All About Japan

My First Time at a 'Ryokan'

| Ryokan , Hakone

Snugly tucked away in the backstreets of Hakone, this place was a hidden gem. I just stood there taking it all in. The main plaza was a tasteful melange of greenery, wood and stone with a very traditional Japan feel. I wonder if the staff thought I was crazy, or slow, for standing in the center of their plaza with my mouth agape for so long!

What is a 'Ryokan'?

To put it simply, a ryokan is a traditional-style Japanese inn.

If you checked out the posts I did on the first Japanese hotels I ever stayed in, this was completely different! I was blown away at just how different a more upscale ryokan is from your run-of-the-mill hotel.

At the ryokan, SWEET JESUS CRUNCH*, they went out of their way to take care of their patrons. When I arrived, there was an all-female staff wearing traditional kimono (or were they yukata? I always get the two confused) waiting outside to greet me.

*An old expression, from my early teaching days here in Japan, used to show surprise.

The Room

A slender woman in a light-colored kimono carried every single one of my bags, which I knew were just a bit too heavy. I felt bad letting the lady carry them, and I tried to do it myself, but she insisted.

She showed me to my room and a cool yukata (summer kimono) that I could change into. This room was exactly what you might imagine an old-style Japanese room would look like, save a few modern items (alarm clock, television, hair-dryer, etc.).

I really liked how the sliding doors in my room gave an illusion of quaint simplicity. Opening these doors revealed much more spacious, secret rooms: the bathroom/tub, the bedroom and living room area. The wood and the tatami instantly made me feel comfortable and relaxed.

While I was changing, the same staff member who carried my things brought a tray with a light Japanese snack. There was chawanmushi (savory egg custard) and matcha served with a powdered, chewy, lightly sweet confection (I’m not exactly sure what the name was, but I took a photo).

The Bath

The staff let me know that the ryokan’s bath facilities were open, and that the other ryokan guests hadn’t yet arrived, so I had free rein of the onsen-style bath.

This was actually my first time in an onsen-style bath.

Find out how the bathing adventure ends, as well as The Japan Guy's views on ryokan food and hospitality—and a treasure trove of pictures of the area—by visiting the link below!

Read full story: www.thejapanguy.com