Monday, May 4, 2009

Choose and Stay In Ryokans

For Best Experience Of Japanese Culture

Recently one of my cousins traveled to Japan on an official visit. To his surprise he was accommodated in what is called a ryokan. He came back with rich experience of Japanese culture and customs along with a lot of photographs and videos. I would like to share some information about Japanese ryokans from what he has described and from other sources.

Many tourists visit Japan not just to see that country but to experience the country, and for them staying in a ryokan is the best way to get that rich experience of Japanese tradition. Ryokan is a traditional Japanese hotel which differs from a typical Western hotel in many ways. The hospitality one gets in this type of hotel unlike in a western hotel is completely traditional. The rich experience of close contact with the tradition, culture, and customs of Japan which one gets by staying in a ryokan is very precious. This experience is the main difference between a Western-style hotel and a Japanese ryokan.

The differences between a typical hotel and a Japanese ryokan start with the fee structure with ryokan system charging for one night stay with two meals ideally with the evening meal on the day of arrival and breakfast the next day. Commonly, these meals are served in the guestroom and this tradition of dining in the guestroom is called heya-shoku. Even the meals served in the tradition of heya-shoku difference from the light meal served in typical hotels and are full-course meals.

Another common Japanese custom which is observed in ryokans is taking off your shoes and changing into either slippers or Japanese sandals called zori. This customs is practiced in the tatami culture of using tatami mats which are made up of rice stalks and straw. Staying in ryokan also gives you the experience of other Japanese customs like changing into the typical Japanese robe called Yukata and taking the hot-spring bath called Onsen and sleeping on the traditional Japanese bed called Futon.

The richness of your experience staying in a ryokan depends on the type of ryokan you are staying in. There are different kind of ryokans which differs in style, quality, and type depending on the charges. At a most basic level you can get accommodation in a standard ryokan. The experience of Japanese tradition in this type of ryokans is minimal.

At the next level is the ryokans which though look like small hotels are very comfortable with Japanese-style of rooms complete with all the customs followed from zori to onsen. These ryokans can be called as modern ryokans because comfort takes important place with Japanese tradition taking the second place.

You can also stay in what is called a true traditional ryokan, here the importance is given to the experience of the tradition rather than comfort. This type of ryokans gives the guests the complete rich experience of Japanese tradition and culture.

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