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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.