework or consult with customer service when booking. Of course, if you have enough money, you may also want to try a superior room with an outdoor hot spring in the room.

Let’s talk about Japanese yukata. These lightweight kimonos called “YUKATA” can be used as more than just yukata or pajamas. When the weather is warm, you can change into it and move around the hotel and its surroundings in a lightweight manner. Women’s yukata, in particular, are often available in a wide variety of colors and can be worn beautifully, adding a lot of interest to your trip to Japan.

About the cuisine

Japanese ryokan culture can be summed up in four words: “Ichiban”. Here, “two meals” means dinner that night and breakfast the next day. For “foodies”, this is undoubtedly the most fun part of staying at a ryokan. Most ryokans offer “kaiseki cuisine” at dinner, which is prepared with seasonal ingredients (seafood, mountain treasures, vegetables and fruits), and a light and healthy traditional Japanese breakfast set for breakfast. Residents with food taboos can make specific requests at the time of booking, and the ryokan will respond as best as possible to the situation. Japanese inns are often very particular about the quality of their meals, and some can even achieve Michelin stars. Therefore, it is often more cost-effective to choose a plan that includes both breakfast and dinner.

Meals are usually served in a private room or restaurant, but some inns can deliver meals to your room.

I would like to highlight the difference between “Kaiseki cuisine” and “Kaiseki cuisine”. Both terms are pronounced “kaiseki” in Japanese, and the types of dishes and the form of cuisine are basically the same, but kaiseki cuisine has its origins in the tea ceremony, while kaiseki cuisine is a typical Japanese banquet cuisine with the theme of sake. The two are paired with different beverages, so they are still slightly different in flavor. We often see that some travelogues refer to kaiseki cuisine as kaiseki, or that kaiseki cuisine is higher class than kaiseki cuisine, and so on.

About the service

As a unique form of accommodation in Japan, the most distinctive feature of ryokan is the heartfelt hospitality that comes from the traditional Japanese spirit of service. When you arrive at a ryokan, you will be greeted by a female staff called “Shuuju” (NAKAI). The main purpose is to provide refreshments, introduce the hotel, and layout the bedding before checking in or after entering the room, and if you have any other requests, you can also get a good service through her. (No tips are required!) Whenever you go out, whether you have already left the hotel or just go out for a while, the attendant will stand at the door to see you off until you disappear from his sight.

English communication is mostly possible. In addition, Japanese contains a lot of Chinese characters, so guests can express their needs clearly by writing some keywords. In addition, most ryokan information is available in English or even Chinese, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to communicate.

Most of the ryokan are located in the natural scenic spots, so they are usually some distance from the station. If there is no bus stop nearby, there is usually a free shuttle service to the nearest station. You will need to call the front desk of the ryokan after arriving at the station to let them know. There are also some large hotels that offer regular shuttle buses, which you can book through customer service or by calling the hotel directly.

Whether you can get a travel visa  to enter Japan

In view of the current situation of the global spread of novel coronavirus infection, the Japanese government is strengthening border prevention and control measures. Foreigners are generally required to apply for a Japanese visa when visiting Japan

About the author

Francis Dimaano