A ryokan is a traditional Japanese hostel whose origins date back to the Edo period (1603 – 1868) serving as a stopover for travelers.
Although there are various variations depending on the establishment, old or modern style, basic or luxurious, a ryokan always has a typically Japanese layout, that is to say a room with clean lines, composed of tatami, sliding doors, a coffee table, futons, or an onsen (hot spring), a veranda, a Japanese garden, …
The staff is also generally dressed in yukata and accompanies the guests throughout their stay, giving them great attention and responding to the least of their needs, which is possible due to a relatively small number of rooms, and therefore a better disposition with the guests.
Most ryokan include dinner and breakfast in their rates, and although some have a common dining room, it is common for ryokan to serve meals directly in their guests’ rooms. The cuisine is again traditional, high quality and very refined. Sophisticated both in content and appearance, the meal usually consists of many varied small dishes, featuring regional and seasonal specialties.
A ryokan is not to be confused with a minshuku, which is the Japanese equivalent of a bed and breakfast.