One of the most interesting experiences to try in Japan is undoubtedly sleeping in a Ryokan accommodation. The Ryokan for the uninitiated is a traditional hotel Japanese whose style has remained unchanged (in part or completely) over time. This type of structure is believed to date back to the Edo era (1603-1868). The city of Kyoto and other cities in Japan are teeming with hotel accommodations or Bed and Brekfast of this type, attracting most of the tourists who want to experience 360 degrees within the Japanese culture, there is no better way to do it and there I immediately explain why.
What to expect in a Ryokan
The atmosphere inside a ryokan encourages reflection and relaxation . You have the feeling of being catapulted into another era, it is suggestive, and living inside the Ryokan makes you feel close to Japanese culture, you learn their customs and traditions of the past and present. The Japanese are a people very respectful of the rules and above all of other human beings, you should always keep your voice levels low at all times, out of respect for other guests, and what not to be underestimated you should not talk on your cell phone in public spaces or sharing (you should, in fact, try to do without it, put the silent or turn off your mobile phone directly during your stay), just think that even inside the subway or on the train it is forbidden to talk on the mobile phone or speak with a tone of high or moderate voice, as I wrote a few lines above, respect is the basis of everything in Japan. One could think of a ryokan structure as a wellness center or a refuge. AAAH a gem for you, in all Ryokan accommodations it is forbidden to enter with shoes, at the entrance of the structure, you will find a special locker shared with the other guests where you can leave your shoes and take advantage of the slippers that will be provided by the staff of the structure.
As for the Check-in / Check-out times, they are similar to those of a hotel (check-in around 15.00 and check-out around 11.00).
There is so much to explore and enjoy when staying in a Ryokan; enjoy the manicured gardens, savor carefully prepared meals, take one or more thermal baths and drink Japanese tea in relaxation in your room or in the shared areas. It might be a good idea to plan your stay for at least two nights if not more so that you can fully enjoy what the accommodation has to offer, as it is not an everyday experience anyway (alas, I would also stay here again. now at this time).
But now we come to the most curious point and perhaps not for everyone, what to expect inside a Ryokan room ?
First, don’t look for beds when you enter your Ryokan room, as there aren’t any. If you want beds with soft and fluffy mattresses, you can also cross the Ryokan experience off your travel list, perhaps this was the hardest part for me, most ryokans will let you sleep on the floor, i.e. on mattresses. futon, there are different qualities that happened to us certainly was not the best, because they were rigid awakenings. People with reduced mobility should inquire for accommodations that offer western style beds, they are also equipped for these eventualities. We can do the same for the bathroom, in most of the ryokans the bathrooms are shared as in the classic Ryokan accommodation the bathrooms are even outside the main house, so if you are like me and you want your own private bathroom, all to yourself, you can find out and check carefully before booking that your room has a private bathroom, The rooms are minimalist and have just the bare essentials, a simple wardrobe, a low table with ground-level chairs or simply chair-like cushions.
The other common areas are equally minimalist, you can enjoy a typical Japanese tea in the famous tea rooms, where the preparation of the drink takes place with a precise and elegant ceremony.
A pearl of the Ryokan accommodations are the thermal baths – the Onsen-.
Baths filled with natural thermal water are a big draw of the ryokan. It is said that the benefits of bathing in thermal water are numerous, from stimulating circulation to healing functions (if the water contains certain minerals). In Japan onsen are everywhere the Japanese have been enthusiastic spa bathers for hundreds of years. But you have to follow some rules, the etiquette regarding the bathroom in an onsen can surprise or even bewilder Western visitors. In short:
- It is necessary to wash before entering the thermal baths. The bathrooms are shared, so they need to stay clean. The Onsen changing room always features a shower area with soap and shampoo. Remember to rinse thoroughly and thoroughly after using the soap or shampoo.
- Be aware that you will be bathing naked, completely naked, and the chances are high that you will be bathing with strangers. Swimsuits are prohibited. You can use a towel to cover yourself until you reach the bathroom. This is usually the thing that makes Westerners the most uncomfortable. If you are not comfortable with the idea of immersing yourself with strangers, look for a Ryokan that also has private thermal baths, this way you will have total relaxation with your own privacy.
- Learn about the tattoo policy. In Japan, tattoos are often associated with organized crime, visitors who possess them may be banned from using shared bathrooms. It may sound discriminatory, but it’s best to be informed.
- Remember that the thermal baths are very hot. The water in an onsen is really, really hot. Water can naturally reach 100 degrees C, so you should only dive for short periods of time. I couldn’t bear to stay longer than a couple of minutes.
- Important: If you have any health problems or conditions that could make swimming in such hot water dangerous, stay away from the onsen.
- Behaving as a civilized person. Don’t take a drunk bath. Don’t take pictures. Don’t scream or run into the bathrooms. In short, do not behave like the usual tourist who does not respect the places in which he is, the Japanese are a truly respectful people and it is right to give the same respect.
Bottom line, if you are lucky enough to travel to Japan, I think you should make room in your schedule to book a Ryokan accommodation. It is a unique way to experience traditional Japanese rituals, enjoy the quiet beauty of Japanese architecture, and immerse yourself in everything that makes Japanese culture so rich and unique.
If you need more information about Japan you can find here:
- Everything you need to know about the Japan Rail Pass
- Kyoto – the ancient city – itinerary to discover
- Tokyo in 2 days – intense and short journey from the contemporary world to the ancient world
Have a good trip to all.