The ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where you can enjoy natural hot springs, delicious Japanese food, and beautiful traditional housing. Most ryokans are located near mountains or by the sea, and are a great way to escape the busy city life.
Ryokans have hot spring baths called onsen for guests to relax and refresh their minds and bodies. Some onsen are built outside called roten-buro. The nature that surrounds these outside baths are spectacular, and the scenery changes dramatically according to season. At night, if the sky is clear you can see the stars, which is hard to do in Japanese cities. The water is hot, over 40 degrees Celsius, so you can enjoy the roten-buro even during the cold winter. After taking a nice hot bath, you change into a yukata, a Japanese robe, and spend your time as you wish until dinner is ready. Take a walk around the building, have a cold drink, or play a game of Ping-Pong, and appreciate the Japanese culture that the ryokan provides.
Traditional Japanese cuisine, kaiseki-ryori, is served for dinner, either in the guest room or at the ryokan’s public dining room. The chef hand-picks food that is in season, and cooks dishes that allow the taste of those ingredients to stand out. When you finish the delicious kaiseki-ryori, you will find that your room has turned into a bedroom. Of course, the beds are not large western-styled beds, but futons neatly laid upon the tatami floor. The tatami, a traditional Japanese flooring made from a type of grass known as igusa, can be used throughout the four distinct Japanese seasons. The grass absorbs and keeps the heat in, while balancing the humidity in the air. Therefore, the tatami floor is warm in the winter, but keeps the air cool during the hot and humid summer.
Staying at a ryokan is a unique way to understand and experience the aesthetic of Japanese culture. With traditional architecture and food, rich nature, and the best omotenashi (service), ryokans have become more than just a mere inn. Their popularity is growing among Japanese people and tourists, as they provide the perfect situation to get the full experience of the traditional Japanese lifestyle.