Staying in a ryokan is not like staying at a “typical” hotel, and this fact ought to be respected throughout your visit. You may have to sacrifice certain privileges, and do things that are rather unexpected. The rooms are minimalistic, and you must take off your shoes before entering. Beds are often laid out in the evening as futons, and then rolled away discreetly at the start of the next day. The owners may not speak English, and you may only have access to shared bathing facilities. Try to keep your mind open to differing customs – the exemplary quality of the hosting will ensure that you never have a bad experience, even if the creature comforts do not (upon first inspection) meet your Western standards.
Ryokans have been part of the country’s history for centuries upon centuries, and their purpose has varied over the years. Some are simple and functional, originally designed for weary travellers to rest their head in comfort. Others are somewhat more elaborate, suitable for government officials and other authoritative figures. Regardless, ryokans are today celebrated for their attention to detail and welcoming feel. No matter your preferred travel style, to truly appreciate Japan, you should stay in a ryokan at least once. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best.