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 the 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 at some locations. Changing into these comfortable garments allows guests to start to enjoy the ryokan character.
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.