🔖 4 min read

The traditional Japanese inn, known as ryokan, holds a special place in the heart of Japanese culture and hospitality. Ryokan are more than just places to stay. They are immersive experiences that offer guests a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage. From its architecture and design to its food and customs. As we learn more about the Best Ryokan in Japan, we discover how it has evolved to meet the needs of the travelers of today.

The Features of a Ryokan

Ryokan are characterized by several distinct features that set them apart from Western-style hotels. One of the most notable features is the traditional architecture, which often includes tatami-matted rooms, sliding paper doors known as shoji, and minimalist design emphasizing natural materials such as wood and bamboo. The layout of a ryokan is also carefully planned to create a sense of tranquility and harmony with nature, often incorporating elements such as gardens, outdoor hot spring baths (onsen), and views of scenic landscapes.

Another defining feature of ryokan is the emphasis on hospitality and service. Guests are greeted with warmth and respect, and the staff is attentive to every detail of the guest experience. Meals are central to the ryokan experience, with elaborate multi-course dinners (kaiseki) and traditional Japanese breakfasts served in the guest’s room or in a communal dining area. The meticulous presentation of food and the use of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients are key elements of the ryokan dining experience.

The History of Ryokans

The history of ryokan can be traced back to the Edo period (1603-1868) when they first emerged as resting places for travelers along Japan’s highways. These early ryokans provided weary travelers with a place to rest, eat, and bathe, and were often run by local families or small businesses. Over time, the concept of the ryokan evolved to accommodate the needs of different travelers, including pilgrims visiting religious sites, merchants conducting business, and nobles seeking leisure and relaxation.

Ryokans in the Modern Era

Nowadays, ryokans continue to adapt to changing societal trends and travel preferences while preserving their cultural heritage. One of the key challenges facing Ryokan today is the need to appeal to a diverse range of guests, including domestic and international travelers of all ages and backgrounds. As a result, many ryokans have introduced modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and private bathrooms, while still maintaining the traditional aesthetic and spirit of service.

Some ryokans have expanded their offerings to include activities and experiences that cater to the interests of contemporary travelers, such as yoga and meditation classes, traditional tea ceremonies, and nature tours. By embracing these modern elements while staying true to their roots, ryokans have been able to attract a new generation of guests who seek a balance between authenticity and comfort.

Our Top 5 Recommended Ryokans in Japan

Amplify your experience in Japan by staying in one of these authentic Ryokans we recommend for you!

5. Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa

If your goal in Japan is to truly immerse yourself in Japanese history and heritage, Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa is the perfect place to stay as it is located in the heart of Asakusa, a popular historical district in Tokyo. Enjoy the traditional Japanese atmosphere by booking one of their rooms starting at 13,500 JPY.

4. Andon Ryokan

Located in Taito, Tokyo, Andon Ryokan aims to combine the traditional and modern elements of Japan in an inn that is within walking distance of many attractions in Tokyo. Since 2003, Andon Ryokan has catered to many domestic and overseas guests with their traditional Japanese meal plans and rooms, with their standard room starting at 7,700 JPY. 

3. Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku

It may seem impossible to find a traditional Ryokan in one of Tokyo’s liveliest cities, but Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku provides you with the best experience of immersing yourself in the traditional elements of Ryokan while enjoying the nightlife of Shinjuku. Minimalist and modern, the standard rooms start at 17,500 JPY. 

2. Konansou

With a perfect view of Mt. Fuji and Kawaguchiko, Konansou is located in the Fuji Kawaguchiko Onsen in Yamanashi, Japan. Konansou aims to maintain the traditional elements of the Ryokan while providing a modern hotel experience to all different kinds of travelers. The rates of their rooms start at 27,000 JPY.  

1. Nishimuraya Honkan

Selected as the “best onsen ryokan” in Japan by Lonely Planet, the leading publisher of travel books and guides, Nishimuraya Honkan is located in the famous hot spring town of Kinosaki Onsen in Toyooka City, Hyogo. They offer a variety of rooms and suites, starting at 100,000 JPY with added Japanese traditional meals. 

Nihonryokan: A Cultural Campaign

Although Ryokans have greatly contributed to the tourism of Japan. There has been a noticeable decline in Ryokans over the last two decades due to the decrease in Japan’s population rate. Moreover an increase in interest in Westernized modern accommodations that are affordable. Most tourists are not even aware that Ryokans exist, and even if they do, they may struggle to find one that fits their itinerary and budget. 

If you’re interested in supporting the revival of the Ryokan industry, take a look at Nihonryokan. Dedicated to the preservation of traditional Japanese Inns. Nihonryokan is a booking platform that showcases various Ryokans all over Japan. It does so by creating an online space that allows fellow Ryokan enthusiasts to recommend and discuss their experiences with Ryokans. 

The founder of Nihonryokan, Andy, began his journey in 2014 after his first-ever Ryokan stay at Kikokuso. It caused a spark of love and appreciation for these traditional inns. 

Nihonryokan is currently in development, with Andy holding a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to bring his project to life. The funds will allow the team of Nihonryokan to travel to different Ryokans around the country. Especially the rural ones to feature them. The campaign will also help the platform hire a proper team to design the Nihonryokan website. You can capture the beauty of these Ryokans in film. Moreover you can communicate with the native owners through the hiring of a native Japanese speaker.

Nihonryokan is dedicated to its goal of celebrating the cultural richness of ryokans. Moreover supporting Japanese tourism by making it easier for tourists to access information about the Best Ryokan in Japan. Therefore it will surely make their stay in Japan extra memorable.