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What is a ryokan?

A ryokan is a type of lodging that's unique to Japan. It's the oldest type of inn in the country, and staying in one is an experience in itself. These historic accommodations, some over a thousand years old, are a good way to immerse yourself in Japan's rich cultural heritage. Ryokans often feature simple, minimally furnished rooms with tatami floors and futon beds. If you're staying at a ryokan, keep in mind that there's an etiquette to follow as soon as you arrive at your accommodation. A ryokan serves guests with haute sashimi and sushi in the evening.

Why should I stay at a ryokan?

If you're interested in getting to know Japanese culture, staying at a ryokan will be helpful. Break out of your comfort zone by opting for a sparsely furnished room and communal hot baths. It is, however, possible to find a high-end ryokan with luxuries such as spa treatments, serene sprawling gardens, and a fine-dining restaurant.

Where do you find ryokans?

You can find ryokans only in Japan. The oldest ryokans are said to have been around since 705 AD, and thus carry plenty of history and tradition. The best ryokans in the country are set near or in the famous onsen (“hot spring”) resorts. These ryokans in the mountains feature communal bathhouses and private hot tubs that use natural hot spring water.

You can also find ryokans in big cities like Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo.

How much does it cost to stay at a ryokan?

There's a ryokan for every type of budget. You can book a rustic, no-frills ryokan if your budget is small. This might mean staying in a bare-bones room and sharing a bathroom with other guests. There are ryokans that offer family rooms with plenty of space. At the top-end of the range are the elegant ryokans that feature private terraces with their own hot tubs, as well as posh restaurants run by masterful sushi chefs.

How to book a ryokan

If you're interested in booking a stay at a ryokan, you can rely on Expedia to help you with your search. You can look for a ryokan the same way you would for a conventional hotel. Just sort the search results by property type, and you can get the top-rated ryokans in the destination of your choice. You might also want to check out flights while you're there, because you can save money by booking your flights and ryokan stay together.

What do ryokans offer?

Every ryokan has a story to tell, and a stay at one means that you can get to know Japanese heritage better. A ryokan room will be traditionally furnished, featuring paper wall dividers, tatami floors, and futon beds. Part of the ryokan stay etiquette is making sure to remove your shoes on entry and staying quiet while you move around the lodging. Most ryokans serve an evening meal called kaiseki ryoki, which is made of many small dishes. Ryokans in the mountains typically feature open-air onsen baths, and most will also have communal indoor bathhouses.

Ryokans vs hotels

When considering your lodging options on your trip to Japan, you might want to know the difference between a ryokan and a hotel. Hotels in Japan are typically modern, so if you're looking to immerse yourself in the local culture and history, ryokans are probably the better option. It does mean giving up some creature comforts, such as en suite bathrooms, soft beds, and even heating, but you'll be rewarded with a taste of the country's traditional cuisine, relaxing hot spring baths, and a glimpse at old Japan.

Ryokan close to me

If you're eager to experience a stay in a traditional Japanese inn, you can use Expedia's search tool to find the perfect ryokan for you. Find your destination and search for a ryokan nearby. Using the map function, you can explore a variety of ryokan options in all sorts of places.