The best traditional inns in Japan

photo by David McKelvey

Traditional Japanese inns, called ryokans, first appeared over four centuries ago, in the Edo period, when weary travelers on the highways needed bed and food for the night. Nowadays, stopping at a ryokan is not just a necessity on a long trip, it is a pleasure. People come to stay at ryokans simply to enjoy traditional Japanese hospitality and food. The greatest charm of ryokans is their traditional architecture: the rooms have sliding doors, the floors are covered in tatami mats, communal baths, and guests wear yukata during their stay. If you travel to Japan, staying at a ryokan is one of the best travel experiences you’ll have. Here are some of the best traditional inns in Japan.

Yoshimizu, Tokyo

The crowded and glamorous Ginza district in Tokyo is one of the last places where you’d expect to find a traditional inn, but nestled among the high rise buildings you can find the tiny Yozhimizu ryokan, a real gem.There are only eleven rooms, which give the inn a much more personal and intimate feel than hotels, and seeing how there are no TVs or telephones in sight, the atmosphere is as traditional as possible. Each guest is given a yukata to wear too!

Gora Kadan, Hakone, Kanagawa

photo by on Flickr

Gora Kadan brings together all the best parts of a traditional inn. The surrounding scenery in enchanting (a plum and cherry tree orchard at the base of Mount Fuji), while the inn is a beautifully restored holiday home from the twenties. There are over forty rooms in the inn, so it is larger than other ryokans, but the rooms are irreproachable: tatami mats, lacquered objects, yukata, and traditional baths.

Asaba, Shuzenji, Shizuoka

Asaba inn in the small village of Shuzenji near Shuzuoka is one of the oldest functioning inns in Japan, dating back to the 17th century. Although the inn is old, the interiors are up to the highest modern standards. The rooms are the epitome of Japanese simplicity: sliding screens, tatami mats, and only a futon or a small table. The inn has a lovely bamboo forest nearby.

Hiragiya, Kyoto

photo by Edward Dalmulder on Flickr

Hiragiya is not the kind of ryokan that fits for every budget, but it is as luxurious as it is expensive. The service and the rooms can only be described as perfect, and the cuisine is delicious – especially recommended if you are interested in regional dishes. Moreover, the inn is located in the historic part of Tokyo, so whether you’re inside or outside, you will be able to enjoy the historic feel of Kyoto.

Iwaso Ryokan, Miyajima Island

Iwaso Ryokan is located in the middle of an enchanting park, surrounded by old trees, peaceful fountains and gentle brooks. The inn is built to complement the beautiful scenery, and it has been pampering and entertaining guests for over 150 years. The park and the inn are particularly picturesque in the fall, when the leaves of the maple trees turn red.


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