Tag Archives: Ryokan

Yukata: the Traditional way of Relaxing at a Japanese Ryokan

Yukata at Onsen Ryokan

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.

Furisode - Kimono
Furisode

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.

kimono at formal occasions
kimono at formal occasions

Finally, there is the robe that both men and women can wear casually: the yukata.

They say that originally yukata were only meant to be worn when going to the bath and when coming out. They are generally made from cotton, but there are also yukata made from a blend of hemp and polyester.

These days in Japan, many people wear yukata as fashionable summer wear. From fireworks displays and summer festivals to traditional obon dances and holidays during the summer, people young and old enjoy wearing yukata during the summer.

And yet another place to wear yukata is at an onsen ryokan, including our own Kashiwaya Ryokan in Gunma Prefecture.

As I mentioned at the beginning, most onsen ryokan have yukata prepared for guests to use as sleepwear and for relaxing around the inn. You can even wear the ryokan yukata while walking around town. That means these robes are used all year round, not just in summer! When it comes to ryokan, the yukata is a type of resort wear for guests to enjoy and relax in.

walking with Yukata
walking with Yukata
Exploring the Onsen town with Yukata
Exploring the Onsen town with Yukata

Originally many onsen ryokan just had simple indigo-dyed yukata available. These days, however, many ryokan – including Kashiwaya, of course – have a variety of designs and colors. So guests can now enjoy not only wearing, but also choosing a yukata that perfectly suits them!

Yukata are very popular among our international guests, and many of them have been kind enough to post photos of themselves wearing yukata to their social media profiles.

Kashiwaya Instagram
Kashiwaya Instagram

Since they are difficult to find abroad, I’d like to give a brief introduction of how to put a yukata on. As it’s such a rare opportunity, you’ll want to wear your yukata correctly and really immerse yourself in Japanese culture.

But don’t worry! Yukata are the most casual form of kimono, which means they are very easy to put on.

The most important thing to remember is that both women and men wear yukata in the “right-front” (migi-mae) style. This simply means that, for someone looking at you, the right-hand collar should be in front of the left-hand one.

Wearing your yukata the opposite way is a real faux pas. This is because the “left-front” style is only used in funeral garb, so please be careful!

How to wear the Yukata
How to wear the Yukata

The basic steps to putting your yukata on are:

  • Put both arms through the sleeves.
  • Fold your right-hand sleeve over your front first, followed by the left-hand sleeve. This will ensure you are wearing your yukata in the proper, right-front style.
  • Tie your obi sash to keep your yukata in place. Men should wear their sash at the hip, and women at the waist. This is considered an attractive way for women to wear their obi.
  • If it’s cold, put on the small overcoats called hanten or chabaori, which should be available at your ryokan.

As I said before, yukata lent to guests at ryokan are not just for sleeping, but for relaxing during your stay. Feel free to take a stroll around town in your yukata, and if you do, don’t forget to share all your cute photos on Instagram or other social media!

Instagram : Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan

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Onsen Ryokan with Beds and Western Style Meals

western style single bed

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.

Japanese style room and Washoku
Japanese style room and Washoku

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Ryokan that has Rooms with Private Onsen and Open-air Bath

Private open-air Onsen

Overview:

There are more ryokan that have guest rooms with private onsen and private open-air bath recently.

At those ryokan, you do not need to take onsen with other people.

So you can enjoy onsen even if you are from foreign countries, where you do not have habit to take a bath with other people.

Also, even if you have a tattoo, you can enjoy onsen without problems.

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Onsen town near Tokyo even Japan enthusiasts admire

Description

When saying onsen resort, people tend to imagine it to have left far from towns such as Tokyo. Yet, actually, there are a lot of highly original onsen resort and onsen ryokan near Tokyo environs, too.
There are more and more visitors who stay based at Tokyo Metropolitan area and stay at onsen ryokan in short trip in one night and two days. Onsen resorts near Tokyo, including out Shima onsen, are perfect for such needs.

Shima Onsen Town

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Let’s enjoy Shima Onsen with free bike rentals!

rental bikes

It will be about 6km (3.8 Miles) from the most famous sport “Shima Ouketsu (potholes)” that is at the very front to “Okushima Lake” that is at the innermost.

As the distance is relatively short, it is also pleasant if you walk inside Shima Onsen. Yet, bicycles are more recommended.

We, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan, provide rental bikes, which our customers can use for free if they stay at us.

enjoy bikes

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A Ryokan outside Tokyo, but Close to Tokyo

Evening at Onsen Ryokan

Overview

There are also a lot of ryokan in Tokyo but most of them do not equipped with onsen and meals.

So, it is hard to experience all the essences of ryokan (Japanese atmosphere, onsen, washoku) there.

Thus, I recommend you to stay at least one night at onsen ryokan that is close to Tokyo.

I have listed up some recommended onsen resorts, where you can enjoy ryokan close to Tokyo.

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In Tokyo, there are a variety of accommodations from ultra-luxury hotels to capsule hotels.

The total number of rooms of accommodations is almost 150,000 rooms, combining hotels and ryokan.

In addition, construction and opening of new accommodations are coming up towards the Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo Shibuya night
Bright Lights, Big Tokyo

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Shifts to Non Smoking !

Shift to Non smoking

Announcement:
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan Shifts to Non Smoking

As shown below, Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan gradually shifts to entire non smoking.

From mid July 2015, the public space becomes non smoking.

From October 1, 2015, the entire building, including guests rooms (including terraces), become non smoking.

We apologize for causing inconvenience for smokers, thank you for your kind understanding and acknowledge.

In addition, we will established a smoking corner at the central part of the second floor, exclusively for smoking customers.

If you interested in Japanese style Onsen, Please click here
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan >

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Introduce a chef of Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan

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Tetsuo Inoue / Our chef

First of all self-introduction

I am Tetsuo Inoue, served as a chef since 2011.

When I first became a member of Kashiwaya Ryokan, what I was surprised the most was that the staff had meeting and discussed everyday how they can please customers.

So I also, as a chef of this Ryokan, am enthusiastically engaged in researching cooking and developing new menus every night to deliver joy and surprise to our customers.

My recent theme is mainly dishes, using plenty of vegetables. Meat and fish are not mail role but vegetables are, so that customers can eat meat and fish a little more delicious. This is what I am challenging.

Speaking of challenge, I once have walked from Kagoshima to Tokyo.

I wanna achieve extremely chef road with such inborn strong will.

Name

Tetsuo Inoue

Although born in Tokyo, he had been trained not only in Kanto but also Kansai when he was young. He is a craftsman of this road.

Although initially, all staff thought that he was a silent person, he was just a little shy.

Actually he is really a friendly guy with nice smile.

Interests

JAZZ appreciation, Rakugo storyteller appreciation, old art tour.

His favorite Rakugo storyteller is, Kokontei Shinsho, Katsura Beicho, and Kokontei Shincho.

He taught me that there is a description that a storyteller Sanyutei Encho, called as a god of storytelling, walked to Shima Onsen in Meiji period in a book, “Encho Zammai,” which he read because it’s about storytelling.

Favorite food

Indeed, he is a chef.
He loves materials, which likely go well with Washoku!
Bamboo shoots, radish, redness of tuna, tasty dried fish ..

What He is Good at Other than Cooking

Walking.
As he told in the self-introduction, he had walked from Kagoshima to Tokyo for 40 days when he was young.
It is exactly the “master of the walk.”

Dinner at the guestroom Chef

Short Message to the Readers

I (Inoue) feel like what I have done has come to match with the trend of the times, the health boom.
If you get tired in a city, please refresh at Shima Onsen.
I look forward your visiting, cooking body-friendly cuisine.

Example of meals

Amenities of Onsen Ryokan

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).

yukata
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.
・Hair dryer
・Drawstring pouch – A convenient fabric pouch, useful when you go to the bath.
・Hairbrush and comb
・Shaving set
・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!

If you interested in Japanese style Onsen, Please click here
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan >

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Difference between Ryokan and Hotel

Ryokan

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.

A Japanese Room With A Bed

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.

Providing Meals

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.

Then dinner.

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.

Origin

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.

In addition, inns for Toji purpose began to be built at onsen town, then Toji culture has been formed until contemporary.

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.

Please spend wonderful travel in Japan.

If you interested in Japanese style Onsen, Please click here
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan >

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