Ryokan (inn)

Last updated
A room in the Tamatsukuri Onsen Tamatsukuri onsen yado02s3648.jpg
A room in the Tamatsukuri Onsen
Ryokan (Arima Onsen) Arima Onsen Gosho-bessho02s5s4272.jpg
Ryokan (Arima Onsen)
Ryokan interior, hallway Ryokan interior, hallway.jpg
Ryokan interior, hallway
Ryokan interior, door and stairs Ryokan interior, door and stairs.jpg
Ryokan interior, door and stairs

A ryokan ( 旅館 ) [lower-alpha 1] is a type of traditional Japanese inn that typically features tatami -matted rooms, communal baths, and other public areas where visitors may wear yukata and talk with the owner. [1] Ryokan have existed since the eighth century A.D. during the Keiun period, which is when the oldest hotel in the world, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, was created in 705 A.D. Another old ryokan called Hōshi Ryokan was founded in 718 A.D. and was also known as the world's second oldest hotel. Such inns also served travelers along Japan's highways.


Ryokan are difficult to find in Tokyo and other large cities because many are often much more expensive compared to modern hotels and hostels. As elsewhere in the world, hotels have become a standard in Japanese urban tourism. Nonetheless, some major cities do offer ryokan with competitive rates. Traditional ryokan are more commonly found in scenic rural areas, [2] and in recent years, many ryokan have been redeveloped to their original style, particularly by resort chains Hoshino Resorts, whose first ryokan opened in Karuizawa in 1914. [3]


A typical ryokan has a relatively large entrance hall, with couches and chairs where guests can sit and talk; a modernized ryokan often has a television in the hall as well. Guest rooms are constructed using traditional Japanese methods: flooring is tatami, and doors are sliding doors. Even if the inn uses hinged doors for security, it usually opens into a small entranceway where guests can take off their shoes before stepping onto the tatami floor, which would be separated by a sliding door. Many ryokan rooms also feature a porch or balcony, also set off with a sliding door.

Almost all ryokan feature common bathing areas or ofuro, usually segregated by gender, using the water from a hot spring ( onsen ) if any are nearby. (Areas with natural hot springs tend to attract high concentrations of ryokan). High-end ryokan may provide private bathing facilities as well. Typically ryokan provide guests with a yukata to wear; they might also have games such as table tennis, and possibly geta that visitors can borrow for strolls outside.

Bedding is a futon spread out on the tatami floor. When guests first enter their room, they usually find a table and some supplies for making tea. The table is also used for meals when guests take them in their room. While guests are out, staff (usually called nakai ) will move the table aside and set out the futon.


A traditional breakfast at a Kyoto ryokan Breakfast at Tamahan Ryokan, Kyoto.jpg
A traditional breakfast at a Kyoto ryokan

Most ryokan offer dinner and breakfast, which are often included in the price of the room. Most visitors take their meals at the ryokan, which usually promote themselves on the quality of their food. Meals typically consist of traditional Japanese cuisine known as kaiseki , which features seasonal and regional specialties. (Kaiseki originally referred to light meals served during a tea ceremony, and today refers to a meal consisting of a number of small, varied dishes.) Some ryokan instead serve local specialties such as basashi or food cooked in an irori hearth. In order for each dish to be enjoyed at the proper temperature, ryokan stress that guests should be punctual for their meals. For this reason, most ryokan ask guests to confirm the time they want to take their meals.

Some ryokan have a communal dining area, but most serve meals in the guests' rooms. Ryokan which are likely to serve non-Japanese guests may also have a selection of Western food.


Minshuku ( 民宿 ) are a low-budget version of ryokan, roughly equivalent to a British boarding house or a bed and breakfast. The facilities are similar to a hotel or may simply consist of spare rooms in a family home. Minshuku often serve as the only type of accommodation in towns or villages too small to warrant a dedicated hotel or ryokan. The overall experience is much the same, but the food is simpler, dining may be optional and is often communal, rooms don't usually have a private toilet, and guests may have to lay out their own bedding.

See also

Related Research Articles

Hotel Establishment that provides lodging paid on a short-term basis

A hotel is an establishment that provides paid lodging on a short-term basis. Facilities provided inside a hotel room may range from a modest-quality mattress in a small room to large suites with bigger, higher-quality beds, a dresser, a refrigerator and other kitchen facilities, upholstered chairs, a flat screen television, and en-suite bathrooms. Small, lower-priced hotels may offer only the most basic guest services and facilities. Larger, higher-priced hotels may provide additional guest facilities such as a swimming pool, business centre, childcare, conference and event facilities, tennis or basketball courts, gymnasium, restaurants, day spa, and social function services. Hotel rooms are usually numbered to allow guests to identify their room. Some boutique, high-end hotels have custom decorated rooms. Some hotels offer meals as part of a room and board arrangement. In the United Kingdom, a hotel is required by law to serve food and drinks to all guests within certain stated hours. In Japan, capsule hotels provide a tiny room suitable only for sleeping and shared bathroom facilities.

Japanese cuisine Culinary traditions of Japan

Japanese cuisine encompasses the regional and traditional foods of Japan, which have developed through centuries of political, economic, and social changes. The traditional cuisine of Japan is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes; there is an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Side dishes often consist of fish, pickled vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Seafood is common, often grilled, but also served raw as sashimi or in sushi. Seafood and vegetables are also deep-fried in a light batter, as tempura. Apart from rice, a staple includes noodles, such as soba and udon. Japan also has many simmered dishes such as fish products in broth called oden, or beef in sukiyaki and nikujaga.

Japanese tea ceremony Traditional Japanese ceremony

Japanese tea ceremony is a Japanese cultural activity involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (抹茶), powdered green tea, the art of which is called (o)temae ([お]手前/[お]点前).

<i>Yukata</i> Casual summer kimono

A yukata is an unlined cotton summer kimono, worn in casual settings such as summer festivals and to nearby bathhouses. Originally worn as bathrobes, their modern use is much broader, and are a common sight in Japan during summer. Though yukata are traditionally indigo and white in colour, modern yukata commonly feature multicoloured designs, and are designed to be machine washable. They are similar in appearance to the nemaki, a unisex short-sleeved kimono-like garment worn by guests at traditional inns.


In Japan, onsen  (温泉) are the country's hot springs and the bathing facilities and traditional inns around them. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands.

Capsule hotel Japanese hotels with small bed-sized rooms

A capsule hotel, also known in the Western world as a pod hotel, is a type of hotel developed in Japan that features many small bed-sized rooms known as capsules. Capsule hotels provide cheap, basic overnight accommodation for guests who do not require or who cannot afford larger, more expensive rooms offered by more conventional hotels.

Kinosaki, Hyōgo

Kinosaki was a town in Kinosaki District, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.

Room service Hotel service

Room service or in-room dining is a hotel service enabling guests to choose items of food and drink for delivery to their hotel room for consumption. Room service is organised as a subdivision within the food and beverage department of high-end hotel and resort properties. It is uncommon for room service to be offered in hotels that are not high-end, or in motels. Room service may also be provided for guests on cruise ships. Room service may be provided on a 24-hour basis or limited to late night hours only. Due to the cost of customized orders and delivery of room service, prices charged to the patron are typically much higher than in the hotel's restaurant or tuck shop, and a gratuity is expected.

<i>Washitsu</i> Japanese room with tatami flooring

A washitsu (和室), meaning "Japanese-style room(s)", and frequently called a "tatami room" in English, is a Japanese room with traditional tatami flooring. Washitsu also usually have sliding doors (fusuma), rather than hinged doors between rooms. They may have shōji and, if the particular room is meant to serve as a reception room for guests, it may have a tokonoma.

Wakura Onsen Hot springs resort town in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

Wakura Onsen (和倉温泉) is a hot spring (onsen) resort on the edge of Nanao Bay at the base of the Noto Peninsula in Nanao, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. It's one of several well-known, high-end onsen resorts in Japan.

Takanoyu Onsen

Takanoyu Onsen (鷹の湯温泉) is one of several hot springs in the Akinomiya Hot Spring Resort area of the city of Yuzawa, in southern Akita Prefecture. The onsen is nestled in a small gorge along the banks of the Yakunai River. Because of its secluded location, it is referred to as a Hitou, or hidden hot spring.

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Hot spring hotel in Hayakawa, Yamanashi, Japan

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (西山温泉慶雲館) is a hot spring hotel in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Founded in 705 AD by Fujiwara Mahito, it is a long-established business (shinise) as the oldest hotel and perhaps the oldest company in operation after Kongō Gumi was acquired in 2006. In 2011, the hotel was recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest hotel in the world.

Sakan Ryokan

Sakan Ryokan or "Hotel Sakan" (ホテル佐勘) is an historic ryokan located in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. The inn is over 1,000 years old, and is located within the spa resort named "Akiu Spa," which has four communal onsen (baths) that are supplied by natural hot springs. The hot springs are one of the three oldest ones in Japan, and are located near the Natori River. The inn was originally started by a man named Kanzaburo Satoh, whom the inn is named after. Ownership of the inn has been handed down to Satoh's descendants for 34 generations. It is located next to the 400 year old Iwanumaya Hotel.

Hoshino Resorts Japan-based resort hotel operator

Hoshino Resort Co., Ltd. is a Japan-based international operator of ryokan with its head office in Karuizawa, Nagano. Founded in 1904 by Kuniji Hoshino as a forestry business in Karuizawa, in the Japanese Alps, it opened its first hot spring resort in 1914.

Niki Nakayama is a Japanese-American chef and the owner of Michelin-starred n/naka restaurant in Los Angeles, specializing in modern Japanese kaiseki cuisine.

<i>Kaiseki</i> Traditional multi-course Japanese dinner

Kaiseki (懐石) or kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals and is analogous to Western haute cuisine.

Geto Onsen

Geto Onsen is a traditional ryokan with "onsen" - natural hot spring baths. It was founded in 1134 and is located in Kitakami, Iwate Prefecture, Japan.

Awazu Onsen Hot springs resort town in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan

Awazu Onsen is a hot spring resort located in the city of Komatsu, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.

Nyūtō Onsen Hot springs resort in Akita Prefecture, Japan

Nyūtō Onsen is a rural hot spring resort in Towada-Hachimantai National Park, Semboku City, Akita Prefecture, Japan and consists of Japanese-style hot spring spas scattered around the base of Mount Nyūtō.

Nagoya Hotel

Nagoya Hotel (名古屋ホテル) was a historic hotel in Tatemitsukura-chō (竪三ツ蔵町), Naka-ku, Nagoya, Japan.


  1. "Ryokan" is both singular and plural in Japanese, this usage carried into English.
  1. Japan Guide
  2. Japan National Tourism Organization
  3. "History". Hoshino Resorts. Retrieved 2013-05-01.