Manors at your Ryokan | Rediscover Tours

A Brief History of Ryokans

Ryokans have been a part of Japanese culture for centuries. Some of the earliest ryokans were located on the Tokaido Highway that connected the capital city of Edo (modern Tokyo) and Kyoto, where the Imperial Palace was. It was a very busy highway as daimyo, samurai, traders, and others made their way between the two most popular destinations in the country. Ryokans were built to welcome these weary travelers who needed to rest and eat before continuing their long journey. Some ryokans were very simple, where townspeople offered extra rooms in their homes for travelers, while others were more elaborate and the owners worked hard to make their guests feel as welcome as possible.

Inside a Ryokan Guest Room

Depending on the style, design, and expense of the ryokan a guest room may contain some or all of the following:

Ryokan Customs and Behavior

Inside a Ryokan (Japanese Inn) In KyotoWhen you arrive at the ryokan, you may be asked to take off your shoes at the entrance and put on slippers, which are used for walking around inside the ryokan. Your shoes will be placed in the entrance when you want to go outside. If you want to take a short walk near the ryokan, you can also wear the geta (wooden clogs), which are sometimes provided for guests.

Experiencing a Ryokan

Guest Room at a “Ryokan” (Japanese Inn) Staying at a ryokan is different from staying at a modern Western hotel. For example many ryokans do not have central heating. In the winter this means you may be staying in a room with a portable heater (kerosene, gas, or electric). While your room may be heated, your private bathroom (if you have one) may not have a heater. In the summer your room may have an air conditioning unit, but then again your private bathroom (if you have one) may not. Owners who operate the more traditional, old-fashioned ryokan may wish to preserve the atmosphere, architecture or design of their ryokan, which means maintaining outdated heating systems. And while many of the ryokan staff speak little or no English, this contributes to the authenticity of the atmosphere. Since ryokans are found only in Japan, staying in one is a unique cultural experience.

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