The Ryokan Experience: A Night in a Traditional Japanese Inn

Kyoto Ryokan

During my third visit to Japan, I decided that I wanted to delve deeper into more aspects of the Japanese culture than I had on my previous trips.

When I made the journey to the city of Kyoto, I thought it would be a good idea to experience a unique aspect of Japanese culture by staying at a  traditional Japanese inn called a ryokan

genkan (玄関)

When I first entered into the ryokan I had booked in Kyoto, I was asked to remove my shoes in the genkan, or entryway, and change into slippers. It is a customary practice in Japan to remove shoes before entering a home in Japan in order to keep the floor of a residence clean.

My Room at the Ryokan

After removing my shoes at the front door of the ryokan, I checked in, and the owner then escorted me to my room. I was told that in order to avoid damaging the tatami mats on the floor of the bedroom, I would need to remove my slippers and walk around barefoot or with socks.

Tatami mats are special Japanese mats created from straw that are often found in traditional Japanese homes. Tatami mats are perfect for sitting or sleeping on due to their firm but smooth texture, however, they can be damaged quite easily by scratches or stains and therefore they need to be replaced regularly.

ryokan bow

On the front wall of my ryokan room, there was a raised alcove called a tokonoma (床の間). Inside of the tokonoma, there is a hanging scroll (called a kakejiku) that usually features either calligraphy or a work of art and below the scroll sits a vase of a traditional Japanese flower arrangement called an ikebana.

futon bed ryokan

My ryokan room also had other cultural features including a traditional Japanese futon bed, which lays on the floor directly on top of the tatami mats.

A Japanese futon bed is comprised of several parts: the shikibuton (しきぶとん), which is the part of the bed that you lay on and is usually comprised of a synthetic material or cotton, the kakebuton (かけぶとん), which is a thick comforter covered in a net that is open on one side that allows air to flow through, and the makura, which is a small pillow filled with beans or foam.

Futon beds in Japanese homes and ryokans are not only comfortable, but they are also practical. They can be easily folded away in storage for the day while a room is used for hosting guests or doing various other activities in the space.

ryokan tea table

ryokan tea

tea cup ryokan

Staying at a ryokan during a trip to Japan can be quite expensive and on average can cost between $150 – $250/night. Included in the high cost of a stay at a ryokan is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal called a kaiseki ryori.

Due to the fact that I was on somewhat of a budget during my trip to Japan, I opted to stay in a more budget friendly ryokan that cost only $60/night, and therefore I was only provided with tea.

After settling into my room and having my complimentary cup of tea, I decided that it was time take a bath in the traditional Japanese style.

Bathing at the Ryokan

japanese bath ryokan

I made my way to the lower level of the ryokan donning only my yukata (which is a one-piece lightweight kimono-styled garment) and entered into the onsen (bathing facility with water from a hot spring).

I locked the door of the onsen behind me, slid out of my yukata, and took a quick shower before immersing myself in the warm water of the tub.

In addition to wanting to stay in a traditional Japanese inn to for the experience, I also was very interested in trying out an onsen, which is a huge part of Japanese culture. Since I have two small tattoos, I am not allowed to visit most onsen around the country, so I figured that experiencing an onsen at a ryokan would be my best bet.

After finishing my bath, I stepped out and slipped my yukata back onto my body before heading back to my room for the night.

kyoto ryokan

The next day, the sun peeked through the sunroof in my room and roused me from my sleep. I packed my things back into my suitcase and headed down the stairs to check out. Although very brief, I really enjoyed my night in the ryokan and I am looking forward to experiencing a higher-end property on my next trip.

Where I Stayed: Nishikiro (Kyoto, Japan) | Price I Paid: 6500 Yen ($60 USD) for 1 night | Location: Excellent – two blocks from Kyoto Station


Have you ever heard of or experienced a ryokan before?


By |2018-03-05T03:13:01+00:00May 13th, 2016|Accommodation, Japan, Kyoto|9 Comments


  1. Erika Alc May 17, 2016 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    This is too cool! I recently wrote an article about Japan, and I’ve since been dreaming about the day I get to visit the beautiful country. I’ll definitely need stay at a ryokan. Your experience looks like one for the books. Nothing beats cultural immersion. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer May 18, 2016 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Erika, you will definitely love Japan when you make it there, and I definitely agree – it is amazing to immerse yourself in the culture of a place when visiting 😀

  2. Maya May 28, 2016 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Seems like a very cool experience. Who knew they could be that expensive!

  3. Sarah @ Sarah Sees The World Jun 13, 2016 at 6:34 am - Reply

    Wow what a neat experience! Would love to do this.

  4. TravelXena Aug 16, 2016 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    How cool! What an amazing experience. Something to add to my list 🙂

  5. The British Berliner Jul 14, 2017 at 1:02 am - Reply

    Very nice indeed!

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