These are the traditional Japanese travelers' inns, located along Japan's country roads, dating back hundreds of years, long before the days of motor travel. With their traditional decor and classic tatami-style furnishing, they're a window into a historical way of life - even the most modern and experimental of the ryokan offer a tranquil and sedate experience.
At a ryokan the rate includes two meals per day, beginning with an evening meal on the day of your arrival as well as breakfast the next day. These meals, most often served in-room, are no mere convenience, but an essential element of the experience; ryokan are chosen as much for the quality of the food as for the quality of the accommodation.
Dinners are traditional Japanese meals of up to thirteen courses. Ingredients are fresh and local, dishes are seasonal so that the dinner expresses the distinctive personality of the region. Locally brewed sake is also available, as are other beverages (drinks other than tea are extra). Details about each ryokan's specific meal options are displayed during the booking process.
Breakfasts consist of steamed rice, miso soup, grilled fish, fried eggs, nori (seaweed) and Japanese-style pickles. Western breakfasts can be served on request.
The onsen are the Japanese public baths, often fed by natural volcanic hot springs. It's no exaggeration to say that the onsen baths are the whole point of the ryokan experience, and are universally loved by the Japanese.
Large common baths in the ryokan are used not just for cleansing but for relaxation as well, both mental and physical. Big windows typically look out over lush gardens or dramatic mountain or ocean views. Some public baths contain several different types of tubs, whether cypress or stone or cascading baths. Rotenburo, the open-air baths, allow you to bathe in the sunshine, breathing in the brisk, cool air.
Onsen baths are segregated by sex, and bathing suits are not worn. It's customary to bathe yourself in an adjacent area before entering the onsen. And for those guests who are uncomfortable with the communal aspect, many high-end ryokan provide private open-air baths on terraces or balconies attached to the guest rooms.
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