The term ryokan is the name given to traditional Japanese style inns. While there is no strict definition of what a ryokan is, many ryokans all carry a few certain elements that make them just so. Incredible cuisine, authentic appreciation for Japanese design, and the most dedicated passion for ‘omotenashi’ Japanese hospitality are just a few features. If you’re interested in staying in a ryokan, here’s everything you need to know, from the history and rules to some of Japan’s best ryokans from across the map.

hot spring

Hot Spring Shrine in Beppu, Japan, Priscilla Du Preez

For those uninitiated, a ryokan is a small, traditional hotel and a cultural touchpoint that’s been a central part of the nation’s culture for centuries. Throughout history, ryokans have come in so many shapes and forms, from homes offering spare rooms to luxury style establishments offering meticulous hospitality and exquisite and intricate cuisine.

17th century was when ryokans flourished as it was during this time that trade between Tokyo and Kyoto’s Imperial Palace increased. 

 

The 9 best ryokans in Japan

 

1. Ryokan Kurashiki, Okayama 

Ryokan Kurashiki, Okayama

Ryokan Kurashiki, Okayama, YoungJin Park

Named after the quaint Bikan Historic Quarter of the city in which it’s located, Ryokan Kurashiki is an impressive establishment that’s been open since 1957. The intimate property added three rooms in recent times, upping its previous count of five (now eight). Each of these stunning new rooms has canal views with lots of natural sunlight, giving them a much more airy quality that you can’t find in many other ryokan options. 

Once you’re done exploring the stunningly well-preserved district, enjoy a relaxing soak in the onsen room, which can be booked for private one-hour sessions free of charge. Eating here is a highlight. For dinner, expect an exquisite kaiseki feast, while in the morning when you’re having breakfast in the dining room soaking up the spectacular views of a peaceful garden.

Address: 4-1 Honmachi, Kurashiki, Okayama 710-0054, Japan (map)

Website: ryokan-kurashiki.jp

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81864220730

 

2. Kaihoro, Atami  

Atami Kaihourou

Atami Kaihourou, ATAMI 海峯楼

This is a ryokan that redefines what a ryokan can be, boasting unparalleled panoramic views of Sagami Bay, the port of Atami, and the mountains that flank the sea. 

 Located in the beach town of Atami, on the northeast coast of the Izu Peninsula sits Atami Kaihourou, this accommodation has only four rooms, but that’s for a good reason. The team here wants to ensure that they offer the most intimate and attentive service possible. 

The most eye-catching feature of this ryokan is the architecturally mindblowing ‘water and glass,’ theme that blurs the lines between nature and human-made creations. 

Kaihoro was designed by Kengo Kuma, one of the world’s greatest architectural icons, and the man who created the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium. A luxury hotel merged with traditional Japanese hospitality and kaiseki cuisine, Kaihoro is a ryokan for the future. 

Address: 8-33 Kasugacho, Atami, Shizuoka 413-0005, Japan (map)

Website: bit.ly

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81557865050

 

3. Hotel Ridge, Tokushima

Hotel Ridge, Tokushima

Hotel Ridge, Tokushima, 牧原忠宏

Want to enjoy the liberating feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world, while still providing the highest level of creature comforts? Then visit Shimada, the Hotel Ridge, situated on the picturesque island of Shimada. 

The location of this hotel, sitting high on a cliff on the northeastern corner of the island, has unforgettable ocean views from the resort’s rooms. You can also see scenes of Naruto Ohashi Bridge, Setonaikai National Park, and the islands of the Seto Inland Sea.

Guests can opt for either western or Japanese style rooms, choose between an onsen and spa experience. When it comes to dining, embrace the experience of enjoying Tokushima’s most exquisite produce crafted into meticulously curated Japanese and French dining experiences.

Address: Nakayama-1-1 Setocho Oshimada, Naruto, Tokushima 771-0367, Japan (map)

Website: hotel-ridge.co.jp

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81886881212

 

4. Shinra, Chiba 

Shinra

Shinra, Chiba, THE SHINRA 森羅

Nestled by the clear water of Tateyama Bay and the rugged mountains of the Boso Peninsula is Shinra. It’s a ryokan that feels as much like a luxury resort as a traditional inn. Facilities include eight different room styles to suit all types of guests. But rest assured, each room is privy to incredible ocean views, private outdoor hot spring baths, and the highest level of service. 

Be sure to check out the best views from the glass-walled restaurant. Here guests can admire the sunset paint while enjoying trans-regional kaiseki cuisine, made from the most delicious produce Japan has to offer, and excellent sake.  

If you want to stay a few nights, the ryokan can organize tailored experiences like open-air beachfront barbecues and traditional kappo-style sushi meals as a special treat.

Address: 284-1 Shiomi, Tateyama, Chiba 294-0302, Japan (map)

Website: shinra-chiba.com

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81470291233

 

5. Sekaie, Atami 

Sekaie, Atami

Sekaie, Atami, ATAMI せかいえ

Looking out onto Sagami Bay’s picturesque view is Sekaie, a ryokan built to blend with the coastal life. You’ll find the ethos of this ryokan was created with the needs and wishes of international guests in mind. The staff works tirelessly to ensure its offerings promote the health and wellbeing of its guests through cuisine, activities, and services.

A highlight is Atami Sekaie’s restaurant, Tsukushi. The space features spectacular ocean views and serves up kaiseki dishes, including vegetarian and halal options. 

Each of the meticulously designed rooms features hinoki wood-finished rotenburo (open-air baths) that face out onto the Sagami Bay, offering sprawling ocean views and scenes of Atami city, and blends classic Japanese influence design with modern amenities. It’s perfection.

Address: 269-1 Izusan, Atami, Shizuoka 413-0002, Japan (map)

Website: ryokancollection.com

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81557862000

 

6. Hoshinoya, Tokyo 

Hoshinoya Tokyo

Hoshinoya Tokyo, yuta iguchi

Hoshinoya Tokyo is considered Tokyo’s first luxury ryokan. With 84 guest rooms in total, it’s no small affair. However on each floor sits only six rooms, so it feels more intimate than you’d expect. 

Upon entering, guests are swept into a whole new world, like a sanctuary from the bustling city and its very crowded streets. Guests are asked to remove your shoes, which will be stored in one of the chestnuts and bamboo shelves that line the left side of the corridor. With tatami mats prevalent throughout the hotel, even in the elevators, it emits a very authentic vibe. 

Unlike many other ryokan inns, meals aren’t included in room rates here. But if you are hungry, do try the traditional Japanese breakfast, served in stackable wooden containers. There’s also a dinner-only restaurant, where French cuisine is crafted with Japanese ingredients and techniques. If you do make it here, put aside some time to visit the onsen as it features a glass roof that’s perfect for stargazing at night. 

Address: 1 Chome-9-1 Ōtemachi, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 100-0004, Japan (map)

Website: hoshinoya.com/

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81570073066

 

7. Zaborin 

Zaborin

Zaborin, Zaborin Ryokan

Sitting in a stunning birch forest in the Hanazono woods of Hokkaido is where you’ll find Zaborin, a modern ryokan that consists of just 15 spectacularly designed villas. 

With rooms look out onto rolling meadows, and the bar is a front-row seat to Mt. Yotei, it’s easy to access, but the intimate property feels remote. The ryokan wraps around and encircles a private garden, it’s nothing short of breathtaking.

As guests arrive, they’re greeted by a traditional tea master who expertly prepares a complimentary cup of matcha. When it comes to the rooms, they’re spacious and Western in style, with beds rather than futons, and wooden flooring instead of tatami mats. It’s stylish and tranquil. 

The meals, prepared by chef Yoshihiro Seno focus keenly on locally sourced vegetables and seafood and are truly unforgettable. What makes this so different from other ryokans, is the focus on the bathing facilities. Zaborin has equipped each accommodation with two hot spring baths. One is an indoor bathtub while the other is located outside on the balcony and is made from either wood or stone, and both are stunning.

Address: Japan, 〒044-0084 Hokkaido, Abuta District, Kutchan, Hanazono, 76 4 (map)

Website: zaborin.com

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81136230003

 

8. Andon Ryokan

Andon Ryokan

Andon Ryokan, Kym Armstrong

Situated in Tokyo, this hybrid luxury hangout, Andon Ryokan is considered by many to be Tokyo’s first designer ryokan. The Andon Ryokan was established in 2003; its founders noticed the city’s fast-moving modernization and the move away from traditional wooden structures. To help keep some of Tokyo’s old-style legacy alive, they envisioned this establishment.

Designed by Professor Masayuki Irie of Waseda University and we requested that he designed our ryokan, it’s a place where modern city living and history collide, and where guests can learn more about Japanese art and culture during their stay. 

Positioned about 20 minutes from Asakusa by foot, Andon Ryokan is where modern convenience meets classical Japanese style. It’s perfect for those who want to embrace both traditional and contemporary sides of Tokyo in luxury. Andon Ryokan also hosts several classes for those who wish to immerse themselves in Japanese cultures, like flower arranging, tea ceremonies, and origami workshops. 

Address: 2 Chome-34-34番地10号 Nihonzutsumi, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0021, Japan (map)

Website: andon.co.jp

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81338738611

 


9. Yoshida Sanso

Yoshida Sanso

Yoshida Sanso, Kaz Sak

Yoshida Sanso is one of Kyoto’s most luxurious accommodation secrets. It’s situated just outside the central city limits, at the foot of Mt. Yoshida, far enough from the manic energy of the inner-city but offers sweeping views of Kyoto from its second-floor bedrooms.

Built in 1932, it was once the residence of Japanese Prince, Higashi-Fushimi, and grandfather of Japanese Emperor Akihito. The facility is crafted with Japanese cypress and decorated with the Chrysanthemum Seal’s flourishes, also known as the Imperial Seal of Japan. 

It features just three rooms in the main house, one room on the first floor, ‘Nanten,’ and two rooms on the second, ‘Fuku’ and ‘Kotobuki. A local tip: if you visit in spring, request the Kotobuki room, as it offers the best views of the private garden’s soft pink cherry blossoms.

Address: 59-1 Yoshidashimoojicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, 606-8314, Japan (map)

Website: yoshidasanso.com

Hours: Open 24 hours

Phone: +81757716125

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