Click on the questions below to find out more about the ryokan experience.
We are currently producing videos to address the 20 most frequently asked questions about ryokan, so please stay tuned!

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There are many different types of ryokan, and you’ll find several different pricing structures.
The basic concept of the ryokan is a lodging where you can enjoy great food and relax in a bath of natural hot spring water, or in a similarly styled large communal bath.
Here are three features of pricing at a ryokan that differ from a typical hotel:

(1) It is common to pay per person
At a ryokan, the idea is that every single guest receives the ryokan’s hospitality. The fee typically includes:
Delicious meals featuring local delicacies
Facilities such as onsen (hot springs) that are for common use by all guests of the ryokanIn recent years, some ryokan have begun charging customers per room, the same as a hotel. However, if you exceed the official capacity of the room, you will be charged a fee for each additional guest (for example, if you a stay in a two-person room, you will pay the same rate whether you are one or two people; but you will pay a fee for each person beyond two).

(2) This per person fee may apply to children, depending on their age
- Most ryokan will not charge a lodging fee for young children (for example, 3 and under). However, if you require food or bedding for your young child, the ryokan may charge a small fee.
- Some ryokan will charge a reduced fee for a child (perhaps 50% or 70%), depending on the child's age
- It is common for ryokan to charge the full lodging fee for children 12 and over.
On a related note, some ryokan offer the following types of pricing structures:
- Family Plan: Some ryokan offer a flat per-family fee. “One family, ___ yen total.” Depending on how many children you have and their ages, a plan like this can end up being a great value.
- Flat Per-Child Fee: More ryokan these days are charging a single, flat fee for each child. “Each child is ___ yen.” It might be shown as a “facility usage fee” rather than a lodging fee. The reason for this is that even young children can enjoy ryokan facilities such as the onsen (hot spring).
Some ryokan even provide particular amenities that appeal to children, such as children’s meals and special yukata (cotton kimono).
When booking a ryokan online, it is important to enter accurately the number of children who will be accompanying you

(3) Your room fee likely includes full meals (breakfast, dinner)
When staying in a regional location, the custom in Japan has always been to relax and enjoy the local cuisine.. Indeed, it is very common for a ryokan to offer both an evening meal and a morning meal, and to include those meals in each night’s room fee.
However, in recent years, as the preferences and behavior patterns of guests have changed, more and more ryokan are offering a variety of plans, including “simple stay” plans without any meals at all.
- Some ryokan offer both breakfast-only and simple stay plans, in addition to the standard “one night, two meal” option
- Some ryokan offer breakfast-only and simple stay plans alone, without an option for a “one night, two meal” plan
If you choose the “breakfast-only” plan, your room fee does not include the charge for the evening meal. And if you choose the “simple stay” plan, your room fee does not include the charge for either meal.
If you want to know if a ryokan offers the plan you want, don’t hesitate to contact the ryokan.
Generally speaking, cancellation fees work largely the same way at a ryokan as they might at a hotel.

- The closer you get to your reservation date, the higher the cancellation fee (for example: __ days before is __%; the day before is __%; and the day of scheduled arrival, you pay the full cost).
- If you have a reservation for a given day, and you do not show up at the ryokan on that day, you must typically pay 100% of the fee.
The time that payment is expected depends on the ryokan or the booking site, so confirm this information carefully.

・Payment at the ryokan only (when you check out)
・Payment in advance only
・Payment either in advance or at the ryokan

If a booking site requires payment in advance, it will generally ask for payment by credit card.
If you pay in advance, you will not be asked to pay at the ryokan.
For more details, check with the specific ryokan or booking site.
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Check-in times at ryokan and hotels are fairly similar.
You can usually check in starting at 15:00 or 16:00.
If you arrive early, almost every ryokan will hold on to your luggage at the front desk.

Also keep in mind that dinner is usually served during a set time window, and if you arrive too late, you may miss it.
If it does seem like you’ll arrive significantly later than the designated check-in time, let the ryokan know.
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Some ryokan offer a pick-up service, some do not.

Many ryokan are nestled in a beautiful natural setting—and many of them are relatively far away from public transport links.
*If a ryokan does offer a pick-up service, you almost always have to arrange it in advance, so please contact the ryokan.
If a ryokan is much easier to reach by car than by public transport, it will probably have a free parking area.

Some ryokan have a parking area, some do not. If you want to make sure, contact the ryokan.
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In recent years, more ryokan have begun offering rooms with beds.
There are also ryokan that offer chairs and tables for guests who would prefer not to sit on the floor.
Traditionally at a ryokan, you do not sleep on a bed. You use a futon, a type of bedding that you lay right on the tatami flooring.
Why did futon bedding become standard in Japan? There are several explanations, including:

・Japan doesn’t have a lot of space. You can put away a futon each night, and even laid out, it doesn’t take up too much space.
・Japan is quite humid. It’s easy to pick up and move a futon to dry it out in the sun.

However, in recent years, in response to the needs of guests, there are more ryokan with:
・Japanese-style rooms with beds
・Mixed Japanese/Western rooms
・Completely Western-style rooms

If you want to stay at a ryokan, but you want to do it sleeping in a bed, just ask the ryokan!
Also, bear in mind that a room at a ryokan is usually furnished with low tables and legless Japanese-style chairs.
For those who prefer not to sit on the floor, some ryokan offer Western-style tables and chairs.
If you want them, ask the ryokan staff.
Almost all rooms at a ryokan will have an integrated shower and bathtub unit.

For most Japanese people, a slow soak in the communal bath is an indispensable part of a ryokan stay.
Free from the stresses of everyday life, you can let your body and mind relax.
If you’ve come all the way to a ryokan, please do check out the communal bathing area! (For specific guidance on using the communal bath, see Q19: “What do I need to know about using the communal bath?”)

If you’re curious about the various bathing facilities and how to use them, don’t hesitate to contact the ryokan before your visit!
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Ryokan have all sorts of amenities to help guests relax and have a good time.
A few ryokan even offer interesting hands-on experiences.

[Example amenities]
・Karaoke bar or boxes
・Table tennis
・Massage room
・Gift shop
・Bar or lounge
・Beauty spa
[Example experiences]
・Putting on and wearing a kimono
・Making soba noodles
・Making traditional handicrafts
・Picking food ingredients at a local farm
You might discover a unique and unexpected experience at a ryokan.
Ask the ryokan about what exactly it has to offer!
Most ryokan offer Wi-Fi in the rooms, lobby, and so on.

Just to be sure, you may want to confirm a ryokan’s Wi-Fi availability as listed on its website.
Some ryokan have renovated to conform to “universal design” principles, so that all guests—including those with physical disabilities—can enjoy their stay there.
Be sure to let the ryokan know your particular needs in order to determine what kinds of assistance may be available.

Most ryokan feature traditional Japanese architecture and design.
This sometimes creates situations where a person with a disability has problems with accessibility. (For example, the step in the lobby of a ryokan.)

On the other hand, many ryokan have worked to make their facilities more accessible, including with:
・Installation of elevators
・Installation of handrails/accessibility ramps/chairs/benches, etc.
Furthermore, some ryokan have received Silver Star Certification*, which recognizes ryokan and hotels that “strive to offer accommodations that are accessible to all and that meet fixed standards with regard to facilities, services, and dining options.”

In addition to the above, these ryokan also meet the below criteria for keeping their guests safe and comfortable:
・Offer food options considerate of the needs of elderly guests
・Educate employees on how to provide thoughtful service to elderly guests
・Have reasonable access to a medical facility that offers doctors’ calls to the ryokan

When you make your reservation, let the ryokan know if you will have any elderly guests, and if you have any special requests for them.

*The Silver Seal Certification is a certification established in 1993 by the All Japan Ryokan Hotel Association with the cooperation of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. It aims to increase the number of facilities that are outfitted for accessibility and comfort for senior citizens.
One of the great things about ryokan is that so many of them are nestled in areas of rich natural beauty.
If you can’t get to a ryokan by public transport, you can use the ryokan’s pick-up service, or rent a car.
For the detailed situation at a specific ryokan, check its website, or inquire directly by telephone.
Ryokan allow you an opportunity to escape to an idyllic environment removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
A ryokan’s staff will have the best idea about the local attractions, so never hesitate to ask them for recommendations.
Almost all ryokan have an onsen (hot spring) or other communal bath within the facility.
These are a great and relaxing way to pass the time.

・There are ryokan far removed for any tourist attractions, but these tend to be places where the expectation is that you will spend all your time relaxing at the ryokan. They will typically offer lots of fun amenities and activities, so don’t worry, you won’t get bored.
・If your ryokan is in an onsen town, going around to different onsen in the area is a lot of fun.
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Most ryokan do have a curfew.

If a ryokan does have a curfew, you can’t enter or leave the building after a certain time of night (such as midnight, for example).
That might seem inconvenient, but the ryokan wants its guests to get a good, relaxing night’s sleep—and a great start to the next day of their vacation!
We hope you understand this ryokan way of thinking.

However, if you like, there are ryokan with different curfew policies:
・Ryokan with no curfew at all
・Ryokan that do have a curfew, but that also have staff working the front desk after curfew to whom you can speak if you want to enter or leave
・Ryokan that do have a curfew, but that give you a key to get back in if you expect to return after curfew
If you’re curious about a ryokan’s curfew policy, try talking to the ryokan.
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The food at most ryokan is local cuisine made using locally produced and specially selected seasonal ingredients.
Most ryokan will do everything they can to accommodate the food-related requests of their guests. If you have a dietary restriction, or certain foods you don’t like, let the ryokan know.

For more than a few people, the main attraction of staying at a ryokan is the food.
The following is an example of the sort of kaiseki (traditional, small-portion, multi-course fancy meal) cuisine that many ryokan offer.
Specific menus will vary, of course—this is just for reference.
If you do have specific food requests, we recommend making them in advance (if possible, at least a few days before your stay).

[Common requests from guests]
“I have trouble with raw fish.”
“I’m allergic to ____.”
“I’d like vegetarian meals.”
“I’m a vegan, so I don’t eat eggs or dairy.”
“I can’t eat gluten.”
*Not all ryokan will be able to accommodate all requests.
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・Generally speaking, you reserve your meals at the same time you reserve your room.
・Most ryokan have set time periods for meals. Once that period has passed, you may not be able to receive that meal.

Generally speaking, you reserve your meals at the same time you reserve your room.

・The meals served at a ryokan are typically local cuisine made using locally produced and seasonal ingredients, and putting them together requires advance preparation.
・So when you reserve your room at a ryokan, pick the meal plan that’s best for you. (For details about mean plans, see Q1: “What are the typical pricing structures at a ryokan?“)

Most ryokan have set time periods for meals. Once that period has passed, you may not be able to receive that meal.

・When you check in, the ryokan staff will usually ask you what time you’d like dinner and breakfast (within the set meal service period).
Let them know what works best for you. If you’re going to miss a mealtime because of traffic problems, etc., please get in touch with the ryokan.
・Although this is relatively rare, some ryokan serve dinner all evening. In this case, just eat when it suits you.
・Beyond the great food served at the ryokan, there will be plenty of other things to enjoy, including a soak in the communal bath, so we recommend getting checked in early and enjoying your time before dinner!
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・You typically do not need to make a reservation for the communal bath.
・At many ryokan, you can use the communal bath even late at night or early in the morning (as long as it is not in the process of being cleaned).

[About Onsen]
You typically do not need to make a reservation for the communal bath.
・Some ryokan also offer private, reserved onsen (hot spring) baths. These are great for couples, or for families.
・Most of these “private onsen” fall into one of two categories. You need to reserve the latter type—if you want to do that, talk to the staff when you arrive at the ryokan.
→A private onsen right in your room that you can use whenever you like.
→A private onsen that you reserve for a set period of time. You have exclusive use of the onsen for that period.
At many ryokan, you can use the communal bath even late at night or early in the morning (as long as it is not in the process of being cleaned).
・Nothing beats relaxing in the bath and washing away the fatigue of your vacation adventures! Lots of communal baths stay open late at night and are also open early in the morning, but double check, because the baths will close at certain times for cleaning and maintenance.
・To prevent accidents, please refrain from using the bath in the middle of the night or after heavy consumption of alcohol.
Policies about tattoos differ widely from ryokan to ryokan.

In the minds of many Japanese, tattoos are associated with organized crime groups—the sight of one may make fellow guests uncomfortable.
That is why people with tattoos have been banned from most of Japan’s public bathing facilities. ?

However, in recent years, understanding of the different tattoo cultures outside Japan has grown, and some ryokan have different policies, such as:
・No restrictions whatsoever on tattoos
・Decisions made on a case-by-case basis (for example, one or two small tattoos may be absolutely fine)

Moreover, in addition to the communal baths, many ryokan offer private baths in guest rooms or for reserved use outside of guest rooms. Guests with tattoos can use these private baths with no issue.
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Since the bath is a community space, please keep the following points in mind.

Before Bathing
・Before you enter the bath, wash your entire body in the shower. Get nice and clean.
・Some communal baths are very hot. Getting in too quickly can be uncomfortable, or can cause a sharp rise in blood pressure.
To avoid these issues, and to get yourself used to the temperature, use a washtub to splash some of the water over your body prior to getting into the bath.
During Bathing
・To keep the communal bath clean, don’t put your towel in the bath, or even let it touch the water.
・If you have long hair, please keep it tied up when you’re in the bath.
・Refrain from taking pictures in the bathing area. As you can imagine, many people would consider that a violation of their privacy.
・Many people simply want to relax quietly in the water. Refrain from talking too loudly.
・Refrain from wearing a swimsuit (or any other clothing) into the bath.
Please do your part to keep the communal bath clean and comfortable for everyone!
Most ryokan have a check-out time between 10:00 and 12:00 in the morning.

If you miss your check-out, different ryokan have different policies.
However, a ryokan is essentially on the side of the guest, and will generally handle the situation amicably.
If you’re unsure about any aspect of the check-out procedure, just ask the ryokan.