Ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) offer the best in food, service, and traditional atmosphere. These unique, Japanese-style inns allow guests to appreciate the traditional culture of Japan and follow the same traditions that have been practiced for hundreds of years. Some of the earliest ryokans were located on the Tokaido Highway, which connected the military capital in Tokyo and Imperial Palace in Kyoto. It was a very busy highway as daimyos (feudal lords), samurai, traders, and others made their way between these two cities. Ryokans began to appear along this and other highways beginning early in the 17th century to welcome these weary travelers who needed rest before continuing on their long journey.
Upon your arrival at a ryokan you will be provided with a Yukata (cotton kimonos) for use in your room and around the ryokan. It is even acceptable to wear these outside of the ryokan. Changing into these comfortable garments allows guests to start to enjoy the ryokan mood.
During the day, guest rooms serve as the living room where you may enjoy chatting over tea and a Japanese sweet (both of which you will normally find in your room), or just relaxing in your yukata. Some ryokans have legless chairs that allow comfortable seating. A pair of regular chairs and a small table are typically found in your room as well. At bedtime, your guest room undergoes a transformation into a bedroom. Your warm and comfortable futon mattress is spread out on the tatami floor by a maid.
Traditional Japanese food, featured at ryokans, has a well-earned reputation for being healthy, delicious, and served with a wonderful presentation. During your ryokan visit, your palate - as well as your senses - are in for a treat. Meals of local specialties are set according to the season and are served "Kaiseki" style, which means there are many dishes with smaller portions instead of one main entree.
All ryokans provide bathing facilities. Nothing feels better after a long day of sightseeing! Bathing in Japan has a thousand-year history and offers guests an experience they won't soon forget. The Japanese bath is traditionally enjoyed communally in a large bath or sometimes in a small wooden tub for one or two bathers, with separate facilities for men and women. Some ryokans offer "family" baths that can be locked-off and used by a single family. Hot spring ryokans (onsen) are equipped with a variety of waters that are believed to be effective for a host of ills. Some ryokans also feature outdoor baths or rooftop baths with beautiful views.
We have compiled a list of our favorite ryokans, with photographs and descriptions.