Konnichiwa! If you’re considering a visit to Kusatsu, I highly recommend immersing yourself in the culture by staying at one of the many remarkable ryokans available. Having had the privilege of exploring several ryokans on my recent trip to Japan, I’m happy to share my top five selections, each crafted to suit diverse preferences. I did the research so you don’t have to! All of the ryokans on this list have access to a private onsen and can include traditional meals for both breakfast and dinner.
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- Best Overall Ryokan in Kusatsu with Private Onsen: Sekizenkan Kashotei Sanso
- Best Ryokan in Kusatsu for Couples with Private Onsen: Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan
- Best Budget Friendly Ryokan in Kusatsu with Private Onsen: Osakaya Ryokan
- Best Luxury Ryokan in Kusatsu with Private Onsen: Kusatsu Onsen Aeruyado Takamatsu
- Best Kid Friendly Ryokan in Kusatsu with Private Onsen: Kusatsu Onsen Boun
What is a Ryokan?
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers guests a unique and immersive cultural experience. These inns have a history dating back many centuries and have preserved their authentic charm and customs throughout the years. Staying in a ryokan allows visitors to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle, hospitality, and aesthetics.
Key features of a ryokan include:
- Architecture and Design: Ryokans typically have a distinctive design characterized by wooden structures, sliding doors (fusuma), tatami mat flooring, and minimalist decor. The emphasis is on creating a serene and tranquil atmosphere.
- Tatami Rooms: Ryokan guest rooms are usually furnished with tatami mats, which are traditional straw mats. Guests sleep on futon mattresses placed on the tatami floor, and the room can be transformed into a living area during the day.
- Onsen (Hot Spring): Many ryokans feature onsen, natural hot spring baths, which are an integral part of Japanese culture. These communal (and sometimes private) baths offer relaxation and are believed to have therapeutic properties.
- Kaiseki Cuisine: One of the highlights of staying in a ryokan is the traditional multi-course kaiseki dinner, featuring seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, artfully presented to delight both the eyes and palate.
- Yukata: Guests are provided with yukata, which are lightweight cotton robes, to wear during their stay. These robes are comfortable and often adorned with beautiful patterns.
- Omotenashi: Ryokans are known for their exceptional hospitality, with the staff going above and beyond to ensure guests’ comfort and satisfaction. Expect personalized service and attention to detail.
- Tranquility: Ryokans are typically located in serene and picturesque settings, such as in rural areas, by hot springs, or in historic districts, offering guests a peaceful retreat from the bustle of modern life.
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Things to Consider When Choosing a Ryokan
When choosing a ryokan for your stay, there are several important factors to consider to ensure you have a memorable and enjoyable experience. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
- Onsen (Hot Spring) Facilities: If you’re interested in experiencing the traditional Japanese onsen, check if the ryokan has its own hot spring facilities. Some ryokans offer both indoor and outdoor baths, and others may have private onsen options. Ensure you’re comfortable with communal bathing customs if the onsen is public.
- Room Size and Amenities: Different ryokans offer varying room sizes and amenities. Consider the size of the room, the type of bedding (futon on tatami mats or Western-style beds), and the availability of ensuite bathrooms or shared facilities. Also, check for in-room amenities such as Wi-Fi, TV, and air conditioning, depending on your preferences.
- Dining Experience: Kaiseki is an integral part of the ryokan experience. Check the ryokan’s dining options, whether they serve traditional multi-course kaiseki meals or offer other dining choices. Additionally, consider any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have and ensure the ryokan can accommodate them.
- Language Support: Some ryokans may have limited English-speaking staff, so it’s essential to ensure you can communicate effectively during your stay. If you don’t speak Japanese, look for ryokans that offer multilingual staff or have English translations available. All recommendations in this post have English speaking staff
- On-site Facilities: Depending on your interests, check if the ryokan offers any additional facilities or activities, such as gardens, tea rooms, cultural experiences, or massage services.
- Family-Friendly and Age Restrictions: If you’re traveling with family or children, make sure the ryokan is family-friendly and can accommodate young guests. Some ryokans may have age restrictions or limited facilities for children.
- Reviews and Ratings: Read reviews and check ratings of the ryokan from previous guests. Online platforms like Klook.com or Booking.com can provide valuable insights into the experiences of other travelers.
- Budget: Consider your budget for the stay. Ryokans can vary significantly in price, so it’s essential to find one that aligns with your budget while still offering a satisfying experience.
- Special Offers and Packages: Some ryokans may offer special packages or deals, especially during off-peak seasons. Be on the lookout for any promotions or discounts that can enhance your stay.
By carefully considering these factors, you can choose a ryokan that best suits your preferences and ensures a memorable and culturally immersive experience during your stay in Japan.
1. Best Overall Ryokan in Kusatsu
Sekizenkan Kashotei Sanso
Why it won: When it comes to the best overall ryokan in (or around) Kusatsu, Sekizenkan Kashotei Sanso takes the lead. This extraordinary place offers a 4-star stay that shines with outstanding accommodations and amazing food. Its top-notch service, soothing atmosphere, private onsen, and delectable meals ensure your visit will be unforgettable. Tucked away in a peaceful corner of Kusatsu, it’s the perfect spot for a serene getaway.
- Location: Nakanojo, 10.8 miles from Kusatsu
- Traditional Breakfast and Dinner: Indulge in a delightful traditional breakfast and dinner, a true showcase of local flavors and ingredients. It is the highlight according to many guests.
- Private Onsen: Some rooms have their own in-room open-air onsen, a rejuvenating essential of the ryokan experience.
- Family Friendly: Absolutely, with inclusive amenities and services catering to diverse groups.
- Room Features: The elegantly designed rooms come with en-suite bathrooms, serene views of nature, and authentic Japanese aesthetics. Plus, there’s complimentary Wi-Fi for your convenience.
Overall Impression: Sekizenkan Kashotei Sanso captures the essence of relaxation and cultural immersion. It provides guests with a genuine and enriching experience. A perfect blend of tradition and modern comfort amidst Kusatsu’s natural beauty. It’s a must-visit for all kinds of travelers looking for an unforgettable stay.
2. Best Ryokan in Kusatsu for Couples
Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan
Why it won: Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan emerges as the premier choice for couples seeking a captivating escape. Nestled in the heart of serene Shima Onsen, this ryokan masterfully combines modern luxury with timeless allure. A sanctuary where couples can bask in each other’s company amidst breathtaking mountain views. And don’t forget to indulge in a soothing massage – the perfect addition to your romantic retreat. The hospitality and service provided are truly top-notch.
- Website: https://www.kashiwaya.org/
- Neighborhood: Nakanojo, 11.1 miles from Kusatsu
- Traditional Breakfast and Dinner: Plans available with breakfast and dinner, served in semi-private dining rooms.
- Onsen: Private open-air onsen baths available, ensuring an intimate and rejuvenating soaking experience.
- Family Friendly: Yes, however accommodations here are designed for couples and adults seeking tranquility.
- Room Amenities: Some rooms available with private onsen, all rooms have en-suite bathroom, plush futon bedding, a meticulously curated minibar, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Overall opinion: Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan is the epitome of romance and luxury, inviting couples to create cherished memories amidst the tranquil landscape of Shima Onsen. An ideal choice for those yearning for an intimate and romantic escape, this ryokan weaves an unforgettable love story intertwined with relaxation.
3. Best Budget Friendly Ryokan in Kusatsu
Why it Won: Ok, a ryokans can be expensive. But among the options, Osakaya Ryokan stands out as the top budget-friendly choice, offering a perfect harmony of affordability and genuine Japanese hospitality. Nestled amid Hakone’s picturesque landscapes, this ryokan provides a warm sanctuary where guests can fully embrace traditional charm without stretching their budgets.
- Website: https://www.osakaya.in/
- Neighborhood: Center of Kusatsu
- Traditional Breakfast and Dinner: Plans available to include breakfast and/or dinner served in room.
- Onsen: A private indoor bath and a private open-air bath are available for private use with reservation.
- Family Friendly: Yes
Overall Impression: Ideal for budget-conscious travelers, this ryokan captures the essence of Kusatu’s charm without exceeding your budget. Nestled in the heart of Kusatsu, it offers an authentic experience that showcases Japan’s heritage while being gentle on your wallet.
4. Best Luxury Ryokan in Kusatsu
Kusatsu Onsen Aeruyado Takamatsu
Why it Won: When it comes to luxury ryokan experiences in Kusatsu, Kusatsu Onsen Aeruyado Takamatsu takes the crown. It seamlessly intertwines opulence with traditional Japanese elegance, crafting an unrivaled retreat infused with 5-star service. This ryokan distinguishes itself through its unwavering dedication to exceptional service, exquisite design, and breathtaking vistas, setting an entirely new standard for lavish indulgence in Kusatsu. From exceptional service to delectable cuisine and stunning views, coupled with the privilege of a private onsen, this ryokan sits proudly at the zenith.
- Website: http://h-takamatsu.com/aeruyado/en/
- Neighborhood: Center of Kusatsu
- Traditional Breakfast and Dinner: Served daily, showcasing an array of traditional and seasonal culinary delights.
- Onsen: Rooms available with private open air onsen. Book a room on the roof terrace where you can enjoy the view of Kusatsu’s mountains and cityscape, there is an open-air bath that draws water from the Yubatake source.
- Family Friendly: Absolutely.
- Room Highlights: Lavishly appointed rooms with a cross of modern western and Japanese style featuring en-suite bathrooms, luxurious futon bedding, and high-speed complimentary Wi-Fi.
Overall Impression: When it comes to having a fancy and special time in Kusatsu, Kusatsu Onsen Aeruyado Takamatsu is the best choice. It’s a place where luxury, really good service, delicious food, and amazing views all come together.
5. Best Kid Friendly Ryokan in Kusatsu
Kusatsu Onsen Boun
Why it Won: So, you’re on the hunt for a private onsen experience in Kusatsu, and you want a family-friendly environment that ensures everyone, including the little ones, has a fantastic time. Look no further than Kusatsu Onsen Boen! This ryokan in Kusatsu is a standout choice for families seeking a remarkable getaway. It not only offers a peaceful retreat but also caters to families, ensuring a rejuvenating and unforgettable vacation. The ryokan promises an enchanting stay that’s suitable for family members of all ages.
- Website: Kusatsu Onsen Boen
- Location: Kusatsu, Gunma Prefecture, conveniently located near Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal
- Traditional Breakfast and Dinner: Yes, you can savor traditional Japanese meals, with a variety of options to please every palate.
- Onsen: Immerse yourself in the soothing waters of the onsen, an experience that both adults and children will cherish (advance reservations recommended).
- Family Friendly: Absolutely, Kusatsu Onsen Boen offers amenities and services designed to meet the needs of families.
- Room Highlights: Expect tastefully appointed rooms with scenic mountain or garden views, en-suite bathrooms for your convenience, authentic Japanese aesthetics, and complimentary Wi-Fi to keep everyone entertained.
Overall Impression: Kusatsu Onsen Boen creates a welcoming and relaxing haven tailored perfectly for families in search of serenity and shared moments, including the chance to enjoy the onsen together. Nestled in the captivating landscapes of Kusatsu, this ryokan guarantees a tranquil and memorable escape for your entire family, making it the ultimate choice for families seeking unforgettable experiences.
Summing it Up
In charming Kusatsu, Japan, you’ll find many cozy ryokans. These special places, the best Ryokans in Kusatsu with private onsen, let you dive deep into Japanese traditions and hospitality. Whether you’re here with family, on a romantic trip, watching your budget, or wanting something more lavish, Kusatsu’s ryokans have something for you. They welcome you to experience Japan’s culture and make memories that will stay with you. Have a wonderful time exploring and enjoying your stay in Kusatsu!
Frequently Asked Questions about Ryokan Stays
- What is the check-in and check-out time at a ryokan? Check-in time at most ryokans is typically in the late afternoon, around 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM. Check-out is usually in the morning, around 10:00 AM. However, these timings can vary, so it’s best to confirm with the ryokan before your arrival.
- What should I wear during my stay at a ryokan? Ryokans often provide guests with yukata, which are lightweight cotton robes to wear during their stay. You can wear the yukata around the ryokan, including during meals and while relaxing in the communal areas.
- Do ryokans have private bathrooms in the guest rooms? It depends on the ryokan. Some ryokans offer guest rooms with ensuite bathrooms, while others may have shared bathrooms. If having a private bathroom is essential to you, make sure to check the room amenities before booking.
- What is a kaiseki meal, and is it included in the stay? Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal that is meticulously prepared and beautifully presented. Many ryokans include a kaiseki dinner and breakfast as part of the stay. However, it’s essential to confirm the dining arrangements and if any dietary preferences or restrictions can be accommodated.
- Are ryokans family-friendly? Not all ryokans are family-friendly, as some may have age restrictions or limited facilities for children. If you’re traveling with family, look for ryokans that explicitly welcome families and can provide appropriate accommodations.
- Are tattoos allowed in ryokans with onsen facilities? Some ryokans have restrictions on tattoos in their onsen facilities due to cultural reasons. Tattoos are associated with yakuza (organized crime) in Japan. While some ryokans may allow guests with tattoos to use private onsen, others may not have any restrictions. It’s best to inquire about their policy beforehand.
- Do I need to know Japanese to stay at a ryokan? While knowing Japanese can be helpful, many ryokans in popular tourist areas have staff who can communicate in English or other languages. However, it’s a good idea to learn a few basic Japanese phrases or use translation apps to enhance your communication.
- Are there any specific etiquette rules I should be aware of during my ryokan stay? Yes, there are some etiquette rules to observe during your ryokan stay, such as removing shoes when entering the room, being punctual for meals, and using appropriate greetings and gestures. Your host will appreciate any effort you make to respect Japanese customs. For more information, check out 10 things you should NOT do when visiting Japan.
- What payment methods do ryokans accept? Ryokans usually accept major credit cards. However, it’s always a good idea to confirm payment methods in advance to avoid any inconvenience.
- How far in advance should I book a ryokan? Popular ryokans in peak tourist seasons can get booked quickly, so it’s advisable to book well in advance, especially for well-known ryokans or during busy travel periods. Booking a few months ahead is recommended.