A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, typically located near onsen, or hot springs. The first ryokan, Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, was founded in 705 A.D. It is considered the oldest hotel in the world. Today, there are more than 50,000 ryokans in Japan. Ryokans flourished during the Edo period (1603-1868), as trade increased between the capital city Edo (now Tokyo) and the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Many ryokan were built along the highway that links the capital with the palace, and were popular rest areas among traders and samurai.
Ryokans are founded on the Japanese concept of omotenashi—or deep respect for hospitality. Ryokan typically feature shared spaces where guests can dine and speak with the owner. Guests are provided with yukata (a cotton kimono) and slippers.
Ryokans are founded on Zen philosophy—this is evident in their minimalist architecture and connection to nature. They are quiet and intimate places.
The typical ryokan has a large entrance area where guests can sit and talk. Usually the guests wear the yukata while inside the ryokan, even in the public areas. Guestrooms are built in the traditional Japanese style. The flooring is tatami, an aromatic mat made of woven rice straw. Ryokan guests remove their shoes at the entrance to preserve the integrity of the tatami. Ryokans doors are sliding shoji screens, made of translucent rice paper over a frame of wood. Many ryokan feature a porch or balcony, and landscaping using stone, moss, bamboo and other native plants.
Japan has a strong tradition of soaking in a bath for relaxation, and ryokan usually feature ofuro, or common bathing areas, that use the water from a nearby hot spring. As a volcanically active place, Japan has thousands of onsens, or hot springs.
Bedding is a futon mattress spread out on the tatami floor. When guests arrive and enter their room, they usually find a table laid with tea and biscuits. This table is used for meals if the guests opt to eat in their rooms rather than the communal dining area. While the guests are out, staff will move the table aside and set out the futon for sleep.
Most ryokan offer breakfast and dinner. Kaiseki meals consist of traditional Japanese cuisine with a focus on seasonal and regional ingredients. Breakfast and dinner consists of a selection of dishes served beautifully on small plates. Ryokan ask guests to confirm the time they wish to eat their meals during their check-in.
To learn more about the Shizuka Ryokan experience visit here.