Ryokan -Traditional Japanese Accomodations
Experience the elements of Japanese culture and customs: living in a room with Tatami (straw mat) flooring, changing into a typical Yukata (robe) after taking an Onsen hot-spring bath, sleeping on a Futon (bedding) put down directly on the Tatami floor, and etc. in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel.
Difference between Western-style hotel and Japanese Ryokan
The greatest difference between a Western-style hotel and a Japanese ryokan is the fee system, with the ryokan charging for 'one night's stay with two meals'.
The two meals are the evening meal on the day of your arrival, and breakfast served the following morning.
Some newer ryokans, however, applies their fee without meals, expecting especially non-Japanese tourists, so please take this into account at your booking.
At the majority of ryokans, these meals are served in the guestroom. At some ryokans, the meals are taken in a large dining room or a private room specially for the purpose, but the 'heya-shoku' (dining in the guestroom) is the most common style of eating at Japanese ryokans.
'Heya-shoku' are full-course meals and quite different from 'room services' provided at hotels which are usually light meals. This reflects the spirit of hospitality unique to the Japanese who cordially welcome guests by treating them to sumptuous meals prepared with the greatest care.
At a Japanese ryokan, it is common for guests to take off their shoes at the entrance and to change into slippers or zori (Japanese sandals). This custom, which is also practiced in ordinary homes, stems from the tatami culture.
The tatami is an indoor flooring peculiar to Japan. Rice stalks are dried into straw, which is then firmly bound with thread and covered with woven rush on the surface, to produce a rather thick mat.
The tatami mat is also used as a measuring unit, and the number of mats used in a room corresponds to the floor space of the room. The suppleness and excellent moisture absorbing and releasing qualities, and acoustic absorption and sound insulation properties make the tatami mats well-suited to the Japanese climate. The tatami culture is also closely linked with the
Japanese food culture which consists of rice as the staple food. When entering a tatami-matted room, you must also take off your indoor slippers. By not walk over tatami mats with shoes, Japanese show their respects for "rice".
In recent years, at an increasing number of ryokans, the guests do not have to remove their shoes at the entrance but can keep their shoes on as far as their guestrooms. Slippers and zori sandals are shared items and so are kept clean for the arrival of each new guest.
© 2010 Yumiko Kato