In Europe, we are all well informed about local Bed and Breakfasts. And in Japan, they have the famous ryokan.
Ryokan is a kind of Japanese traditional style accommodation which you can find throughout the country, especially nearby hot spring resorts. It comes in various sizes from the small one (few rooms) usually family run to the large hotel-like ryokan with hundreds of rooms.
More than just a place to sleep, ryokan are an opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine, making them popular with both Japanese and foreign tourists alike.
TripAdvisor Japan, the famous travel website has recently released its top 20 ryokan chosen by travelers .The ranking is based on the real experience by travelers who left their reviews on TripAdvisor. This list is among the annual survey conducted by TripAdvisor in 2014. So, let’s check out these top 20 ryokan.
A guest by the nickname Eitchkay B from Singapore wrote on TripAdvisor “What would one expect from a ryokan stay? I would want an experience that will linger in the memory for a long while to come. You would want comfort, amenities, good onsen, great kaiseki food all delivered by quality, attentive and caring staff who go all the way to pamper you.”
Eitchkay B also further described the surroundings of the ryokan, giving prospect guests a better understanding of the ryokan.
“It is a traditional wood-structured Ryokan with tatami rooms along the river and water-falls. the window of our room faced the water-falls along the stream. The Ryokan has indoor pools and outdoor pools for shared use. There are also four private pools for reservation on an as available basis on the hour.
“The onsens are just wonderful, especially the outdoor ones. Listening to the waterfalls and the streams, surrounded by the trees in the wooded surroundings. The onsen-baths are very envigorating and healing at the same time. Temperature of about 40-42 is maintained, even in the outdoor pools,” Eitchikay wrote.
For those who love vehicle models, well Morizuya Kinosaki Onsen is your must-stay ryokan. The owner of this ryokan has displayed his very own model collections such as the Harley Davidson Motorcycles and warplanes. This unique ryokan is located in the middle of the infamous hot spring town – Kinosaki Onsen in Hyogo Prefecture.
Besides the vehicle models, of course this ryokan will not disappoint foreigners who are seeking for authentic Japanese stay experience. It provides yukata and serve authentic Japanese teas for the maximum enjoyment.
A guest from Australia, Ellie M said, “I stayed with my daughter for one night to have a unique experience. We were not disappointed. We were met at the front door and our bags were immediately whisked up to our room. We were greeted warmly and taken to choose a yukata from a vast selection of colours. Our room was the Sakura room. It was very clean and there was fresh tea and a sweet bean cake waiting for us.”
If you are in Tokyo and wish to stay in a quiet place, then Annex Katsutaro Ryokan is the right place. It is located at “Shitamachi”, an old town situated in between the Nippori Station and Sendagi Station.
A guest from the Netherlands with the nickname Shirley900 said it was an excellent stay in awesome Japanese style.
“An absolute fantastic experience! This ryokan is just around the corner of Yanakaginza, a local street with small local shops and eateries. We booked a deluxe room for 4 nights, the room is very japanese style with tatami mats on the floor and futons to sleep on. Very clean and neat,” she wrote in TripAdvisor.
A cozy little hot spring ryokan with only 12 rooms, Shimaya Ryokan is part of the Yudanaka Spa Resort in Nagona. It is located in the center of the town where restaurants and bars are only few steps away.
Apart from its ideal location, Shimaya Ryokan does gain a lot of praises from travelers for its attentive owner.
Rach_L_UK from the United Kingdom wrote, “the hotel has been in the family for generations, and although it’s a little worn round the edges, it’s a great little ryokan where the staff couldn’t be more helpful. The hotel place is in a good spot, about a 10 min (uphill) wander from yudanaka station, the rooms are large and clean and the futons are comfy. The owners couldn’t have been more helpful. We had a fantastic stay.”
Takefue is standing at the first position in TripAdvisor among 50 accommodations listed in Minamioguni-machi. One of the very unique selling points of this ryokan will be its 11 suites which come with different themes and designs. Besides that, it is located at the middle of the 32-acre land in the bamboo forest.
For those who have been here, surely Takefue will be their choice again if they ever come back. One of the many return guests is Edmond Lui from Hong Kong.
“This is the second time we stayed in this onsen ryokan. Everything about this ryokan was perfect from the secluded location, personal service to quality meals. If you like photography, this beautifully designed ryokan offers a variety of photographic opportunities. We love everything about this place and we will be back!” Lui wrote.
Takayama by far, is one of the most beautiful old towns in Japan. Staying in a traditional Japanese inn will complete the whole ancient experience. Sumiyoshi Ryokan is rated as the top 15th ryokan in Japan. Apart from its centric location in the Takayama old town, its private onsen and friendly owner surely attribute to its high ranking in TripAdvisor. It is located along the Miyagawa riverside in the old town.
“We liked the location of Sumiyoshi Ryokan, right on the river with a short walk to the main backstreets of Takayama. We enjoyed the onsen which was very private. Even though Sumiko (the woman who runs the ryokan) doesn’t speak much English she is very humorous and we were able to understand everything we needed to. Staying at Sumiyoshi Ryokan was a positive experience,” Eleanor B from the United States wrote.
A traditional old style ryokan, Ryokan Fujioto is located Tsumago where it is also surrounded by beautiful Japanese style gardens. Not only providing authentic Japanese stay, you will also find the owner speaks good English – something that many tourists would appreciate.
A traveler from Spain, Mafalda343 said, “its worth to go there, few tourist and beautiful area. The Fujioto ryokan was very clean and peaceful. The quality of the food was amazing, the best that I had on my stay.”
Zen Oyado Nishitei is a ryokan cum restaurant. It is situated at a two-floor building which was built more than 80 years ago. It was turned into a ryokan back in 1970. The first floor is a restaurant that serves traditional meals and the second floor housed the ryokan with only six rooms.
A traveler known as Debbie S from Hong Kong described the stay as “a wonderful retreat in a great city”.
“An intimate and tranquil Japanese garden sits just outside the entrance to the ryokan, which is conveniently located near Hakata station and accessible by bus or taxi. The ryokan itself is efficiently run by a warm and hospitable staff that provided us with plenty of restaurant recommendations and directions. Compared to other hotels that we stayed at during our trip, we much preferred the ryokan experience and will definitely look to stay here on our next visit,” Debbie S wrote.
A little gem near the Kyoto Station, Ohanabo is an authentic Japanese inn located in the center of Kyoto city. Apart from its friendly staffs, the ryokan is also described as an “extremely clean” accommodation among travelers.
One of the travelers by the name GlobalCitizen2 said the location and service were the hallmarks of this ryokan.
“The highlight in Ohanabo though, is the service. In a world that seems to have forgotten what good service means, Ohanabo reminds you! Everything they do focuses on the needs and wants of the guests and every member of their staff displays this attitude. Their traditional service philosophy (omotenashi) and the great experience they provided us will always be remembered,” GlobalCitizen2 wrote.
Housed in a building with Machiya architecture which was built more than 100 years ago, Salon Haraguchi Tenseian is a little ancient gem in this big city. Machiya architecture is a kind of traditional wooden townhouse which was once the symbol of old Kyoto. It is located at the east of the Maruyama Park, a famous spot for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto. It is also a short walk away from the infamous Gion.
The historical building and beautiful surroundings are not the only reasons why Salon Haraguchi Tenseian is famous, but also the hospitality provided by its owner – the Haraguchi family. On some of the days, the owner Takushi Haraguchi will not hesitate to be a tour guide himself and bring the guests around the city. Guests who stay here is also able to see some beautiful ceramics as Haraguchi-san is also a very talented ceramic artist.
“I’ve been lucky enough to stay in some wonderful places over my life, and this is without doubt one of the best. It’s like walking back in history as you walk through the door. Old houses are rare in Japan, and this feels old as soon as you walk in,” wrote Richard S from the United Kingdom.
Located on the grounds of the former summer villa of a member of the Imperial family, the building and facilities have earned high praise for its design, being in harmony with the nearby mountains, blending Japanese tradition along with modern design elements.
Gora Kadan has two wells from which mineral rich, hot spring water flows and feeds the open-air baths. The minerals contained in the spring water are regarded as having many healthy qualities promoting general good health, and also, smooth, soft skin.
One if its return guests, Terada1006 from Hawaii wrote in TripAdvisor describing the ryokan as one of the best in Japan.
“I wrote a review of Gora Kadan, a few years ago and felt then that this was one of the best hotels in Japan after more than 10 years of traveling to Japan. Well, we have just stayed at Gora Kadan again, our fourth visit in the last few years. It is not only great but even better and I felt that I had just returned home. We were welcomed and treated as though we were family,” Terada1006 said.
Also featured is the Michelin Guide 2014, Motonago is situated in a quiet part of Kyoto city. The surroundings of the ryokan will be able to bring you back to the old Kyoto, where it was once the country’s capital. The interior of the ryokan such as the walls were made using traditional techniques, making it a perfect ambient for one who wishes to have an authentic Japanese stay.
With such a wonderful ambient, many would wished to stay longer.
“Amazing ryokan that gives you a true Japanese experience! We only stayed one night, but I really did not want to leave this place. You really get a feel for the Japanese lifestyle when you slip into a kimono, go and take a bath in a steaming hot wood-tub, get served a 6-course Japanese dinner by a beautiful Japanese lady in the room, for then to dream the sweetest dreams on a soft tatami mat (where you found an oregami swan on your pillow).
“Just an amazing experience. It is also perfectly located in Kyoto, close to some of the temples and the street with gorgeous Japanese pottery worth taking home. I am definitively coming back here.,” a traveler from Norway, Idea L said.
Located in a traditional village of the Shibu-onsen, Senshinkan Matsuya is a 200-year-old ryokan. It is located in a near vicinity to the infamous onsen-bathing snow monkeys as well as the 9 healing onsens.
Ness-of-Sydney from Australia wrote a comment in TripAdvisor, describing the experience as wonderful traditional Japanese stay.
“We were welcomed into this hotel like family; sat down, served tea and biscuits, and our lovely hosts informed us of the procedures with the Onsens and what to do around the village. We were given our Yakatas and treated to a traditional Japanese feast for dinner. I had never experienced this before and it was amazing!!” she wrote.
Another wonderful ryokan in Yamanouchi-machi, Yudanaka Seifuso is located in an area surrounded by mountains. It is a famous location where one could easily spotted the wild snow monkeys or the wild Japanese monkeys taking their bath in the open-air natural hot spring. This is a little ryokan with 15 guest rooms in traditional Japanese style.
Helios S from Haiti said, “It was a very good experience, with many baths a disposition, and lovely owners! A very good place to feel hospitality at its best! They took us to the monkey park with their car, and the location, under the snow, is just perfect!”
Although this ryokan might be a little tricky to find, but once you are there, you will notice it worth the effort. Apart from its attentive owner, this ryokan is said to have a unique cave-like onsen. It is located at a hidden part of the countryside along a river. It is nestled in between hills and Yunohira old town.
Many of its guests were truly thrilled with the fantastic food served at this ryokan. Pbo72 from Australia wrote, “for us the highlight was the amazing food. Each breakfast and dinner we were blown away by the variety and the delicious flavours. We recommend the beef!!!! We used the baths often and had such a relaxing stay. I would highly recommend staying here and enjoying the tranquility of the space and location.”
Yama No Chaya is a ryokan nestled in a forest in Tonosawa hot spring, one of the seven great hot springs in Hakone. It is located at the bridge that crosses the Hayakawa River. The ryokan provides 7 different kinds of rooms to be chosen from. Through the windows of the rooms, the guests can enjoy the beautiful scenery from the Hayakawa River and the nearby mountains. Some of the rooms also come with open air baths and moon watching balconies. Another specialty of this ryokan is that the hot waters for the baths in the ryokan is from the ryokan very own hot spring.
“It was a GREAT stay and the room attendant – Li, was really friendly, helpful and she can speak very good English! She assisted us in almost everything and we were very happy. Transportation is easy, and this ryokan is easily accessible. We are very happy with our stay and we will definitely be back to this ryokan again!,” said a traveler from Malaysia who used the nickname Suezannet.
A cozy family-run ryokan in Tokyo, Family Inn Saiko is equipped with modern facilities that are perfect for those who want to experience traditional Japanese stay at the same time could not leave behind the technologies. Like most family-run businesses, this ryokan will not disappoint you in term of hospitality.
“Staffs are good and helpful. The rooms and lobby area were clean. The room’s wall is very thick that you can’t hear anything from your neighbor. Love the place
,” said a traveler from Thailand, DJaychan.
Address: 2-34-16 Nagasaki, Toshima 171-0051, Tokyo Prefecture
Located in Yudanaka Onsen, Ryokan Biu no Yado is at the first position among 132 other hotels and ryokan in Yamanouchi-machi. The high ratings by its guests make this ryokan the third most favourite ryokan in Japan, according to the latest top 20 ryokan released by TripAdvisor Japan.
This ryokan is highly recommended for its cleaniness, position and extremely friendly staffs.
Kenace M from Haiwaii said, “Our stay at Ryokan Biyunoyado was like a fantasy. Great hospitality, service with smiles, and warm farewells. Accommodations are great and Onsen is top notch with indoor and out door. They had a Tyco and Lion Dance performance in the lobby which was an added bonus.”
Located in Shitamachi, a laid back area in Tokyo, Ryokan Sawanoya is at the first position among the 98 accommodations listed in Taito in TripAdvisor. The location, according to the ryokan, has preserved a traditional folksy lifestyle which provides good opportunity to the guests to experience the real Tokyo neigbourhood.
One of its many guests who posted a comment in TripAdvisor is MissNike from France.
“The minute we walked in, we understand immediately why it’s rated no 1 on TripAdvisor! Definitely worth of the value, everyone is so polite and very helpful. There’s nothing bad to say about this place! The next time we visit, we will definitely stay here for sure! Very nice and comfortable, plus points on the hot bath! Bravo!,” MissNike said.
Address: 2-3-11 Yanaka, Taito 110-0001, Tokyo Prefecture
Voted as the best ryokan in Kyoto as well as in Japan, Shiraume Ryokan is definitely top notch from its services to the food served. It is located at the historical area in Kyoto, Gion where you can easily get a glimpse of maiko or geisha walking around the streets. The moment you enter the premises, you will be greeted by two plum trees – white and red which have been around for more than 100 years.
Many of its guests have described the stay as “one of the best in the world” or simply “a life time experience”.
“What an incredible experience we had. From the moment we stepped through the purple fabric at the entrance, we knew we were in for something special. The whole experience was amazing, the history shared with us by Tomoko and Sotoko was really interesting too and added to whole experience,” shared slowjocrow, a traveler from New Zealand.