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Japan Ryokan

Ryokan

Gion Hatakana

Gion Hatakana Ryokan, Kyoto

Ryokan are Japanese style inns that capture the culture and traditions of years gone by while offering the service and comfort one would expect from modern accommodation.

Ryokan can vary from small wooden traditional buildings to the large concrete structures that are prevalent in many Japan cities. And while luxury ryokan do exist, they do not provide the mod cons of that of a luxury hotel, instead the focus is on service, atmosphere and relaxation.

Ryokan rooms are usually furnished with tatami flooring, a low table and cushions (zabuton) for sitting on. A tea set may also be provided for guests to enjoy some Japanese tea. Guests sleep on a futon which is rolled out and put away in an 'oshiire' (a closet for futons) each day by the Ryokan staff.

Breakfast and dinner is usually included in the room rate and , depending on the ryokan, meals are served in the guest's room or taken in a large communal dining area. It is often the food that the ryokan pride themselves on and is often why Japanese guests choose a particular ryokan. The meals served are traditionally Japanese, consisting of fish, rice and sweets fresh from the local area that the ryokan is located.

Besides the experience of sleeping on a futon in a tatami room and eating sashimi, guests also have the opportunity to enjoy an onsen (Japanese spa). Ryokan onsen can be either natural hot springs or man made. They are usually gender separated and communal, but for those that may be a little uncomfortable sharing a communial bath, there are (more expensive) ryokan that offer rooms with private baths.

There are about 55,000 ryokan in Japan, 1400 of which belong to the japan ryokan association. It is more common for ryokan to be located in scenic areas of Japan and probably a more memeorable experience to stay in such a place, but they do excist in japanese cities too with Kyoto being quite well known for its ryokan.

Minshuku

Hanakiya Inn, Kyoto

Minshuku are for budget travellers or those looking for a "Japanese experience". They can basically be described as Japanese style b&bs or budget ryokan.

In most cases minshuku are simply a room, section or floor of a family's home with a shared bathroom and common room. Like ryokan, rooms are simply furnished and guests are provided with a futon to sleep on which they may be required to put away and roll out themselves.

1 or 2 Japanese style meals are often included in the room rates.

It is best not to expect the hosts to be able to speak much English.

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