RYOKANS: Dos and don’ts

The eti­quette of stay­ing at a ryokan can be per­plex­ing for first-timers. Here are a few things you need you know…

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Wander Sleeps -


Check-in is usu­ally between 3pm and 6pm. If you’re due to ar­rive later than this, it’s best to let the ryokan know in ad­vance, largely be­cause of the time that the evening meals are served.


At all ex­cept the most modern ryokans, you’ll be ex­pected to take off your shoes on ar­rival. You’ll usu­ally be given a pair of slip­pers to wear, which should them­selves be re­moved be­fore walk­ing on the tatami (green rice straw)

mat­ting of your room. Socks are fine. Ex­pect a min­i­mal­ist ap­proach to dé­cor and a sheeted fu­ton to sleep

on, which will of­ten be laid out while you’re hav­ing din­ner. Many ryokans now have TVS and Wifi.


Some ryokans have shared

onsen (hot ther­mal baths), oth­ers have pri­vate in-room onsen. It’s nor­mal to take a soak shortly af­ter ar­rival – you may have to wait un­til a des­ig­nated time if you’re us­ing a shared onsen. If you’re in any doubt about pro­to­col, ask. At most places you’ll be given a yukata (cot­ton ki­mono) to change into. These can be worn dur­ing evening meals, when walk­ing around the ryokan and even in bed. Wrap the left side of the gar­ment over the right – the other way is used to dress bod­ies for fu­ner­als.


Evening meals are of­ten served at 6pm or 7pm. At some ryokans the meal

will be com­mu­nal, at oth­ers it will be served in your room. Din­ners tend to be in­cluded in the price and are of­ten

kaiseki style –elab­o­rate, multi-course meals.


The doors to the ryokan are usu­ally locked fairly

early, so if you do need to go out again in the evening for any rea­son, check be­fore do­ing so. Break­fast is nor­mally served at around 8am and tra­di­tion­ally in­volves fish, pick­led veg­eta­bles and rice. Should this be un­ap­peal­ing, it’s usu­ally pos­si­ble to get a sim­ple Western-style al­ter­na­tive. Like­wise, if there’s any­thing you’re un­cer­tain or anx­ious about at any stage of a ryokan stay, don’t be shy to ad­dress ques­tions to your hosts.

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