Ryokan / 旅館 – traditional Japanese style hotel

Updated: Oct 12

In this article, I’d like to cover ryokan. In English translation, it might be referred to as “a hotel”, but in Japan, it’s called ryokan if a place features the Japanese style accommodations. So, what constitutes the Japanese style? First, the room is typically a tatami room (read my Tatami Room article) so you must take off your shoes when entering the room. At a very traditional ryokan such as in the image below, you may even have to take off your shoes at the entrance to the building. Secondly, tatami room usually is not equipped with a bed. You use a futon instead. The Japanese futon is made of heavy cotton stuffing that is foldable and stored in the Japanese style closet called oshiire(o-shi-i-re). Some ryokans nowadays might have a bed on top of the tatami mats for the foreign tourists, but that’s not traditional. When there is no bed in the room, ryokan staff will ask what time to prepare the sleeping environment for you. At the specified time, they will come and take a futon out of the oshiire and lay them down directly on the tatami mats. Thirdly, most ryokan include meals within the price of overnight stay, so meals are served in the room. Just like futon preparation, ryokan will arrange the time with you to bring dinner and sometimes breakfast as well. If breakfast is included, staff will come to clean up the room (put away futon back in oshiire) before serving the meal. The price of a ryokan is much more expensive than western style hotels because in-room services are included, and the food presentation is quite elaborate. Lastly, many ryokans are in major hot spring districts, so each ryokan features a unique onsen (hot spring) setting. They often have Rotenburo, a pool-size outdoor hot spring, for guests to share in a beautiful Japanese garden or featuring the panoramic views of mountains, rivers, or ocean. If a yukata (light, cotton kimono) is placed in the room, you can walk around the facility in a yukata. I believe staying at a traditional Japanese ryokan is quite unique and could be a bit intimidating experience for foreign tourists because of the frequent interactions with Ryokan staff. Some might feel that they are treated like the royalty, but for most, ryokan services are a bit overwhelming.

There is a Japanese version of a bed & breakfast inn. They are called minshuku. Just like B&Bs in the US, it’s run by the owner of the house with a limited number of guest rooms. The owner serves a homecooked meal and local delicacies. Minshuku presents the Japanese living experience with ryokan style accommodations. If there is a bed in the room (western style), it’s called a Pension (very similar pronunciation in Japanese). When it comes to the western style accommodations in Japan, there are more variations, which I will cover in the next article.

Japanese culture, ryokan hotel
Japanese Ryokan entrance


A: 箱根(はこね)にある強羅花壇(ごうらかだん)っていう旅館(りょかん)、ご存知(ぞんじ)ですか?

B: いいえ、知(し)りません。

A: 料理(りょうり)が最高(さいこう)に美味(おい)しいらしいです。たまには露天風呂(ろてんぶろ)ゆっくり浸(つ)かって、その後(あと)で豪華(ごうか)な食事(しょくじ)を楽(たの)しみたいですよね。

B: そうですね。しばらく旅館には泊(と)まっていないので、たまにはいいかもしれませんね。でも、高(たか)そうな名前(なまえ)の旅館ですね。 一泊(いっぱく)、いくらぐらいですか?

A: びっくりしないでくださいよ。 一泊、約(やく)15万円(まんえん)だそうです。

B: えっ? 15万円? 冗談(じょうだん)じゃない、高(たか)すぎますよ。もし15万円あったら、僕(ぼく)なら別(べつ)の事(こと)に使(つか)います。例(たと)えば海外旅行(かいがいりょこう)に行(い)くとか

よく使われる表現 / Common Expressions

ご存知ですか? Do you know (in respect form)

びっくりしないでください。 Don’t be surprised.

冗談じゃない! No way / You’ve got to be kidding


布団(ふとん)/futon n. Japanese style mattress. Unlike the western style mattress, there are no metal springs in it. It can be double layered or use a separate cushion beneath to make it more comfortable.

押し入れ(おしいれ)/oshiire n. Japanese style closet. It’s normally accessible through a sliding door called fusuma.

〜っていう “being called〜” 〜って(colloquial way of referring something)+いう(called)

ご存知 n. a noun from of “to know”. ご存知ですか? is a polite way of saying “do you know…?” It can also be used with an object maker: を. i.e. 木村さんをご存知ですか?”do you know Mr. Kimura?”

最高に 最高 (n. the best) + に (aux.vだ- to connect to a conjugatable word, it becomes に)

らしい aux. v. hearsay, here 美味しいらしい “I heard that it is delicious.”

たまには once in a while (with hopeful or wishful nuance), here “wouldn’t it be nice to…”. If it is not a wishful thought, use たまに without は. i.e. たまに温泉に行きます= “I go to hot springs once in a while”.

露天風呂 n. outdoor furo (generally hot spring).

ゆっくり adv. Relaxingly, slowly, taking time

浸かって てform of v. 浸かる= to dip, to soak. It’s an intransitive verb. 〜に浸かる

高そうな イ-adj 高い+そうだ aux.v, appears to be expensive. Discuss difference between 高そうだ vs.高いそうだ

一泊 n. one night stay 泊(haku, paku, ppaku)is used as a counting noun for the duration of stay. Equivalent of “one night, two nights” in English.  三泊(sanpaku)=three nights four days.

冗談じゃない A direct translation is “it’s not a joke”. Commonly used to say “no way, you’ve got to be kidding”.

たら conditional particle.

なら conditional particle. Discuss how it is different from other conditional particles such as たら、ば、と

別のこと 別+の+こと other things

例えば  adv. For example

とか p. such as can come after nouns or plain form of verbs