When Japanese travel abroad, we are surprised about what is written on guide book, that is “we should bring toothbrush and sleepwear, as most hotels do not provide them.” This is very surprising for Japanese, as “Oh? Really?” This is because Japanese accommodations almost always provide toothbrush and sleepwear (yukata).
Basic Amenities Provided at Onsen Ryokan
Well, let me introduce basic amenities provide in rooms of Japanese onsen ryokan.
・Electric kettle + tea set – You can enjoy tea (green tea) for free.
・Refrigerator – It is empty or filled with drinks (surcharge required).
・Towels – Most combination is face towel and bath towel.
・Toothbrush – It comes with toothpaste for one night.
・Yukata – Other than yukata, there could also be monk’s working clothes or pajamas.
・Body soap, hair shampoo – Sometimes equipped in a bath rather than in a room.
・Safe (strong box)
These are the basic amenities provided at general ryokan.
At Kashiwaya Ryokan, we also offer the following amenities.
Amenities provided at Kashiwaya Ryokan
・Wi-Fi – Although this is not a thing, it is so useful. ※It is for free.
・Drawstring pouch – A convenient fabric pouch, useful when you go to the bath.
・Hairbrush and comb
・Cotton and cotton swab
・Hair rubber band and shower cap
・Tabi – A kind of socks. We provide it only during cold season.
・Skin care products – Provided at women bathrooms.
・Bathrobe – Provided at rooms with private bath.
・Soap, shampoo, and conditioner set of THANN, the Asian luxury cosmetics brand – Provided at rooms with private bath.
Bus amenities are one of the pleasures of accommodation, as you can select various things at each ryokan and some ryokan provide their original amenities. In fact, I imagine that many customers enjoy amenities at home that are possible to be taken-away. (Please ask at each ryokan whether amenities can be taken away.)
Use amenities and built-in fixtures at ryokan effectively to enjoy your comfortable trip!
There are more than 80,000 accommodation in Japan. The breakdown is about 10,000 hotels and less than 50,000 ryokan. The remaining are small inn with less than 4 rooms, minsyuku (small ryokan), capsule hotel, and so on. Then, what are the differences between hotel and ryokan?
According to the law, the definition of ryokan and hotel are as following:
“Ryokan is a facility, which mainly has Japanese structure and equipments.”
“Hotel is a facility, which mainly has Western structure and equipments.”
In other words, roughly speaking, ryokan is a facility with main of “sleeping on Futon in Japanese Tatami room type” and hotel is a facility with main of “sleeping on a bed in Western room type.” At many ryokan, you have to take off your shoes at an entrance and change to room shoes, such as slippers.
Most of them are applied to this definition. But sometimes, relatively large ryokan at onsen town calls itself as hotel and some ryokan provide rooms with beds, other than futon room, like our Kashiwaya ryokan.
In this way, the difference of ryokan and hotel is becoming ambiguous little by little recently.
Customer Service Style
However, the biggest difference might be their customer service style.
In the case of hotels, most services are provided at an entrance and front desk. Meals are basically provided at restaurants. So staff do not enter guest rooms so often.
In contrast, at Japanese ryokan, especially ryokan of providing meals at guest rooms, staff visit guest rooms very often, thus customers have more chance to communicate with staff at their rooms.
Let’s consider the situation by each scene of contacting with staff at ryokan.
First, when you arrive at a front (Choba) and fill in a guest book (Yadocho). Then staff guides you to your room. Some ryokan staff provides tea in your room.
Staff (Nakai) visit your room and provide meals. They explain the names of dishes and so on, and you can enjoy a moment of conversation.
After that, staff make bedding Futon at some ryokan (including Kashiwaya ryokan). They make it amazingly so it must be fun to talk to them, looking at their work.
You can communicate with staff also at breakfast next morning. And payment, checkout, and send-off are following. Now you know there are many chances to contact with staff at various situations.
Another difference might be their “origin.”
The origin of Japanese ryokan is said that Nara monks mainly built accommodations in Nara period for free in order to protect travelers’ safety. After that, inns for worship journey were born, then Honjin, where Daimyo stays, along with roads and Hatago, where common people stay, increased dramatically in Edo period.
Shima onsen is said to be built during Genroku period. “Sekizenkan Main Building” is also left, that is designated as a cultural property, and you can remember the old days. (You can visit the building of Genroku era but cannot stay there.)
In contrast, Japanese hotels were accommodations for Western people from late Edo period to Meiji, when the entire Japan changed a lot from Sakoku (seclusion policy) to opening the country, because they were trying to obtain Western cultures aggressively. The origin of Japanese hotels is says to be “Yokohama Hotel” in Yokohama, Kanagawa, that opened in 1860. The so called classic hotels in Japan, such as Nikko Kanaya Hotel, Fujiya Hotel (Hakone), Manpei Hotel (Karuizawa), and Nara Hotel, have tradition of that flow.
During traveling in Japan, where do you stay?
Of course it is recommended to stay at a hotel style, which you are familiar with. But it is precious traveling in Japan. I recommend you to stay at ryokan to enjoy Omotenashi culture of Japan.
As I previously wrote, most ryokan, especially local ryokan, serve as “one night with two meals.” In other words, meal and accommodation are provided as one set, and meals are usually Washoku.
We, at Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan also serve dinner as Washoku course cuisine and serve about 10 dishes starting from aperitif. You can choose breakfast from Washoku, Western style, or branch at Kashiwaya cafe located at onsen town.
Japan, surrounded by the sea, is a treasure trove of delicious seafood. In addition, there are many delicious freshwater fish unique in Japan, such as Ayu (sweet fish) and char. Maybe for this reason, most Washoku served at ryokan is a well balanced dish with a combination of vegetables, fish, and meat.
“Katsuo Dashi (Bonito Soup)”, the Basic of Wahoku
Dashi (soup) is also one of the cultures that Japanese Washoku boasts. Among them, Katsuo Dashi is the basic of Washoku and contains rich “Umami (taste).” Katsuo Dashi has been used in many dishes offered in Washoku course meal. Katsuobushi (dried bonito), the origin of Katsuo Dashi, is said to be the hardest food ingredient in the world. It is a food ingredient like an art made with lots of process, time, and intelligence, such as stewing bonito caught in the Pacific Ocean, fumigating, drying, molding, and so on.
About Meals for Vegetarians
We, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan , are currently happily inviting customers around the world. Due to a variety of circumstances of customers, many customers request meals of mainly vegetables without meat and fish. So we are contriving to meet customers’ requests as much as possible.
We may not be able to always respond to all requests due to congestion situation of the day, and so on. But first, please feel free to contact us.
★For People who cannot Eat Meat
For people who cannot eat meat, we correspond with vegetables and fish. In this case, we can always correspond almost 100%.
★People who cannot Eat Neither Meat nor Fish
Also, for vegetarians who cannot eat neither meat nor fish, we try to correspond as much as possible. But please understand we might ask additional fee as we require extra time (process) for cooking.
To say vegetarians in a bundle, each person has different food to be eatable. Thus, we appreciate it very much if you could tell us the details beforehand with e-mails and so on. Especially eggs, dairy products, and Dashi (soup) are unique to every customer.
Among them, it is very important for us whether we may use Dashi (soup) extracted from bonito (or seafood). As I wrote earlier, because Katsuo Dashi (bonito soup) is the very basic in Japanese food, we have to make other soups and cook meals completely separately with other customers, if we cannot use Katsuo Dashi (bonito soup).
In this case, we mainly use Shojin Dashi (vegetarian soup, extracted from plants, such as kelp and shiitake) and soups extracted from flavoring vegetables.
It should be noted that, unfortunately, we cannot serve meals corresponding to Halal right now. Please acknowledge it beforehand.
Meal is one of the great pleasures of overseas travel, isn’t it? First of all, please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions and requests.
To say couples, there are various couples, such as lovers who began the relationship recently, just married couples, and couples snuggled for years. Our Shima onsen Kashiwaya ryokan is recommended to couples and actually used by them the highest, and of course they are very pleased.
Reasons: 1. Private Onsen
The greatest factor is, again, the 3 private onsen (open-air bath).
It is fun to chat, looking at seasonally changing mountains, such as cherry blossoms, fresh green, autumn leaves, and snows during day and the sky with full of stars during night and taking bath quietly can be also happy.
As we have a system that customers can take private onsen as many times as they want if it is vacant (do not forget to lock the door from inside at the time of use), so customers can enjoy it freely. I think this may be one of factors why couples love our ryokan.
3 onsen have individually different taste.
Kaede-no-yu (Maple) is a Japanese garden-style stone bath with maple and Sanbaseki, famous stone at Gunma).
Sakura-no-yu (Cherry blossom) is a bath using cypress for its frame also made at Gunma Prefecture.
Finally, Tsuki-no-yu (Moon) is a round bath tub type made of wood, using Takanomaki woods made at Kiso.
Reason 2. Meals
And, another thing couples enjoy is dinner provided at each guest room (Oheyasyoku dinner). So to speak, it is like a system to say even “in-room dining of full course”, sitting on a cushion on tatami Japanese-style room, you can enjoy a meal arranged in Gozen (a small table for a meal) called Daimyo (feudal load) Zen with only two people in private.
Reason 3. The pace, Shima Onsen
In the sense on onsen for couples, our Shima onsen area itself is a perfect resort suitable for couples who want to spend a quiet time flowing leisurely.
When couples who spent such crowded places stay at Shima onsen, they can really relax and get refresh.
Thus, we recommend staying at a quiet resort where you can spend time by you two people alone, like our Shima onsen Kashiwaya ryokan when traveling long in Japan.
We guarantee you two people become more and more intimate!
In general, ryokan rates includes meals fee, too. If you stay over a night, ryokan prepares the dinner on the day and the breakfast on the next day. Thus you can save your time to prepare food by yourself.
It cannot be an exaggeration if I say that meals at ryokan are one of the best parts of travel. You can fully enjoy a wide variety of delicious cuisine washoku with abundant seasonal local ingredients to Western with fruits and main meat dishes.
You can enjoy the service only at ryokan that taking onsen with a plenty of time, warming up your body, and enjoy delicious meal. Your feeling must be raised in front of lavish meals, such as you cannot eat everyday. You will be released from the stress of everyday life and spend the bliss of time.
Every Ryokan Serves its Unique Meals
It should be noted, menus and catering ways served at ryokan vary greatly by each ryokan. If you are interested in tuna, saury, chestnut, nuts, and foods of mountains, ryokan in mountainous areas is recommended. In order to fully enjoy onsen travel, you can be more enjoyable if checking what kinds of meals are served as well as onsen.
In addition, although Kaiseki Ryori tends to serve lots of amount, we are committed to serve reasonable amount. For menu that changes about 5 times a year, we cook them in gentle taste.
Kaiseki Ryori is hospitality dishes to enjoy drink. The basic menu is one soup and three dishes (soup, sashimi, grilled, and boiled), side dishes for sake are added, such as Otoshi (appetize), steamed food, marinated, vinegared dish, and finally rice, miso soup, pickled, and fruits are served.
Except ryokan in urban areas of Tokyo and Kyoto, the basic Japan ryokan accommodation system is one night two meals (Half Board) with dinner and breakfast.
In recent years, including our Kashiwaya ryokan, more and more ryokan are accepting other styles, such as B&B, accommodation and breakfast, and just sleep over.
Ryokan the Perfect Place to Taste Washoku
However, if you’re staying in long-awaited Japan, I recommend that you eat both dinner and breakfast at ryokan at least once. This is because ryokan is the perfect place to taste “Washoku; the Japanese Traditional Food Culture” registered as the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
However, a lot of ryokan provide in buffet style at relatively large-scale ryokan, so you need to be careful. Of course, I do not deny buffet style, but this is from a point of view in order to taste “Washoku; the Japanese Traditional Food Culture” registered as the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
What is Kaiseki Ryori (traditional Japanese meal brought in courses) ?
Most ryokan have their base of dinner as washoku, and many of them have the flow of “Kaiseki Ryori.” Kaiseki Ryori was originally dishes to enjoy drink and consists of various side dishes for sake, such as soup, sashimi, grilled, boiled, fried, steamed, marinated, and vinegared. Then it has a style of rice and soup (Tomewan; finish bowl) coming up at last. There are versatile ryokan; some ryokan serve traditional style of Kaiseki, some provide a little simplified, and some arrange in Western-style.
In addition, there are also ryokan, which serve “Kaiseki Ryori” that has same the reading but different kanji and has its roots in Teaism to enjoy tea and “Shojin Ryori (vegetarian food)” that does not use meat and fish.
Breakfast has more wide variety depend on each ryokan. Some ryokan serve feast more than enough to eat all even at dinner, some serve simple and basic one soup and three dishes, and some serve Western style as selected like our Kashiwaya ryokan. There are also many ryokan, which serve in buffet style only for breakfast.
For breakfast, you can choose from Washoku, which has lots of local ingredients, such as local miso and tofu, and Japanese rice gruel, Washoku with freshly baked bread and coffee, or brunch at Kashiwaya café at onsen town.
“Food” is one of the great funs of travel, so please fully enjoy.
Including ryokan, there are unique rules and manners in Japanese houses and buildings. Here, I am going to introduce them in the time series from check-in to check-out.
If you will stay at ryokan with dinner, arrive by around 18:00 at the latest. This is because a lot of staff, such as Itamae (chef) and Nakai (waitress), are waiting for you looking forward to be able to serve the cuisine at its best. If you will be late, please contact ryokan in advance.
Now, you arrived at the objective ryokan. Here you might be confused first whether you take off the shoes. In traditional Japanese ryokan and Japanese house, we take off shoes at the door and become bare feet or wear footwear for inside. However, many recent ryokan take style to enter wearing shoes. In addition, it might also be hard to tell whether you take off shoes in some cases. (Even Japanese sometimes be confused.) In such a case, do not hesitate. Ask the ryokan staff on the spot.
In the case of long-term travel, your luggage will become absolutely large. Thus most people may use bags with casters. Yet, be careful here. As the floor of Japanese architecture is very delicate, If you carry your bags in your hands without rolling casters(Of course our staff will take care of your large baggage). It will make you be welcomed as a guest with one rank up manners. Also, you carry your luggage by yourself to the room as far as it is not so large. While carrying, when they open doors or arrange your footwear, say “Arigatougozaimasu.” This one concern will let you achieve communication.
Japanese room’s floor is covered with Tatami. Tatami is a traditional flooring used in Japan and is a rectangular mat of about 1.8mx 0.9m with a core made of compressed rice straws and Tatami-omote, made of Igusa, a kind of grass, wrapping around the core. This Tatami are laid over rooms at most ryokan.
It is a standard to take off shoes, of course, and room shoes, like slippers and relax with bare feet at Tatami room. So, when entering a guest room, take off shoes and slippers in front of the main chamber laid with Tatami. In addition, it is advisable to arrange those taken off shoes and slippers at that time.
Shiturae (interior setting) of Japanese-style room
If you look carefully Japanese-style room, you will notice that lots of “paper” is used in the room, such as Shoji (screen), Fusuma (sliding door), wallpaper, lighting shade, and so on. Because it is paper, it is easy to tear or get dirt. So please use them gently. If you damage or stain them, notify that to ryokan staff.
About Futon (bedding)
Basically, you can leave Futon that was used during bedtime without folding, but declare to ryokan staff if you made it dirty.
About Yukata (informal kimono)
Most ryokan are equipped with Yukata as bedding. You can wear Yukata anytime during your staying at ryokan. You can wear it of course inside and can even go out to town wearing it at onsen town.
Yukata is a kind of Japanese traditional Kimono and is said to be clothing for bathing in ancient. It became widely used in the purpose of sucking skin moisture by wearing after bath from around the Azuchi Momoyama era, then it seems to have become a kind of clothing loved by people after entering the Edo era.
As there are manners and rules on the way of wearing Yukata, you will look “Iki (chic)” if you take them.
・Please change your cloths to YUKATA(robe) during your stay.
・Please use YUKATA as well as pajama and you can go out of your room in the YUKATA.
・Also, there is a CHABAORI (outer robe) to wear over the YUKATA during autumn to spring.
*The point is to make the left collar come front for both men and women.
Food is one of the great funs of a trip. Please fully enjoy “Washoku; the Japanese traditional food culture” that was also registered in the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
There are various rules and manners in Washoku, there are something so profound about that we can even make a book just in how to use chopsticks. Even few Japanese have mastered it perfectly. Thus, it might be the best just to enjoy meal without worrying too much about fine rules. People who still care about it may refer to this site:
Also, many ingredients and cooking will come up, which you of course have never eaten or even never seen. Even if you think you dislike them, first, please try at least one time.
Check-out and depart towards the next destination. Most ryokan should accept credit cards if they are familiar with welcoming customers from abroad. However, it is possible that you cannot use credit cards issued overseas on terminals in Japan. So, it may be advisable to have some consideration, such as having several credit cards and also preparing adequate Japanese yen.
Is chip required?
Basically, there is no custom of chip in Japan. Although it seems guide books often say that chips are required at ryokan, you do not have to pay chip also at ryokan. In addition, your treatment does not change depend on you pay chip or not. So please take it easy.
As there are many Japanese original manners, rules, and etiquette at ryokan, Japanese-style room, Washoku, and onsen, it is hard to learn and follow everything. At our Kashiwaya ryokan, all the staff tries to welcome you with warm hospitality. So do not think that ryokan is hard to use, but please feel free to visit.