Home Article Page Contents

 
 
 

LHB Banner Ad 3

 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Our Charity Partners

Ultimate Travel Magazine proudly supports the following worthy causes.

Charity

read more

 
 
 
 

Romantic Getaways: The Japanese Ryokan Experience

By: Joanna Hall
 
 
Photography by Joanna Hall
 
 

For a truly authentic Japanese experience, there's nothing quite like spending a night in a traditional Japanese inn.

 

Visitors to Japan quickly discover something unusual about hotels when they are booking a room; many offer a choice between western, and traditional Japanese accommodation. The latter is a spin on the traditional ryokan, or Japanese inn, usually decked out with tatami mats, raised sleeping platforms and futon mattresses which are hidden away during the day to provide the occupant with a "living" space. But staying in a real ryokan embodies the very essence of Japan, and is an ideal way of embracing its culture and customs. There are over 58,000 of them scattered across the country, and 1,400 of these are quality establishments belonging to the Japan Ryokan Association. A ryokan experience goes way beyond sleeping a night in a room. It involves immersing yourself into Japanese customs, from leaving your shoes in the entry way of your room (so as not to damage the delicate tatami mats), and taking a hot spring bath, called an onsen, after dinner. A word of warning, though - many of the people working at ryokans do not speak English, but this just adds to the flavour of the authentic experience. Here's what I discovered on an overnight stay at one of Uji's famous ryokans, Hanayashiki.

 

The Room

 

After my luxurious western-style accommodation in Kyoto, my first impression of the room was definitely a culture shock. Ryokans in general bring new meaning to the word minimalist - just entering one feels like you are leaving the modern world behind and returning to a bygone era steeped in tradition rather than comfort. There's almost a religious feel to it, where the serenity forces you to drop the tone of your voice a notch or two. The room was spacious, warm, softly lit and ultimately spartan. In the middle of a floor adorned with a beautiful mosaic of beige coloured tatami mats, was a low level wooden table and two legless chairs with cushions - and that was basically it! But this isn't a room designed for lounging in front of a plasma screen TV, tapping away on a computer or making phone calls. It's an oasis away from the bustle of modern life, a place to relax and reconnect - and you don't need a lot of pretty furniture for that. The expansive view of the Uji River, the calming sound of running water, and the pink hue of early cherry blossoms outside the  window below quickly demands your attention.


Dining

 

Here you have options: you can choose to eat in the privacy of your room, in the restaurant, or if you are a group, in one of the ryokan's private rooms. In your room or a private room, the seating is traditional Japanese using a low level table and legless chairs with cushions. Once you get used to sitting on the floor, it's surprisingly comfortable, and you can sit either the way the Japanese do, with your feet tucked under you, or with your legs crossed. Dinner is a set-menu affair in typical Japanese style, with a focus on fish and vegetables. A large number of small courses are served over a period time, including miso soup, sashimi, steamed fish and tofu, hot pot, vegetables, rice and fresh fruit. The emphasis is on local, fresh produce, always freshly cooked and delicious.??Breakfast can be taken in your room or in the restaurant. It's also traditional Japanese featuring fish of some kind and rice among other things. And it's perfectly acceptable to wear your kimono.

 

Onsen

 

After dinner in a ryokan, it's commonplace to enjoy the onsen, or hot bath. Japan is famous for its hot springs which are underground springs which are warmed volcanically and rise to the surface naturally heated. Many ryokans cluster around these springs as they are used for therapeutic purposes as well as for relaxation. In some ryokans, however, the baths aren't derived from hot springs but simple large tubs. Although some ryokans provide an individual bath for each guest room, or for family use, mostly they are communal with separate ones for men and women. You go along in your kimono, remembering to bring the modesty towel from your room with you, and you undress in a dressing room before entering the bath. If you are not comfortable with nudity, it's acceptable to wear a swimsuit. There is a certain etiquette surrounding onsen in Japan. For one, it's customary to wash yourself before entering the tub. The bath is surrounded by a lot of washing stations, which commonly have a mirror, a hand-held shower head, soap, shampoo and a stool to sit on, and Japanese people usually wash themselves sitting down.


The Verdict

 

Spending one night at a ryokan offers visitors to Japan an opportunity to step back in time, embrace tradition and custom, and enjoy a multi-faceted slice of Japanese culture in one experience. It's a must for anyone who wants to experience the true essence of Japan.

 
 

Send Me More Info - I'm Okay To Be Contacted Directly By a 3rd Party

 
 

Send To A Friend - Share the Love!

SEND TO A FRIEND

Your Name * :
Your Email * :
Friend Name * :
Friend Email Address * :
Message :
security code
Please enter the text in the box *:
 
 

LATEST GALLERY

 
 

FEATURED DESTINATION

 
 
Winter Central Park (Tagger Yancey)
TheApollo_KateGlicksberg-0105
StGeorgeTheatre_JulienneSchaer_011
Article by:
 
It may be the coldest months of the year but New York City in January .....
 
 
 
 

LHB MedRec2

 
 
 

FAST FACTS

To find a ryokan in Japan, visit the Japan Ryokan Association at www.ryokan.or.jp.

 

 

 
 

SHARE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE

 
 

Newsletter Subscription

Subscribing to Ultimate Travel Magazine is FREE and gives you a range of benefits over casual visitors. For one, you will receive our monthly newsletter with travel tips and hints, but as a subscriber you will also have exclusive access to our regular competitions.

 

Don't be concerned about security - our subscriber list is 100% private. You won't be bombarded with emails from us or any third parties, as we don't sell your information to anyone.

 

After you've subscribed, you'll be automatically transferred to our home page and receive email confirmation.

 
 
 

Insure&Go

 
 
 

Competitions

Registered subscribers of Ultimate Travel Magazine have the chance to enter our range of fantastic competitions. Our competitions change every few months, and we can offer some great prizes raging from some of the latest books and beauty products, to must-have accessories.

 
 
 
 

Travel Deals & News