If you’re heading to Tokyo and want to experience traditional Japanese culture, staying at a ryokan is a great option. Ryokans are Japanese-style inns that offer a unique and authentic experience, with tatami floors, futon bedding, and traditional Japanese meals.
In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about staying in a ryokan in Tokyo, from what to expect to booking and etiquette. You’ll discover the best ryokans in Tokyo, with recommendations for different budgets and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious and modern ryokan or a more traditional and rustic experience.
What is a Ryokan?
If you’re heading to Japan, you might have heard of a “ryokan”. But what exactly is a ryokan? Simply put, a ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn. Originally, ryokans were mainly along the ancient road that connects Kyoto and Tokyo, the Tokaido Highway. Samurai and merchants traveled this route and needed accommodations along the way.
Today, ryokans can be found all over Japan and offer a unique and authentic experience for travelers. They are typically small, family-run establishments with just a few rooms, but some are large hotel-like facilities with hundreds of rooms. No matter the size, ryokans offer a glimpse into Japan’s rich culture and hospitality, known as omotenashi.
When you stay at a ryokan, you’ll be treated to a traditional Japanese-style room with tatami flooring and futon beds. Some ryokans also offer Western-style beds for those who prefer them. You’ll also often have access to communal baths, or “onsen”, which are a quintessential part of Japanese culture. These baths are usually separated by gender and offer a relaxing soak in hot mineral water.
Why Stay in a Ryokan in Tokyo?
One of the main reasons to stay in a ryokan is to experience the traditional Japanese culture and hospitality. From the moment you step into a ryokan, you’ll be greeted with warm welcomes and impeccable service. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in Japanese customs and traditions, such as removing your shoes before entering your room and wearing a yukata, a cotton kimono-like garment.
Another reason to stay in a ryokan is the opportunity to relax and unwind. Many ryokans offer hot springs, or onsen, which are believed to have therapeutic properties. Soaking in an onsen can help relieve stress, soothe sore muscles, and improve circulation. Additionally, ryokans typically offer traditional Japanese cuisine, which is not only delicious but also healthy and nutritious.
Ryokans can also be great when traveling with kids as it’s much easier to throw an extra futon on the tatami floor than it is to organize extra bedding in a standard hotel.
Staying in a ryokan can also be a great way to experience Tokyo’s history and culture. Many ryokans are in historic neighborhoods, such as Asakusa and Yanaka, where you can explore traditional Japanese architecture and visit temples and shrines. Some ryokans even offer cultural activities, such as tea ceremonies and ikebana (flower arranging).
Overall, staying in a ryokan in Tokyo can provide a unique and authentic experience that you won’t find anywhere else. From the warm hospitality to the traditional customs and relaxing hot springs, a ryokan stay can be a highlight of your trip to Tokyo.
Choosing the Right Ryokan for You
Choosing the perfect ryokan for your stay in Tokyo can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With a little bit of research and consideration, you can find the ryokan that is just right for you.
First, consider your budget. Ryokans can range from budget-friendly to luxury, so decide how much you are willing to spend. Keep in mind that many ryokans include meals and other amenities in their rates, so factor that into your budget as well.
Next, think about the location. Do you want to be in the heart of the city, or would you prefer a quieter, more traditional neighborhood? Consider what activities you have planned and what areas of the city you want to explore.
Another important factor to consider is the type of room and amenities offered. Do you want a traditional tatami room or a more modern Western-style room? Do you want a private bathroom or are you comfortable using shared facilities? Do you want access to an onsen or other spa facilities?
Top Tokyo Ryokans To Stay
If you’re heading to Tokyo and looking for a unique and traditional experience, staying at a ryokan should be at the top of your list. Here’s a few of the top ryokans in Tokyo to consider:
Hoshinoya Tokyo is a luxury ryokan in the Otemachi area of Tokyo. This ryokan offers spacious and elegant rooms with traditional Japanese decor, including tatami floors and shoji screens. The ryokan also features a communal bath and a rooftop hot spring with sweeping views of the city.
Ryokan Sansuiso is a traditional and more down-to-earth, Japanese-style ryokan in the Shinagawa Ward of Tokyo. This ryokan offers simple and cozy rooms with tatami floors and futon beds. The ryokan also features a communal bath and a garden where You can relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Suimeisou is a ryokan in Hakone, about two hours from Tokyo by train. This ryokan offers traditional Japanese-style rooms with tatami floors and futon beds, as well as rooms with private hot springs. The ryokan also features a communal bath and a garden with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.
And this is just a sample of the top ryokans in Tokyo to consider. Each ryokan offers a unique and authentic Japanese experience that you won’t find in a traditional hotel. Whether you’re looking for luxury or simplicity, there’s a ryokan in Tokyo that’s perfect for you.
What to Expect During Your Stay
Staying at a Tokyo ryokan is a unique experience that offers a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture. Here are some things you can expect during your stay:
- Slippers: Upon entering the ryokan, you will be asked to remove your shoes and put on a pair of slippers provided by the staff. You will wear these slippers throughout the building, except in your room and in the bathroom.
- Tatami Mats: Your room will likely be furnished with tatami mats, which are traditional Japanese straw mats. You will be asked to remove your slippers before stepping onto the tatami.
- Futon: Instead of a bed, you will sleep on a futon, which is a thin mattress placed directly on the tatami. The futon will be laid out for you by the staff while you are out enjoying the ryokan’s facilities.
- Yukata: You will be provided with a yukata, which is a lightweight cotton robe, to wear around the ryokan. It’s customary to wear the yukata to dinner and breakfast.
- Baths: One of the highlights of staying at a ryokan is the communal bath. Most ryokans have separate male and female baths, and you will be expected to bathe naked. Don’t worry, though – the bath area is private and there are usually signs indicating when the bath is for men or women.
- Kaiseki Dinner: Dinner at a ryokan is usually a multi-course kaiseki meal, which is a traditional Japanese haute cuisine. The meal is often served in your room, and the dishes are beautifully presented and meticulously prepared.
Overall, staying at a Tokyo ryokan is a relaxing and memorable experience that offers a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture. Be sure to follow the ryokan’s rules and customs, and you’ll have a great time!
Etiquette Tips for Staying in a Ryokan
Staying in a ryokan is a unique and exciting experience that you won’t want to miss during your trip to Tokyo. However, it’s important to keep in mind that ryokans are traditional Japanese inns with their own set of customs and etiquette. Here are some tips to help you navigate your stay:
- Arrival Time: Make sure to arrive on time for your check-in. It’s considered impolite to keep your hosts waiting. If you’re running late, be sure to call ahead and let them know.
- Shoes: Remove your shoes before entering your room or any other designated area. Most Ryokans provide slippers for indoor use.
- Yukata: A yukata is a traditional Japanese robe that is often provided for guests to wear during their stay. You don’t have to wear it but it is fun to put it on when walking around your Ryokan.
- Meals: Dinner and breakfast are usually included in your stay and served at specific times. It’s important to arrive on time and not keep your hosts waiting. Also, be sure to try all the dishes served and thank your hosts for the meal.
- Bathing: Many ryokans have communal baths, or onsens, where You can relax and unwind. It’s important to follow the proper etiquette, such as washing yourself thoroughly before entering the bath and not bringing any towels or soap into the water.
- Quiet Hours: Ryokans are known for their peaceful and quiet atmosphere. Be considerate of other guests and keep noise to a minimum during designated quiet hours. Some also have curfews, so if you are planning to party the night away in Kabuki-cho then perhaps some other Tokyo Accommodation options would be better.
By following these simple etiquette tips, you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the traditional Japanese experience of staying in a ryokan. Enjoy your stay!
The Sum Up
When choosing a ryokan, consider the location, amenities, and price. Do you want to be in the heart of the city or in a more quiet, traditional area? Do you want a hot spring bath or a garden view? And how much are you willing to spend?
Once you’ve chosen your ryokan, be sure to follow the proper etiquette. Remove your shoes at the entrance, wear your yukata around the ryokan, and be respectful of the staff and other guests. And most importantly, enjoy the experience!