Ryokans

Ryokans are some of the oldest hotels in the world. As a matter of fact, the world’s first two hotels (ryokans) were opened in Japan, and they are still there today – the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (opened in 705 AD) and the Hōshi Ryokan (opened in 718 AD). If you are planning a trip to Japan, then it’s highly recommended you stay at one for at least one night. We will tell you where they are, how they work, what the costs are, and what to expect.

  • What is a ryokan?
  • What do they cost?
  • What is included?
  • Where are ryokans located?


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What is a ryokan?

A traditional Japanese ryokan from the outside.

A traditional Japanese ryokan from the outside.

A ryokan is similar to a Western hotel with a few major differences. It’s a traditional Japanese inn with matted tatami rooms where food may or may not be included. Also, there could be a communal bath, which is usually an onsen, or if you go for the really fancy (pricey) ones, you could have your very own private onsen. Oh, and feel free to wear a yukata (usually included) while staying at one. But more importantly, a ryokan is a place where you can experience living in an authentic traditional Japanese setting.


What do they cost?

If you thought that staying at one of these ryokans will cost less than a Western-style hotel, then be prepared to be disappointed. The average ryokan will cost slightly more than a standard hotel room. There are, of course, some that will be priced considerably lower and others that are extremely expensive, so it all depends on what kind of extras you want. Expect to pay somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 Yen ($150 to $250) per person per night at a standard ryokan.

Factors that play a role in the price of a ryokan include location, views, meals, and whether there is a private or communal onsen

The chances are that even standard facilities can be a little bit on the expensive side for most people, but it’s recommended to stay at one of these Japanese inns for at least one night during your travels.


What is included?

Forget about mini-bars and porn channels because, at a ryokan, you will be lounging around in a 100% cotton yakuta while dining on quality Japanese food and soaking in mineral-rich onsens. Here is what you can expect when staying at one of these Japanese ryokans.

A typical ryokan style room.

A typical ryokan style room.

Beautiful rooms

If you like traditional Japanese homes, complete with tatami mats, kotatsu, sliding doors, and futons, then you will love staying at a ryokan. Just remember that conventional Japanese customs apply during your stay, and this includes removing your shoes at the entrance and putting the provided slippers on before walking in.


A typical meal you can expect during your stay at a ryokan.

A typical meal you can expect during your stay at a ryokan. Photo by Choi Ben.

Traditional Japanese meals

Most of the standard conventional inns will provide breakfast and dinner during your stay. Some don’t offer this, so it’s best to check beforehand. Meals are traditional home-cooked Japanese food and can include anything from sashimi and full course kaiseki meals.


A communal onsen at a ryokan.

A communal onsen at a ryokan.

Private / communal onsens

When staying at a ryokan, you will have an onsen at your disposal that you can use as often as you like. In most cases, they are communal, so they will have to be shared with other guests. Some of the higher-end ryokans will include your very own personal onsen in the price. Just remember that standard onsen etiquette rules apply when the onsen in question is communal.


Where are ryokans located?

Finding a ryokan within Japanese city limits is hard because there are so few of them located in the cities. The best place to find them is outside cities – usually in the countrysides or smaller towns. Choose from the list of prefectures below to see a list of available ryokans.

HOKKAIDOTOHOKUKYUSHUKANTO
HokkaidoAomoriFukuokaIbaraki
CHUBUIwateMiyazakiTochigi
NiigataMiyagiNagasakiGunma
ToyamaAkitaKumamotoSaitama
IshikawaYamagataKagoshimaChiba
FukuiFukushimaSagaTokyo
YamanashiKANSAIOitaKanagawa
NaganoMieOkinawaCHUGOKU
GifuShigaSHIKOKUTottori
ShizuokaKyotoTokushimaShimane
AichiOsakaKagawaOkayama
HyogoEhimeHiroshima
NaraKochiYamaguchi
Wakayama

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