What is Ryokan?

When you search for hotels in Kyoto (Japan), you will see the word “Ryokan”.

So what exactly is it? As you can guess, Ryokan is a type of hotel. So before you reserve a Ryokan just because it sounds Japanese, please read this article first.

A ryokan is a traditional style of hotel. The main difference between hotels and Ryokans is the bedding format. The floor is called tatami, a kind of woven straw mat that is used in traditional Japanese houses. And the bed itself is a futon, a traditional kind of bed that consists of a very soft, but thin mattress. The mattress is usually laid directly on the floor. So it’s not bouncy like a western style bed, and possibly less soft. I usually sleep on a western style bed, and I like it better than the Ryokan style bed. A Western style bed is more comfortable in my opinion. So one or two days can be nice to experience a traditional style of bed, but if you plan to stay longer than that, you might want to avoid it.

Having said that it is not like you are going to sleep directly on the floor. And it is soft enough to sleep on (and warm during winter). If you are looking for a new experience, you can try a Ryokan instead.

One of the things you might need to check is the availability of personal bathrooms. The cheap Ryokan might not have a bathroom attached to the room. Also some Ryokans include meals (usually dinner and breakfast) so be sure to check the information on meals.

I list several Ryokans in my guidebook. Click here to buy the Kyoto Guidebook (ebook) on Amazon.com.