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10 AUTHENTIC RYOKAN EXPERIENCES IN JAPAN


10 AUTHENTIC RYOKAN EXPERIENCES IN JAPAN


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a true immersive and authentic holiday in Japan, one where you can be at one with nature while paying homage to an age-old custom?

 

Welcome to our experiential adventure sleeping close to the floor while understanding that you may not be as young as you thought you were. I am sure you know what a Ryokan is so it will come as no surprise that as Japan is steeped in tradition, many are still living in ancient Ryokans. The masterful art of woven flooring (tatami) and ergonomically designed chairs provide the ultimate experience. As there are an estimated fifty thousand plus in the country, I can only write about a select few that I hope will inspire you. 

 

We are beginning our journey in the home of the Geisha, the amazingly stunning city of Kyoto. Located in the Kansai region of Japan, Kyoto is the seventh largest city, so it is a little surprising that we find so many Ryokans there alongside seventeen UNESCO World Heritage sites. 


1. IKUMATSU 

Ikumatsu Ryokan Japan, by Deanne Scanlan, Travel ExpertOur first homestay is situated in an ideal spot along the Takase Canal. This ryokan has a colourful history. Named after the Geisha Ikumatse by one of the Meiji Lords, the residence has views across the three major mountains surrounding Kyoto. Most of the rooms have views of the Kamo River and are ideally located with easy access to Shrines, Temples, and the downtown area of Kawara-machi. Buses and the subway are all conveniently close by. At the end of the Edo period, many clansmen would walk the Kamo Riverbanks, so it is exciting to follow in their footsteps as the sun sets across the valley.


2. RYOTEI RANGETSU

At the base of Mt. Arashiyama is the perfect setting for one of the newest ryokans in Kyoto. A luxurious setting awaits as you enter a very modern take on an old theme. Situated upstream from the Togetsu Bridge, the ryokan is well hidden providing the ultimate romantic and restful stay. The gardens are meticulously kept in true Japanese traditional style. Mt Arashiyama’s stream is full of body soothing elements, so the Rangetsu is the perfect place along the stream to harness the healing waters. 


3. HOSHINOYA KYOTO

Along the Oigawa Riverbank, lying at the foot of Mt Arashiyama and the Bamboo Forest, Hoshinoya Kyoto is considered to be one of the most luxurious ryokans available. It is definitely one with a royal feel. One of a chain of resorts, the beauty of the surrounding countryside is not lost when you stay. Take a boat ride on the river, and you will feel like you are a world away. There are more traditional rooms alongside more western-styled suites. The group also have accommodations in Kai with Risonare being tailored to families. Why not book a traditional TEA CEREMONY – a genuine SAMARI experience and an outing with a GEISHA, all experiences not to be missed.

Hoshinoya, Kyoto. Authentic Ryokan Experiences in Japan, Travel Agent Finder


4. TOGETSUTEI

More than a century old, this ryokan is simply divine, with hot spring water from the Arayshiyama Mountains flowing into the onsen in this ryokan. The serenity and calmness you feel upon entering is palpable, not quite taking your breath away but certainly imbuing a feeling you want to explore. Dine on tofu-inspired menus with local fruits a specialty. From the moment you start your experience at the Togetsutei you will be wishing your stay would never end. Close enough to the centre of the city yet far enough away to enjoy the immersion into true Japanese culture and of course so close to the forest that you can smell nature at your door. 


5. ARASHIYAMA BENKEI

Without a doubt, the ryokan Benkei, as with most in Kyoto, has everything a cultural experience could provide. The onsens are a comfortable ph. of 8.3 making the hot Springs water silky to the touch. A gentle blend of both western and local décor certainly adds to the wonderful atmosphere the owners have created. If you wish for a private onsen, they can be booked and paid for as an extra requirement. Just a 15-minute walk from the JR Saga Arashiyama and Hankyu Arashiyama rail stations or by hotel shuttle bus which can be booked ahead, you will be greeted by Kimono-clad staff who quickly make you feel that this stay is a home away from home.

Arashiyama Benkei Ryokan, Japan authentic accommodationArashiyama Benkei outdoor bath immersive Japanese experience



6. HANAIKADA 

Though one of the smaller ryokans in Kyoto, it certainly promises everything that the bigger establishments deliver but on a very personal level. On Market Day walk with your chef to shop for the daily meals and chat about the selections he makes. Situated close to the Togetsukyo Bridge, the surrounding scenery is breathtaking – a word I have tried not to use continually which is difficult considering where we are. If you travel in the spring, the cherry blossoms line the riverbank providing you with a backdrop of intense colour. The tatami mats in the rooms are gently fragranced and definitely lull your senses. Your hosts are fluent in English and really make every effort to make your stay a memorable one. I highly recommend a ride on the Romantic Sagano train, and your stay will be complete.


7. SUMIYA ROKAN

Sumiya Ryokan Experience in Japan, Deanne Scanlan, Travel Agent Finder

Many of the Tea ceremony masters stay at this establishment. The Sumiya has been in operation for over 100 years and has had three generations of family in attendance. There are fusuma (Japanese sliding doors) throughout adding to the ambience of local hospitality. 

The rooms are filled with antiques showing the cultural and historic past of Japan each with its own story to tell. The onsens are as you have come to expect of Japanese culture with the hot springs from the mountain comforting the soul as you soak away aches and pains in style.



8. HIIRAGIYA RYOKAN

HIIRAGIYA RYOKAN is where you will find one of the most historical and authentic places in Kyoto. Built in 1818, the two-storey wooden building takes you back in time to old-style Japanese hospitality and custom. The Inn has been in the same family for six generations and had the privilege of the Imperial Royal family as guests. Famous writers and poets have all called Hiiragiya home throughout its life. There are 28 rooms each with an individual motif and some with screens decorated in gold leaf while others have Zen-styled ink drawings. Each room has an antique lacquered writing box inlaid with mother of pearl while the Kaiseki Cuisine is considered some of the very best in the region.

 

You may have noticed a theme along this journey, KYOTO is more or less home to the ryokan. The city is as much ryokan stays as traditional western-style hotels even though they are still available.



9. HOSHI RYOKAN

With that in mind, we are setting our sights now on ISHIKAWA – translated to Stone River - located midway in the Chūbu region on Honshu. Home to the Black Lily and renowned for its fresh seafood and colourful confectionary – I thought I should cater for the sweet tooth as well - we find the reputed oldest ryokan in Japan. Established in 718 the HOSHI RYOKAN has been operating under forty-six generations of the same family so we can expect the tradition to be strong with tatami flooring and futon bedding. It is very close to the OSSHOBE PARK known for its intense green oasis, Koi carp pond and dare I say it – hot springs. The park even features a Happiness Bell. 

Houshi Rokan in Japan, immersive homestay accommodation in JapanAn intense green oasis, Osshobe Park in Japan.



10. TSUREZURE ANN

We are now on the train and journeying to the city of Fukuoka and the TSUREZURE ANN located in Hakata Nakasu. This property is unique in so many ways, one of which is that there are just three suites – the Hakata, a 40 sqm 2 storey residence for up to 8 people – the Genkai with a laundry, again for 8 people and the Komondo sleeping up to 10 travellers. The hinoki bathtub is crafted in Japanese cypress with a view of the courtyard and the distinct aroma of cedar from the surrounding trees. Considered to be a tranquil healing house, from the moment you walk through the door to this haven, a sense of calm comes over you. You need to experience this for yourself to grasp the emotion. 


Tsurezure Ann, traditional ryokan accommodation, Japan travel, Deanne Scanlan Travel ExpertTsurezure Ann, traditional ryokan hot bath, Japan holidays, Deanne Scanlan Travel Expert



Staying in Ryokan is not a cheap experience, even with the older ones you will still be paying a reasonable amount for a two-night stay. With so many amazing experiences it would be nice to ‘Ryokan Hop,’ and this can certainly be done if you have a higher budget. 


There are still many smaller ‘guest houses’ where you can bunk down on tatami mats and futons that are not as expensive. It all depends on the nature of your journey and how important ancient culture is to your immersive experience. Whichever way you choose to go, staying even just one night in a homestay will be memorable. 


Ryokan homestay accommodation in Japan, Travel Agent Finder



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