Nearby Tokyo talks to Oku-Nikko’s city’s local tourist office about things to do in the area, including attractions and local food!
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn. Although there are some urban ryokans, I recommend a ryokan in the Japanese countryside to fully immerse yourself in the calming atmosphere of your getaway.
Every ryokan in Japan is different, ranging from budget accommodation to luxury retreats. Most ryokans are family owned and operated, passed down through the generations. The ryokan where I stayed in Katashina Village was run by four generations of a family who lived onsite.
Expect to trade your shoes for slippers upon arrival to walk through the large entrance hall (perfect for socializing), then kick off your slippers to walk barefoot on the tatami-matted guestroom. Change into the provided yukata, which can be worn around the ryokan -a reminder to yourself that you’ve escaped the “real world” in favor of a relaxing holiday. Most ryokans provide futon-style beds, which are hidden away during the day and made up in the evening, but some offer Western- style beds, too.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Japan is home to the world’s oldest hotel. Founded in 705 AD, 52 generations of the same family have owned and operated Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan.
During the Edo Period (1603-1868), ryokans flourished as trade, religious pilgrimages and domestic tourism increased. Today, you’re likely to see a mix of domestic and foreign travelers if you visit a ryokan.
Google Translate says omotenashi means hospitality. But hospitality doesn’t capture the unique brand of Japanese hospitality, centered around caring for a guest without expectation of reciprocity.
If you’ve been in Japan for any amount of time, you’ve likely experienced this special kind of hospitality. While staying in a ryokan, you can expect to experience omotenashi on a whole new level, since you’re living under the same roof as your gracious hosts.
If you’re a foodie, you can stop reading right now and go book your stay at a ryokan. The kaiseki dinner experience is a multi-course meal, often consisting of local and foraged ingredients. Local specialties are deliciously prepared and beautifully presented.
Some ryokans serve meals heya-shoku (in the guest rooms), while others serve meals in a communal dining room. No matter where you eat, the meals are sure to be a highlight of your experience.
Once you’ve enjoyed your dinner, it’s time to wind down– and what better way than with a visit to the onsen (hot spring). Many ryokans have an onsen on the property, and this public bathing experience is how you’ll get clean during your stay, since most guest rooms have a toilet, but no shower.
Be sure to follow proper onsen etiquette for a relaxing experience in the mineral-rich waters.
Like any accommodation, price varies depending on location, amenities, and meals. According to the Japan Ryokan Association, the nightly fee per person ranges from ¥5,000 to ¥119,000.
Most ryokans charge per person instead of per room, and often include dinner and breakfast. When deciding on your budget, be sure to consider the cost of what you would have spent on meals if you stayed at a typical hotel in Japan.
Download our special PDF guide here to help you with your trip to Japan.
I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.
To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.
Contributor: Brittany Kulick
Brittany is the founder of The Sweet Wanderlust, a food and travel blog for people with a sweet tooth and a taste for adventure. She’s visited more than 60 countries and Japan is one of her favorites!
website: The Sweet Wanderlust