Konnichiwa! If you’re considering a Tokyo visit, I 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 summer trip to Tokyo, 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!
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- Best Kid Friendly Ryokan in Tokyo: Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa
- Best Ryokan in Tokyo for Couples: Andon Ryokan
- Best Budget Friendly Ryokan in Tokyo: Ryokan Katsutaro
- Best Luxury Ryokan in Tokyo: HOSHINOYA Tokyo
- Best Ryokan in Tokyo with Private Onsen: Onsen Ryokan Yuen Bettei Tokyo Daita
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.
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:
- Location: Consider the location of the ryokan. Do you prefer to stay in the heart of Tokyo, close to a landmark like Tokyo Skytree, or would you rather opt for a more tranquil setting in the countryside or near a natural hot spring? The location can significantly impact the overall ambiance of your stay.
- 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 Agoda.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.
Best Kid Friendly Ryokan in Tokyo
Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa
Why it Won: Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa stands out for its exceptional family-friendly atmosphere. This ryokan not only creates a tranquil escape but also caters to families, making it a perfect choice for a rejuvenating getaway. Located in Tokyo’s vibrant Asakusa neighborhood with lots of nearby attractions, the ryokan adds a unique charm to the overall stay, ensuring an enchanting experience for all family members, young and old.
- Website: Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa
- Neighborhood: Asakusa, Tokyo
- Traditional Breakfast: Available
- Onsen: Onsen available (requires reservation)
- Great for Families: Absolutely
- Room Highlights: Elegantly designed rooms with personal open-air baths, picturesque river views, en-suite bathrooms, adorned in traditional aesthetics, and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Overall Impression: Ryokan Kamogawa Asakusa creates a welcoming haven that’s perfect for families seeking both relaxation and the luxury of a private onsen. Nestled in the captivating beauty of Asakusa, this ryokan ensures a serene escape for all, making it an ideal choice for families looking to rejuvenate together in a tranquil setting.
Best Ryokan in Tokyo for Couples
Why it won: Andon Ryokan shines as the ultimate urban retreat in Tokyo, providing a harmonious blend of modern comfort and traditional elegance. Nestled in the vibrant heart of the city, this ryokan offers a serene haven where guests can unwind and rejuvenate.
- Website: https://www.andon.co.jp/
- Neighborhood: Asakusa
- Traditional Breakfast: Provided
- Onsen: Personal onsen facilities available (reservations can be arranged)
- Family-Friendly: No (primarily catering to couples and adults)
- Room Amenities: Each room has an en-suite bathroom, cozy futon beds, a thoughtfully stocked minibar, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Overall opinion: A captivating sanctuary for couples seeking both solace and connection, Andon Ryokan crafts an unforgettable sojourn amid the dynamic tapestry of Tokyo.
Best Budget Friendly Ryokan in Tokyo
Why it won: Ryokan Kastutaro emerges as a budget-friendly gem in Tokyo, offering a delightful fusion of affordability and authentic Japanese hospitality. Situated conveniently within the city, this ryokan provides a comfortable haven where guests can immerse themselves in traditional charm without breaking the bank.
- Website: https://www.ryokan-katsutaro.com/
- Neighborhood: Asakusa
- Traditional Breakfast: No
- Onsen: No onsen on site
- Family-Friendly: Yes, welcoming families and travelers of all ages
- Room Amenities: Each room is equipped with an en-suite bathroom, cozy futon beds, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Overall opinion: Ryokan Kastutaro stands as a testament to how affordability and cultural experience can harmonize seamlessly. Ideal for budget-conscious travelers, this ryokan offers a genuine taste of Tokyo’s heritage in the vibrant tapestry of Asakusa.
Best Luxury Ryokan in Tokyo
Why it won: Hoshinoya Tokyo reigns as the pinnacle of luxury ryokan experiences in the heart of Tokyo, combining opulence and traditional Japanese grace to provide an unparalleled retreat. With an unwavering commitment to exquisite service and design, this ryokan sets a new standard for lavish indulgence.
- Website: https://hoshinoya.com/tokyo/en/
- Neighborhood: Otemachi
- Traditional Breakfast: Served daily, featuring a rich selection of traditional and seasonal delights.
- Onsen: Private onsen facilities available, offering an exclusive and rejuvenating bathing experience.
- Family-Friendly: Yes, accommodating families and travelers of all ages with tailored services.
- Room Amenities: Each room boasts an en-suite bathroom, sumptuous futon bedding, a meticulously curated minibar, and high-speed complimentary Wi-Fi.
Overall opinion: Hoshinoya Tokyo stands as a testament to refined luxury, seamlessly blending modern extravagance with the essence of Japanese heritage. Ideal for discerning travelers seeking the utmost in lavishness, this ryokan creates an enchanting haven within the bustling urban canvas of Otemachi.
Best Ryokan in Tokyo with Private Onsen
Onsen Ryokan Yuen Bettei Tokyo Daita
Why it Won: Onsen Ryokan Yuen Bettei Tokyo Daita embraces the very essence of relaxation, presenting guests with the privilege of indulging in private onsen experiences. This ryokan’s captivating position in Tokyo’s Daita area adds an extra layer of charm to the overall stay, providing guests with an enchanting and rejuvenating experience.
- Website: https://www.uds-hotels.com/yuenbettei/daita/
- Neighborhood: Daita, Tokyo
- Traditional Morning Meal: Offered
- Onsen: Private Onsen available in select rooms (requires room reservation)
- Family Friendly: Yes
- Room Features: Graceful rooms boasting personal open-air baths, scenic river panoramas, en-suite bathrooms, adorned with traditional motifs, and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
Overall Opinion: Onsen Ryokan Yuen Bettei Tokyo Daita stands as a sanctuary of tranquility and revitalization, making it an ideal choice for travelers yearning for the luxury of a private onsen along with a serene escape set amidst the captivating beauty of nature.
Planning a trip to Japan?
Research which train pass is best for you in Tokyo. Plan a guided tour, or a guided food tour. Have a pocket wifi or SIM card ready when you land. Planning to travel on the Shinkansen? Find out the difference between a Green car and ordinary car and about the Shinkanesen luggage limit. Be sure to check out these 10 things you should NOT do when visiting Japan, or find other travel tips in our Travel category.
Summing it Up
With a variety of exceptional ryokans scattered throughout Tokyo, the city presents an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the essence of Japanese heritage and hospitality. Whether you’re exploring with family, seeking a romantic escape, aiming to manage your budget, or yearning for a lavish retreat, these five Tokyo ryokans offer bespoke experiences that cater to your preferences. Tokyo’s ryokans open doors to Japan’s rich traditions, allowing you to craft enduring memories that will resonate for years to come. Wishing you delightful adventures and a stay in Tokyo filled with enchantment!
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.