I was always dreaming about visiting Japan, as I’m a huge fan of technology, big cities, sushi, and J-pop! Last summer was an exciting one cause I had a chance to make some of my dreams come true. I have visited Hawaii Islands and…Japan! This unique, exciting, beautiful and full of secrets place become my home for two long weeks. I had not only chance to visit big Tokyo but also other famous places like Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima or small Japanese towns. As an hotelier, my primary goal was to discover and learn more about famous Japanese hospitality not only in the biggest and the most luxurious hotels but also in small ones like Ryokan. In almost every big Japanese city hotels are belonging to the largest international chains like Hilton, Sheraton, Marriott and Japanese brands like Okura. These are mostly very luxurious properties where one night in the most expensive room costs a lot of money. But if you travel on a budget or would like to have an adventure you can stay in a famous capsule hotel. However while asking some foreign tourists in Japan for their hotel preferences, they were all recommending me remain in Ryokan, which is a type of traditional Japanese Inn, which you can find in almost every Japanese city. This is a unique place where you can learn about Japanese hospitality.
Ryokans, are simply the best places where you can experience the power of tradition, history and to taste some of the best Japanese dishes. I had a unique opportunity to stay at small and family owned Ryokan located in the old district of Kyoto. This beautiful Inn was located in the wooden house arranged in a real Japanese style. The building was massive and vast and had around 30 rooms for 2, 3 or 4 people staying in. While checking in, I had a privilege to meet the mother of the owner who is taking care of this family business for more than 30 years. In the Ryokan, you can also meet her husband and her son with his wife working there.
Home sweet home!
After quick and efficient checking-in we were asked to leave our shoes in a big wardrobe and to use very comfortable hotel’s flip-flops. This made me feel like in a home far away from home 🙂
The next surprise in our Ryokan were rooms numbers or even the lack of number! Instead of typical numbers, we had stunning names such as “Cherry Blossom Room,” “Rose Room” or “Chrysanthemum Room” which was the place where I had a chance to sleep. This beautiful idea is much more interesting than in a typical hotel and works best for small Ryokans as flowers always remind us of something pleasant and friendly.
My room was located on the 1st floor and very extremely spacious, bright and had a secret exit to the small terrasse located on the roof of which I had a view of the whole building and area. Thanks to the lack of skyscrapers in the area we can feel there like in a village in the heart of Kyoto.
If you ask me for my room’s equipment, I have to admit that it had all that 21st century’s person need to survive 🙂 TV, Air Conditioner, electric kettle, hairdryer, and towels. To be honest, you can’t even find time to watch TV while in Ryokan cause discovering this fascinating building took me whole my evening.
The other element that made me feel at Ryokan like at my own home were Tatami, a type of mat used in traditional Japanese rooms. You were walking on them with bare feet which were very comfortable and enjoyable. I wish I could tell you something more about beds, but not in my room neither in any other there were no typical beds 🙂 Instead of them we were sleeping on Futons which are traditional Japanese beddings. This bedding set consists of a mattress and duvet which you can just put away from your rooms during the day and quickly prepare for a night. Before you will stay at Ryokan make sure that you are ok sleeping on a floor because I know that some of the people had problems falling asleep. Personally, I like hard mattresses, so I enjoyed that night 🙂
As for pajamas, we could sleep in yukatas that were available for all the guests in their rooms.
Everyone who imagines standard house amenities in this Japanese type of place might be a little bit disappointed. You won’t find a lot of chairs or tables. Residents and guests usually sit on the floor using pillows. Honestly, you can quickly adapt to it and even like it 🙂
Usually, in your rooms price at the Ryokan, you have a breakfast and dinner included.
During my stay, in the evening we were invited to the main rooms were delicious dinner served. We had a chance to participate in a real Japanese feast with sake 🙂 In our bento box, we had rice, tempura shrimp, grilled fish, vegetables, miso soup and some Japanese snacks that I don’t even know. Everything was so delicious that I could have such a dinner every evening during whole my life. Warm sake served at the end was simple and fantastic ending to this day full of adventures 🙂
As I’m used to stay at hotels where the walls are thick here, I couldn’t believe there is a just a think piece of wood that separates us from neighbors. The rest of the guests as well as me and my family we all respect the privacy of others and were murmuring. There was a significant advantage of such a calm environment – we all went to sleep early and without any problems (which is a luxury for me cause I always have problems falling asleep). In the morning I woke up very early and went to grab breakfast. A night spent in a wooden house without any additional concrete, iron and too many electric devices was relaxing, and I felt much healthier. You could feel like sleeping in the middle of the forest.
I recommend to all of you a night in Ryokan if you want to experience something different from a luxurious hotel. This is also an essential thing to do for anyone who wants to experience Japanese hospitality.