Staying in a ryokan is a great way to experience the culture and lifestyle of traditional Japan. These guesthouses offer more than just a room to sleep in – they provide highly memorable, personalised hospitality. You can sleep on futons (surprisingly comfortable), wear a yukata robe while dining tatami-style on local cuisine, and experience other age-old rituals that will make your trip more meaningful.
Here’s our pick of some of the best ryokans in Japan.
Hiiragiya Ryokan, Kyoto
If you’re looking for old-world Japanese hospitality at its finest, check into the Hiiragiya. For more than 200 years, this six-generation family-run luxury inn has impressed with its personable service and authentic traditions. Its illustrious guest list has included Nobel laureate and novelist Yasunari Kawabata, and no doubt this place is inspiring.
There are restful Zen gardens for thoughtful contemplation, elegantly adorned quarters steeped in history, private soaking tubs, and classic rooms with tatami flooring. These rooms have been updated for today’s travelers to include modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi.
The elaborate kaiseki dinners are both a visual and culinary treat, while the personal butler caps off a truly pampering experience. Well worth the splurge.
Sumiya Kiho-an, Kyoto
Sumiya Kuho-an is the perfect retreat after all that temple-hopping in Kyoto. This picturesque natural hot spring resort is located in the mountains outside of the city, but a hotel shuttle pick-up from JR Kameoka Station makes it convenient to get to.
We can’t think of anything more rejuvenating than an agenda that involves relaxing in onsen baths, deciding on a spa treatment, and dining on delectable seasonal local cuisine. A soak in the resort’s ‘secret’, private outdoor spring bath, surrounded by forests and under the night sky is nothing short of magical.
Kaneyoshi Ryokan, Osaka
Kaneyoshi Ryokan is near the Dotonbori River and the area’s famed shopping and dining stretch. Aside from its excellent location, the Japanese-style rooms here are clean, comfortable and provide the quintessential ryokan experience without breaking the bank. It might be loud and throbbing outside, among the neon lights and shoppers, but indoors it’s a quiet haven.
Sip a cup of green tea on your balcony overlooking the canal and save space for the traditional breakfast – a lavish affair that will start your day on a high note.
Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa, Tokyo
We love the Ryokan Kamogawa’s quaint location housed in historic Asakusa. In this older, character-filled part of town, you’ll step out of your ryokan and on to little cobbled street shops that take you to major sights such as the Sensō-ji Temple, Asakusa Shrine and Tokyo Skytree.
The ryokan itself is classically traditional, complete with friendly service and fluffy futons on tatami floors.
There are en suite bathrooms with a shower and tub, but there’s a communal family-sized onsen bath on the ground floor that can be booked for private use.
Elaborate Japanese-style breakfasts and kaiseki dinners are served in the in-house restaurant.
Hotel Fukudaya, Tokyo
This family-run ryokan is tucked down a small lane in a quiet neighbourhood, but it’s still close to fashionable Shibuya. Hotel Fukudaya is also near the hip Daikanyama area, where charming boutiques, cafes, sake bars and restaurants make for an interesting jaunt. The rooms have tatami flooring, are serene, clean and a good-size.
The homey, intimate atmosphere and friendly hospitality makes it feel like you’re staying in the home of an old Japanese friend. Overall, this hotel is great value and its location is unbeatable.