What is a Ryokan?
A trip to Japan is not complete without a stay in a traditional Japanese inn, also called a ryokan. You will be enveloped in Japanese tradition and culture, and be welcomed with warm Japanese hospitality. When you arrive at the ryokan, you take off your shoes at the entrance and put on the provided slippers. The slippers are used for walking around inside the ryokan, and you will take them off right after entering your room. Your regular shoes will be placed at the entrance for when you want to go outside. If you want to take a short walk near the ryokan, you may also take the ryokan sandals or ‘geta’ (wooden clogs) provided.
In the Room
After you check-in, you will follow the hostess to your room. When you get to your room, take your slippers off before you walk on the tatami (straw mats). You can only walk on the tatami with your socks or barefoot, not with your slippers.
Your room will have a tokoma (an alcove built into the wall used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls), a glass-enclosed sitting area separated by a shoji (sliding paper door), and several zabuton (cushions for sitting).
Your hostess will show you where to place your luggage. If it rains at night, please be sure to close the outside glass window. Usually, a maid will bring tea for you, and you can sit on the zabuton and relax.
During your stay, a yukata (robe) is provided for you. You can wear the yukata in your room, around the ryokan, and if you like you can wear it when you take a short walk near the ryokan. If it is cold, a tanzen (outer robe) will also be provided. You can wear the tanzen over the yukata.
Before dinner is a good time to take a bath. You may use the bath in your room or you may use the large public bath in the ryokan.
When you arrive at the public bath, you have to put all of your clothes into the baskets in the changing room. Take the small towel provided for you, and go into the bathing room.
The large public bath you will see is only for soaking your body. Cleaning your body is done in the bathing area outside the public bath. There will be small plastic stools, soap, shampoo, and a mirror provided for the guests.
When you have finished cleaning yourself and there is no soap left on your body, step into the public bath. If the public bath is unbearably hot, you can adjust the temperature a little by running cold water into it.
In the evening, the maid will serve your dinner in your room or you will eat in the dining room. When you have finished eating, the maid will clean your room and prepare the futon (quilt bedding) for you to sleep on. The front desk at a ryokan closes early. Be sure to confirm both the check-in and check-out times. It is also good to know that breakfast tends to be a bit early in Japanese-style hotels, sometimes ending at 8.30 am.