Ryokan in Japan

Ryokan, traditional Japanese inns, range from simple, modest lodgings, through rambling wooden inns reminiscent of times past, to sleek modern resorts designed by top firms and providing every indulgence.

At any level, ryokan offer an exceptional dining experience, with kaiseki dinners and traditional Japanese breakfasts served at a low table in your room. Rooms are in the traditional Japanese style, emphasising clean lines and a sense of space. There tend to be few furnishings and soft Japanese futon mattresses are spread out on the tatami floor in place of beds. All ryokan offer communal onsen baths, often in stunning outdoor settings and all rooms booked in the star categories below will include en suite facilities.

In terms of facilities and services, ryokan offer something quite different from hotels in the same level. Where hotels will offer twenty-four hour room service, mini bars, swimming pools and concierge service, ryokan offer traditional Japanese service that will not generally include the above. Instead, the focus is on the food, the rooms, the baths and the atmosphere. As ryokan tend to cater to Japanese guests, English is not always spoken, even in the higher star ratings, though staff will always do their utmost to communicate with you.

Please note that some of Japan’s best ryokan fall outside of our 5+ category and will require a supplement.

A Guide to our Ryokan Star Ratings

Japanese ryokan
Rating Example General Rooms Cuisine
3 Star Shirayu no Yado, Yamadaya These ryokan may not be much to look at from the outside, but the clean, simple interiors are comfortable and well-maintained. Indoor and outdoor communal public baths are provided. Simple, clean tatami rooms with touches of refinement, such as fresh flowers and tea-making facilities. Futon mattresses are laid out by staff before dinner. As in all our ryokan categories, yukata (kimono-style robes) are provided, as are towels and hair dryers and other toilet amenities. These rooms will have a private toilet and sink area ensuite to the room. High quality, multi-course kaiseki dinners, often incorporating local specialties and seasonal ingredients.
4 Star Yoshiike Ryokan, Hakone Generally larger ryokan, with more impressive lobbies and occasionally separate dining areas. In addition to ensuite rooms, private baths are generally available for those seeking some privacy from the communal onsen. Larger, increasingly ornate tatami rooms often with flat-screen televisions and tea-making facilities. Ryokan in this category may offer rooms with Western-style twin beds. In general, however, futon mattresses are laid out on the tatami after dinner and folded up again by staff before breakfast. As above with an increased emphasis on quality and presentation.
5 Star Senkei Annex Yamagaso The exteriors of these lovely ryokan vary greatly, ranging from traditional wood to ultra- modern. Interiors are beautifully decorated, with great attention to detail and the communal onsen are luxurious and peaceful. Comfortable and spacious, these rooms unite the traditional with modern touches. Some ryokan may offer Western-style beds in fusion rooms. Large windows open onto garden views or distant mountains. Ensuite baths are luxurious, with marble, stone, or fragrant cypress tubs. Excellent kaiseki cuisine, focusing on high-quality and often local seasonal ingredients, served in elegant handmade dishes.
5 Star Plus Ginyu, Hakone Often newly renovated, these designer ryokan have been run by the same family for generations, and excel at service. Spa treatments are available and the communal onsen are large, beautifully designed havens with garden or mountain views. The epitome of indulgence, these large rooms have outdoor onsen in the room’s private balcony or garden. Fusion-style rooms with double beds are often available. Suite-type rooms, with separate dining areas are standard. Rooms will often contain beautiful examples of traditional scrolls and flower arrangements. Elaborate, innovative kaiseki that occasionally leans towards fusion and rival those in top restaurants, served in ceramic dishes made by renowned artists.