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 said that there are more than 3,000 onsen with accommodation in Japan.
On the contrary, looking at the number of onsen in the world, Australia is about 50 and Germany is a little less than 200, thus you can see that Japan has overwhelming onsen powers. (Source: National Diet Library database)
In addition, its history and traditions are also great.
Onsen that was Described in the Japanese Oldest Book
A relationship between Japanese and onsen is so deep that there are descriptions about onsen on “Kojiki” that is said to have been compiled in A.D. 712 and is the Japanese oldest book. We often say, “Onsen culture is due to Japanese DNA.” It is exactly like that.
Where is the oldest onsen in Japan? Onsen enthusiasts often discuss it.
From a view that are appeared in the ancient texts such as Nihonsyoki (Chronicles) and Fudoki (Topography), commonly referred “Japanese three oldest onsen” are Dogo onsen (Ehime Prefecture), Arima onsen (Hyogo Prefecture), and Shirahama onsen (Wakayama Prefecture).
In the era when medical care was undeveloped, onsen was revered as Holy Land that has amazing efficacy for injury and illness. It was after the Kamakura era that bathing became a common culture same as modern. Then in the Edo era, “Toji (onsen therapy)” culture, that is people heal their fatigue in onsen during agricultural off-season, spread and has continued unbroken until now.
Tradition of Shima Onsen
Tradition of Shima onsen is also very old and nobody knows exactly, however, there are episodes, such as Shogun of the time, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, discovered it at Ezo conquest during Enryaku period (from A.D. 782 to 806) according to a legend, and Usui Hyuganokami Sadamitsu, a vassal of Minamoto no Raikou, discovered it when traveling From Echigo country to Ueno country in Eien 3 (A.D. 989).
The legend is like this. Usui Hyuganokami Sadamitsu was spending time by chanting while he was camping in the middle of the journey. Then suddenly, an unfamiliar child appeared and left mysterious surrender, “I bestow you a holy onsen that cures 40,000 diseases as I was moved by your sincerity of chanting. I am a divine spirit of this mountain.” Although Sadamitsu was almost falling asleep, he examined the peripheral in a hurry, and found onsen gushing out there. According to these legends, it is likely that onsen had been known before the 10th century.
It was during the Warring States Period of the 16th century when Shima onsen ryokan was full-fledged open. The length of history is also a proof of the height of efficacy. It is said that when taking Shima onsen, it demonstrates wonderful effects on improving skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis or burns, and poor physical condition of gastrointestinal system disease. Thus, Shima onsen is highly acclaimed as a premier Toji place. In addition, skin effect is also outstanding, thus many female customers also visit for cosmetic purposes.
Shima onsen is a spa town, and there are more than 30 accommodations along Shima river. One of them is “Sekizenkan main building,” which is said to be the existing Japanese oldest Yuyado architecture.
So, you can feel good old Japanese tradition. Sekizenkan is said to have become the model of the stage of “Spirited Away,” a Studio Ghibli’s masterpiece. If you look at the red bridge towards straight extending to the front door, many people raise impressed voice by superimposing with the world of the anime.
In October, a Shima autumn festival is held, where local young people play grand festival music works together. The traditional festival lives up the onsen town, so you can enjoy a little bit different Shima onsen’s taste from usual one.
“Yakushido,” a national designated important cultural property, that has been dedicated to Yunomae Myojin at Hinatami district is a symbol of Shima onsen tradition.
It is said to be architecture of late Muromachi Era. The fact that there was such a splendid building from that time is also a testimony that Shima onsen has prospered from old time.
There is a system called “national resort onsen,” best onsen as resort designated by the Ministry of the Environment, in Japan. Shima onsen was designated as the first national resort onsen in 1954. This would show that Shima onsen is traditional and also has excellent medicinal efficacy.
As Toji culture had been remained until the 1975’s at Shima onsen, you can walk the streets where you can feel the Toji culture even now, such as shopping mall and drinking onsen spot.
In addition, concerning the humanity of people living at Shima onsen, most of them do not care business profit that is same as in Toji era, thus people sometimes say that it is like the time of this town has stopped.
Fully enjoy onsen atmosphere at traditional Japanese onsen, especially among them, at Shima onsen with old history.