Whenever I travel, I always try to live like a local. I must say that staying in a Ryokan is one of the best local experiences I’ve ever had.
A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that originated way back in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). I’m glad the Japanese really preserve their culture because everything about it is amazing – the accommodations, the food and even the onsen (hot spring bath).
We stayed in this Ryokan called Ichinoyu Honkan established in 1630 in Hakone, which is only a 2 hour train ride from Tokyo. Proof that it’s authentic: most of their visitors were Japanese.
Shoes aren’t allowed inside. The Ryokan provides Geta (slippers) and shoe lockers for guests.
Clearly traditional Japanese!
Don’t bother looking for a bed because you won’t find one. At night, you simply have to roll out the futon and sleep! It’s more comfortable than you think!
The food is your traditional, low calorie Japanese meal for breakfast – smoked fish, pickled “stuff” (I have no idea what it was), rice, miso soup etc. For dinner, you get a hearty hotpot serving! You don’t get to choose your meals because everyone staying in the Ryokan eats the same thing. Chopsticks skills required. ☺
One of the things I absolutely love about the Ryokan is they provide a yukata (traditional Japanese wear made of cotton VS a kimono which is made of silk) for their guests. Forgive the photo op below. Semi geisha / Samurai X dreams fulfilled!
Photos aren’t allowed for obvious reasons so this is from the Ichinoyu website. Just a word of warning – be ready to bare all. I mean it. Don’t worry, the people there are so used to it they won’t spare you a second glance. Just make sure you enter the right onsen – red for women and blue for men.
It’s also really cool that they have a natural water heater – Mt. Fuji. Hakone is so close that it keeps the water warm! ☺
While hotels are great, I highly recommend staying in a Ryokan for at least 1 night if you plan to visit Japan for an authentic Japanese experience.