When I think about staying at a Japanese Ryokan, the first thing that comes to mind is relaxing in a yukata. A yukata is a type of light cotton kimono that all onsen ryokan have available to guests. Yukata are popular even among our international guests, and they allow you to relax during your stay at a ryokan while experiencing Japanese culture on a deeper level.
We’ve put together some essential information about yukata and how to wear them here.
First, the yukata is just one type of traditional kimono in Japan. This means there are many other kinds in Japan. For example, women can wear one of two kinds of kimono at formal occasions: tomesode for married women or furisode for unmarried women. There are also plain black kimono for mourning, which traditionally have a family crest embossed on them. There are even special kimono just for guests.
For men’s formalwear we have the nagagi robes, haori jacket, and hakama trousers which form the base of the outfit. On these robes there may be as many as 5 family crests depending on the person’s rank. There are also black habutae kimono made from silk. And for men’s everyday wear, there are the iromuji, samue, and jibei robes.
Anyone who speaks English probably knows the proverb, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In Japanese we also have a very similar saying: 郷に入れば郷に従え（go ni ireba go ni shitagae). It means that if you enter a foreign country or region, it is wise to follow the customs and ways there.
I believe that travelling is about not only seeing new sights, but also learning more about another country and culture.
However, during a long journey you will naturally miss the customs of your home country. We Japanese sometimes visit Japanese restaurants abroad. I think this is because many of us become homesick while travelling. Of course, I also believe it is a benefit for international travellers to step out of their comfort zone and learn about other cultures. That’s why I highly recommend staying at a Japanese ryokan.
The number of international visitors to Japan has been increasing at an incredible rate. According to the Japan Tourism Agency, there were 8.3 million international visitors in 2007, while there were 29 million in 2017. That means in just 10 years the number of international visitors has more than tripled. These visitors come in many forms: some in groups, some on business or with family, and, of course, many travel alone.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, 11.8% of tourists come alone. Travelers from America are especially likely to travel on their own. While 30% of all visitors who visit Japan for sightseeing travel alone, if we include travelers on business this number increases to 52.9% among Americans.
So, where do you think these travelers are choosing to stay?
Of course, some stay in traditional Japanese accommodations such as ryokan, while others stay in standard hotels, rental houses, or Airbnb rentals. And still others choose to stay in Japan’s capsule hotels, an oddity you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
While there are a variety of options for accommodations, all can be suited to the solo traveler. Though many guidebooks state that traditional ryokan did not originally accommodate individual travelers, this is no longer the case. In fact, many onsen ryokan now welcome guests traveling alone.
We at Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan in Gunma Prefecture have had the pleasure of boarding many international guests traveling alone. Whether men or women, such travelers have indeed been increasing steadily in recent years.
Our onsen ryokan has even been featured on Japanese media because of how accommodating we are to solo travelers. Once when we were being featured on TV, there happened to be an American woman staying here by herself, and she was kind enough to speak with the TV crew. Continue reading →
We at Shima Onsen and Kashiwaya Ryokan are so happy to see more and more visitors from other countries. The number just keeps growing with each year! Some visitors are looking for a quiet getaway near Tokyo, while others have been to Japan before and are looking for new experiences.
Most of our international visitors are from America, but many others come from Australia, Canada, and Singapore too. This means that we at Kashiwaya Ryokan really need to brush up on our English communication!
Currently, only 2 members of the Kashiwaya staff can speak English conversationally. Language level varies among the rest of our staff, but most are far from perfect. Despite this, we seem to have developed a reputation as a rural onsen inn that can accommodate English speakers. Just take a look at some of the glowing reviews our international visitors have written for us.
“As someone who barely speaks Japanese I was a little worried about travelling out into the countryside but my concerns were put to rest by the kind staff who were able to patiently explain things about the inn, in English.” ~Trip Advisor
“The staff is very friendly and can speak English, which is a great plus for the foreigner discount they already include!” ~Trip Advisor
The accommodation of Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan usually includes dinner and breakfast (one night stay and two meals per day).
You can enjoy your stay in a traditional Japanese Ryokan that has Japanese features such as tatami rooms, an Onsen (hot spring), and Japanese cuisine.
We are happy to have received a lot of good comments and reviews, especially about the cuisine.
The dinner in the evening is truly the best bit though… A 12 course meal with so many different things to try from Japanese cuisine…
The food was amazing, they happily accommodated my vegetarian request and the in-room dinner and breakfast made the stay feel like a real traditional Japanese experience.
Breakfast is served downstairs, but dinner is served in your own room – both are a delicious parade of more than ten different dishes!
Recently the number of guests at our Ryokan from overseas has been increasing.
In the last four months alone (January to April) this year, we have welcomed guests from more than 30 countries and regions.
So, we have also had variety of requests for special menus (especially vegetarian and vegan).
Therefore, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan has created five special menus.
Regular dishes that we usually serve and many of our guests enjoy.
2. Menu with no meat
Substitute other ingredients for all meat in the regular menu.
Seafood, egg, dairy products are still used.
3. Vegetarian A menu
No meat and seafood, but a basic element of Japanese cuisine, ‘Katsuo Dashi’ (Japanese-style broth with dried bonito(fish) ) is used. Egg and dairy products are also used.
4. Vegetarian B menu
This meal does not contain meat, seafood, egg or dairy products, although ‘Katsuo Dashi'(Japanese-style broth with dried bonito) is used.
As it was mentioned above, ‘Katsuo Dashi’ is a basic element of Japanese cuisine.
5. Vegan menu
This menu does not contain meat, seafood, egg or dairy products. Special broth with edible kelp, mushrooms, and vegetables is used instead of ‘Katsuo Dashi’ (Japanese-style broth with dried bonito). There is an extra charge of 2,000yen per night per person.
We are afraid that we cannot accommodate fully for food allergies.
We will try to do our best. However, some ingredients may contain allergens, and allergens are handled and prepared in the same environment with all other food items, so trace amounts of these allergens may be found in all dishes.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter.
We are sorry to say that we cannot currently prepare halal food.
It is difficult for us to divide our cookware and utensils to prepare a halal menu.
In addition, some seasonings contain a little alcohol.
Please choose one of the five menus above, if possible.
We appreciate your understanding in this matter.
Likes and dislikes
We highly recommend that you try Washoku (Japanese cuisine). It is a great opportunity to enjoy it. There may be some dishes and ingredients that you are unfamiliar with, but they are worth trying.
Please let us know any of your menu requests in advance.
We may not able to accommodate you if ordered on the same day.
Along with Kashiwaya Café at Shima Onsen Town, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan is run by Kashiwaya Ltd., a small company operated by a family.
The founder is Masao Kashiwabara, my (Masuo Kashiwabara) grandfather.
According to historical documents, it is guessed that our ancestors moved from the current Shizuoka prefecture to Sawadamura-Kanobara, about 10km south from Shima Onsen, in the Age of Civil Wars or in the beginning of Edo period (End of 16th century or bigining of 17th century).
We can never know why our ancestors moved from such far Shizuoka prefecture to this countryside village in mountains.
In addition, it seems that our clan was used to be Shugenja (tempest) called Kashiwabara Shugen Daizoin until about Meiji Ishin(19th century).