Discover the Charm: Top 5 Reasons to Stay at a Traditional Japanese Ryokan

Geishas in Tokyo, Japan.
Geishas in Tokyo, Japan.

Ryokan: Japan’s Classic, Historic Places to Rest Your Head

Traditional dining in a Japanese Ryokan. Max Hartshorne photos.
Traditional dining in a Japanese Ryokan. Max Hartshorne photos.

By Oscar Davis

Imagine yourself stepping into a place where traditional practices mix with contemporary comforts, where courtesy is art, and every moment presents a chance to engage with the rich cultural heritage. That is the soul of a traditional Japanese inn, the Ryokan.

A Ryokan stay is a fantastic adventure starting with the exotic cultural engagements and authentic gastronomy, followed by the warm welcome, peaceful surroundings around Futon beds, and the relaxing hot springs.

I was lucky to be able to stay in a very authentic ryokan in Northern Japan where everything was in Japanese and it took a bit for me to get the hang of the tatami mat and futon on the floor.

Japanese’ Famous Welcoming Hospitality

Kindness and hospitality are always present in a usual Ryokan, thus making it a bastion. In Japan, this is called Omotenashi, meaning the absolute dedication of hosts to guests throughout the period.

Traditional Japanese dolls in a doll museum.
Traditional Japanese dolls in a doll museum.

On entry, you are welcomed by smiley staff with a warm welcome, which puts you in a pleasant environment immediately. Ryokan hospitality focuses on predicting and meeting all your needs to ensure a peaceful and restful stay. This goes beyond offering service through a deeply spiritual approach that leaves a lasting impression of the best hospitality in Japan.

To start developing the theme of hospitality, Nakai-san must be remembered. This spirit is reflected through Nakai, who ensures that all guests are welcome in the ryokan. Their work is not confined to checking guests in and out. Instead, they coordinate everything that the guest needs during his or her stay to ensure a hassle-free stay.

Nakai-san understands the fine details of Japanese etiquette and makes it easy for strangers to adjust to Ryokan life. These help people understand Tea parties, Kaiseki cuisines, and onsen baths. Nakai-san enhances the experience of staying in one Ryokan with a whole new cultural experience.

Coffee and a treat in a ryokan in Japan.
Coffee and a treat in a ryokan in Japan.

Authentic Kaiseki Cuisines

After a cordial and somewhat formal hospitality reception, we head to lunch. Kaiseki, a traditional Japanese culinary art form, represents the pinnacle of ‘washoku’, Japanese cuisine.

This multi-course dining experience is well-known for its meticulous preparation, seasonal freshness, and elegant presentation.

Japanese have ensured their meals have textures and tastes that match well. Central to this culinary tradition is the harmonious interplay of the five basic tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

Although the first four tastes are familiar to everyone, people are not used to the fifth one. In fact, umami makes a dish much more filling. It is commonly used as an ingredient in soy sauce, miso soup, and dashi stock, which are fundamental for the savouriness of various Japanese cuisines. That’s certainly a taste worth sampling! 

Peaceful Natural Settings

Shirakawa Ono Gun Hatatoni, Japan, a famous historic site.
Shirakawa Ono Gun Hatatoni, Japan, a famous historic site.

In the afternoon, it’s time to take a walk and enjoy the picturesque Japanese landscapes. Natural settings that are tranquil offer an escape from the busyness of daily life. Tired hearts find rest in these soothing places covered with greens and relaxing waters. Such places give you a way of getting in touch again with the world’s calmness and self-healing.

You can swim in streams, feel the rush of wind through the woods, and listen to songs by small birds. It freshens the senses and clears the mind. Nature has a beautiful, untouched majesty that causes wonderment and curiosity. It is perfect for relaxation, meditation, and recharging.

In Shirakawa.
In Shirakawa.

Undoubtedly, it is worth taking a few pictures if you encounter something completely fresh and wonderful, like Japanese nature. Even if you are not skilled in photography, you can always use any popular AI picture editor to make your images look great.

 Soaking in the Onsen

What about soaking in the warm water after an eventful day? Nothing beats the warm embrace of natural hot springs – Onsen in Japan – as far as relaxation and rejuvenation are concerned. In a traditional Japanese ryokan, these therapeutic hot springs form part of the hotel services.

Japanese people believe that soaking in onsen waters can have various health benefits, including relaxation, improved blood circulation, relief from muscle and joint pain, and smoother skin. The onsen visit is often different depending on the season. Winter snowy landscapes provide a warm, intimate tone. Spring and autumn have more beautiful scenery and moderate weather for outdoor bathing.

Simple futon bedding in a Japanese ryokan.
Simple futon bedding in a Japanese ryokan.

Restful Slumber on Futon Beds  

Finally, we’ll get some sleep at the end of the day. A refreshing traveling experience begins with a peaceful night’s sleep, and this is exactly what to expect when you go for a traditional Japanese Ryokan, where you’ll sleep on comfortable futon beds.

One of the main advantages of futon beds is their versatility. They are ideal for small living spaces, such as apartments or studio apartments, where saving space is crucial. Ryokan normally consists of futons on tatami mats as opposed to traditional styled western beds.

A good night’s sleep is what your futon bed delivers; sleeping on a firm surface like a futon can promote good posture and spinal alignment, which some believe can alleviate back pain and improve overall health. 

We hope you found our short text trip to the hotel interesting. Embark on an extraordinary journey as you choose a Traditional Japanese Ryokan for your next adventure. These enchanting accommodations are your gateway to the very essence of Japan – its culture and unspoiled natural beauty.

oscar davis unsmushed


Oscar Davis is a freelance writer from Leeds, UK. 

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One thought on “Discover the Charm: Top 5 Reasons to Stay at a Traditional Japanese Ryokan

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