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GUIDE Japanese Ryokan Guide Ryokan often have hot spring baths for guests to enjoy

Ryokan, traditional Japanese inns, offer more than just a place to stay

Japan's famed omotenashi (hospitality) is at the cornerstone of this accommodation experience. Potentially the oldest form of hotel in the world, Japan's ryokan are said to date back to the 8th century. These accommodations are imbued with Japanese tradition, making staying at one a memorable and cultural experience.

Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns found throughout the country

What to expect

Japanese ryokan can range from the traditional to modern, from sprawling resort to private villa retreat, onsen ryokan to urban establishment. Common elements to this most quintessential of Japanese accommodation, however, are tatami flooring, futon bedding, private baths (sometimes outdoor), yukata robes, sumptuous in-house kaiseki multi-course dinners, and a traditional Japanese breakfast.

For some visitors to Japan, a stay at an authentic ryokan, offering the chance to experience local hospitality and personalized omotenashi customer service, is the most anticipated highlight of their visit.

Multi-course meals are a big part of the ryokan experience

Ryokan etiquette

A ryokan stay, with its emphasis on Japanese customs and procedures, may seem intimidating for the non-initiated. However, the staff is welcoming and ready to allay concerns. The purpose of your stay is relaxation, after all. Japanese customs, such as removing your shoes indoors, taking an onsen bath and wearing a yukata, a cotton kimono-like robe donned by ryokan guests, will all be explained.

A ryokan stay typically includes a kaiseki ryori (formal, multi-course) dinner and traditional Japanese breakfast the next morning. Your meticulously presented meals will be cooked using local, seasonal ingredients and, depending on the ryokan, presented in either a communal eating hall or in your room. Some ryokan offer stays without meals, but the chance to dine in-house is considered an essential part of the experience.

Most ryokan have an onsen and many have a beautiful Japanese garden, too

Embrace authentic Japan

Some of Japan's more deluxe ryokan are renowned for their traditional architecture and landscaped garden settings. As a ryokan guest, you will be invited to don geta or zori slippers and a yukata gown to wander your landscaped surroundings. Expect to see stone arrangements, water features, artfully positioned plants and shrubs and the occasional Japanese teahouse.

Ryokan stays are priced per person, per room, with meals usually included. The average price of a ryokan stay hovers around the 15,000 yen per night mark, but at high-end establishments prices will charge more." Ryokan are located all over Japan, from prestigious establishments in the old capitals of Nara and Kyoto to mountain resort and onsen ryokan in the hills of Nagano to contemporary resorts in Tokyo.

For more information go to Japan Ryokan and Hotel Association www.ryokan.or.jp

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