Japan Top List: A Stay at the Finest Traditional Ryokan Inns 

Experience Japan’s timeless charm by staying at a traditional Ryokan. These inns, deeply rooted in Japanese culture, offer a unique blend of history, hospitality, and tranquility. 

Unlike modern hotels, Ryokans provide a serene retreat where you can fully immerse yourself in Japan’s rich heritage. From tatami-mat rooms and futon beds to communal onsen baths and exquisite kaiseki meals, a Ryokan stay promises an authentic and unforgettable experience. 

Let’s introduce you to some of the best traditional Ryokans across Japan and offer tips on how to enhance your stay and make the most of this unique cultural journey.

What to Expect at a Traditional Ryokan

A Ryokan offers a unique experience. Expect traditional Japanese features like tatami mats, futon beds, and communal baths (onsen). These inns often have a serene ambiance, with sliding paper doors and wooden interiors.

Tatami Rooms: The rooms are covered with tatami mats, providing natural, soft flooring. Shoes are left at the entrance. Inside, you may find a low table with floor cushions. This setup invites guests to experience a traditional way of living.

Futon Beds: Instead of Western-style beds, Ryokans use futons. These are plush and laid out in the evening and stored away during the day.

Communal Baths (Onsen): Many Ryokans feature hot spring baths. These communal baths are gender-separated and require washing before entering. The mineral-rich water is known for its soothing and healing properties, and it is a highlight of the Ryokan stay.

Kaiseki Meals: Expect traditional multi-course dinners, called kaiseki. These meals showcase seasonal ingredients and artistic presentation. Breakfasts are also traditional, often featuring rice, fish, and pickled vegetables.

Etiquette: Certain customs are observed. It is common to wear a yukata (casual kimono) provided by the Ryokan. Meals are often served in your room or a communal dining area. Silence and respect for other guests are valued.

Unique Experiences: Many Ryokans offer additional cultural activities. Tea ceremonies, traditional dance performances, and calligraphy lessons can be part of your stay. The serene gardens often attached to Ryokans add to the peaceful atmosphere.

Top Ryokan Inns by Region

1. Kyoto

Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan, offers some of the most authentic Ryokan experiences. Here are two exceptional options to consider.

Gion Hatanaka

Gion Hatanaka is situated near the famous Yasaka Shrine and the historic Gion district. This Ryokan offers a perfect blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics and modern comforts, providing an authentic cultural experience.

  • Highlight: Its proximity to the Gion district allows guests to explore Kyoto’s geisha culture. Evening walks can offer glimpses of geiko and maiko.
  • Experience: Participate in a traditional tea ceremony or enjoy a Geisha performance, both available within the Ryokan.
  • Dining: The kaiseki meals are meticulously prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients, offering a true taste of Kyoto cuisine.


Established in 1818, Hiiragiya is one of the oldest and most renowned Ryokans in Kyoto. It is known for its exceptional hospitality and historical significance and offers a luxurious yet traditional experience.

  • Highlight: Hiiragiya’s historic charm, with rooms that have hosted famous writers, artists, and dignitaries over the years.
  • Experience: Guests can relax in beautifully decorated rooms that reflect Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Dining: The kaiseki cuisine here is renowned. Its dishes are both visually stunning and delicious, showcasing the flavors of each season.

Exploring Kyoto from Your Ryokan

Staying at a Ryokan in Kyoto offers more than just accommodation. It provides a base to explore the city’s many cultural sites. Visit nearby temples, stroll through historic districts, and immerse yourself in Kyoto’s rich traditions. 

Tips for an Enjoyable Stay

Booking: Reserve your room well in advance, especially during peak seasons like cherry blossom and autumn foliage periods.

Etiquette: Follow the customs, such as wearing the provided yukata and being mindful of noise levels.

Activities: Take advantage of cultural activities offered by the Ryokan, such as tea ceremonies and calligraphy classes.

2. Hakone

Hakone, renowned for its hot springs and scenic beauty, is home to some of the most luxurious and authentic Ryokans in Japan. Here are two standout options:

Gora Kadan:

Gora Kadan, located in the scenic Gora area, offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. It combines traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern comforts, creating a serene retreat for guests.

  • Highlight: The outdoor onsen baths provide a perfect vantage point for relaxing amidst nature. Private baths are available, ensuring a secluded experience.
  • Experience: Guests can participate in tea ceremonies and flower arranging classes, enriching their cultural experience.
  • Dining: The kaiseki meals feature fresh, local ingredients and seasonal flavors, presented with artistic flair.


Known for its tranquil environment and exceptional hospitality, Yamanochaya is a sanctuary for relaxation. The beautifully landscaped gardens and traditional Japanese architecture enhance the peaceful ambiance.

  • Highlight: The Ryokan’s private onsen baths are a major attraction, offering guests privacy and tranquility.
  • Experience: Enjoy traditional dance performances and ikebana (flower arranging) demonstrations within the Ryokan.
  • Dining: The kaiseki dinners are crafted with precision, featuring a variety of textures and tastes that reflect the seasons.

Exploring Hakone from Your Ryokan

Staying at a Ryokan in Hakone provides a great base for exploring the region’s natural and cultural attractions. Visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum, cruise on Lake Ashi, and take the Hakone Ropeway for stunning views of the Owakudani Valley.

Tips for an Enjoyable Stay

Booking: Reserve early, especially during peak travel seasons. For an unforgettable experience, consider requesting a room with a view of Mount Fuji.

Etiquette: Follow traditional customs, such as bathing thoroughly before entering the onsen and wearing the provided yukata.

Activities: Make time for the cultural activities offered by the Ryokan, which can help you gain a deeper understanding of Japanese traditions.

3. Kanazawa

Kanazawa, known for its well-preserved Edo-era districts, museums, and gardens, offers a rich cultural experience. Here are two exceptional Ryokans to consider:

Ryokan Asadaya 

Ryokan Asadaya is a luxurious inn located near the historic Nagamachi Samurai District. It offers an intimate experience with only a few guest rooms, ensuring personalized service.

  • Highlight: The Ryokan’s proximity to the Nagamachi Samurai District allows guests to easily explore the historical area, including the Nomura-ke Samurai Residence.
  • Experience: Guests can enjoy private tea ceremonies and guided tours of nearby attractions, enhancing their cultural immersion.
  • Dining: The kaiseki meals at Asadaya are renowned for their exquisite presentation and use of fresh, local ingredients, providing a true taste of Kanazawa cuisine.


Nestled in a serene area near the Saigawa River, Takitei offers a peaceful retreat with beautiful views of the surrounding nature. Its blend of traditional design and modern amenities creates a comfortable and authentic experience.

  • Highlight: The Ryokan’s location near the Saigawa River provides a tranquil environment, perfect for relaxation and scenic walks.
  • Experience: Guests can enhance their stay by participating in seasonal activities such as cherry blossom viewing and autumn leaf watching.
  • Dining: Takitei’s kaiseki cuisine features seasonal dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients, offering a delightful culinary journey.

Exploring Kanazawa from Your Ryokan

Staying at a Ryokan in Kanazawa allows you to immerse yourself in the city’s rich cultural heritage. Visit Kenrokuen Garden, one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, and explore the Higashi Chaya District, known for its well-preserved geisha houses.

Tips for an Enjoyable Stay

Booking: Plan your stay during off-peak seasons for a more tranquil experience. Early reservations are recommended, especially for popular Ryokans.

Etiquette: Respect local customs by removing your shoes before entering your room and wearing the provided yukata during your stay.

Activities: Take advantage of cultural activities and guided tours offered by the Ryokan to fully appreciate Kanazawa’s history and traditions. 

4. Kyushu

Kyushu, the southwesternmost of Japan’s main islands, is known for its stunning natural beauty, hot springs, and rich cultural history. Here are two exceptional Ryokans in Kyushu that offer an unforgettable experience:

Yufuin Tamanoyu

Located in the charming town of Yufuin, Yufuin Tamanoyu is surrounded by picturesque mountains and hot springs. This Ryokan offers a perfect blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics and modern comfort.

  • Highlight: The Ryokan’s open-air baths provide stunning views of Mount Yufu, creating a serene and relaxing atmosphere.
  • Experience: Guests can enjoy traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and stroll through the beautifully landscaped gardens.
  • Dining: The kaiseki meals are crafted with fresh, local ingredients, showcasing the flavors of Oita Prefecture.

Kurokawa Onsen Yamabiko Ryokan

Nestled in the famous hot spring town of Kurokawa, Yamabiko Ryokan is known for its extensive hot spring facilities and rustic charm. The Ryokan offers a tranquil retreat with a strong connection to nature.

  • Highlight: The Ryokan features a large outdoor rotenburo (open-air bath) set in a forested area, providing a unique and peaceful bathing experience.
  • Experience: Guests can explore the surrounding countryside, participate in seasonal festivals, and enjoy traditional Japanese hospitality.
  • Dining: Yamabiko Ryokan’s kaiseki meals are renowned for their use of seasonal ingredients and beautifully presented dishes.

Exploring Kyushu from Your Ryokan

Staying at a Ryokan in Kyushu allows you to experience the island’s diverse attractions. Visit the volcanic landscapes of Aso, explore the historic city of Nagasaki, and enjoy the vibrant hot spring towns.

Tips for an Enjoyable Stay

Booking: For a quieter experience, plan your visit during off-peak seasons. Early reservations are recommended, especially for popular Ryokans.

Etiquette: Follow traditional customs, such as removing shoes before entering your room and wearing the provided yukata during your stay.

Activities: Participate in cultural activities and explore the natural surroundings to fully appreciate Kyushu’s beauty and traditions.

Booking and Planning Tips

Planning a stay at a traditional Ryokan requires some foresight. Here are essential tips to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.

Best Times to Visit

The ideal time to visit a Ryokan depends on your preferences. Spring (March to May) offers cherry blossoms, while autumn (September to November) features stunning foliage. Winter (December to February) is perfect for onsen bathing surrounded by snow. Summer (June to August) can be hot, but some regions offer cooler mountain retreats.

Advance Reservations

Ryokans are popular and often have limited rooms. Book several months in advance, especially during peak seasons like cherry blossom and autumn foliage periods. 

Many Ryokans allow online reservations through their websites or booking platforms.

Language Considerations

While many Ryokans have English-speaking staff, some may not. Learning basic Japanese phrases or using translation apps can enhance your experience. When booking, look for Ryokans with multilingual websites or staff.

Special Requests

If you have dietary restrictions, mobility issues, or other special requests, inform the Ryokan in advance. Traditional meals often include fish and seafood, but many Ryokans can accommodate vegetarian or gluten-free diets with prior notice.

Price Range

Ryokan stays can range from moderately priced to luxurious. Expect to spend between ¥15,000 to ¥50,000 per person per night, including meals. 

For a more affordable experience, look for Ryokans offering stay-only options or those in less touristy areas.

Travel Insurance

Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers cancellations and medical emergencies. This is particularly important for international travelers unfamiliar with Japan’s healthcare system.

Packing Essentials

Pack light, as Ryokans often have limited storage space. Essential items include comfortable clothing, a swimsuit for onsen baths, and toiletries. Many Ryokans provide yukata (casual kimono) and basic toiletries.

Cultural Etiquette

Respecting local customs enhances your stay. Remove shoes before entering your room, wear the provided yukata, and be mindful of noise levels. Learn the proper way to bathe before entering communal onsen baths.


Plan your route to the Ryokan in advance. Many Ryokans are located in remote areas and may require travel by train, bus, or taxi. Check if the Ryokan offers shuttle services from the nearest train station.

Payment Methods

Confirm accepted payment methods when booking. While credit cards are widely accepted, some Ryokans prefer cash. Having enough Japanese yen on hand ensures smooth transactions.

Insider Tips from Frequent Travelers

Frequent travelers have a wealth of experience when it comes to staying at Ryokans. Here are some insider tips to help you make the most of your visit:

Frequent travelers recommend booking your Ryokan stay well in advance, especially during peak seasons like cherry blossom (sakura) and autumn foliage (koyo). These times are highly sought after, and the best Ryokans fill up quickly. Booking six months ahead is advisable to secure your preferred dates and rooms.

Pack Light but Smart  

Ryokan rooms often have limited storage space, so pack light. Bring comfortable clothing, a swimsuit for onsen baths, and any personal toiletries you prefer. While Ryokans provide yukata (casual kimonos) and basic amenities, seasoned travelers suggest bringing your own skincare products and any special items you might need.

Embrace the Yukata

Wearing the provided yukata is part of the Ryokan experience. Frequent guests recommend embracing this tradition fully. Wear the yukata during meals, while walking around the Ryokan, and even when visiting the onsen. It enhances your immersion in Japanese culture and makes you feel more connected to the experience.

Understand Onsen Etiquette  

Onsens are a highlight of the Ryokan experience. Before entering, wash thoroughly in the shower area to maintain hygiene. Onsens are usually gender-segregated, so be sure to follow the signs. Enter the bath slowly to acclimate to the hot water. 

Keep conversations quiet and respectful. Experienced travelers suggest visiting the onsen during off-peak hours for a more peaceful experience.

Enjoy Every Course of the Kaiseki Meal 

Kaiseki meals are an integral part of a Ryokan stay. Each course is meticulously prepared and presented, reflecting the season’s finest ingredients. Frequent travelers recommend savoring each dish slowly and appreciating the artistry. 

Don’t hesitate to ask the staff about unfamiliar ingredients or preparation methods – they are usually happy to explain.

Make Time for Morning Walks

Start your day with a morning walk around the Ryokan’s grounds or nearby areas. The tranquil atmosphere and fresh air are invigorating. Frequent visitors find this practice helps set a peaceful tone for the day and allows them to enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings.

Be Respectful and Mindful

Ryokans are places of relaxation and tradition. Frequent travelers stress the importance of being respectful to staff and other guests. Keep noise levels down, especially in communal areas and after hours. 

Treat the staff with courtesy, and they will go out of their way to make your stay special.

Explore Beyond the Ryokan 

While the Ryokan itself offers a complete experience, seasoned travelers recommend exploring the local area. Whether it’s visiting nearby temples, hiking trails, or local markets, these excursions enrich your stay. 

Your Ryokan staff can often provide excellent recommendations for local attractions and hidden gems.

Participate in Cultural Activities  

Many Ryokans offer cultural activities like tea ceremonies, calligraphy classes, and traditional dance performances. Frequent guests suggest participating in these activities to deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and enhance your overall experience.

Prepare for Digital Detox

Wi-Fi might be limited in some traditional Ryokans. Use this as an opportunity to disconnect from digital devices and immerse yourself in the serene environment. 

Bring a good book or a journal, or simply enjoy the quiet and relaxation.

Experience Authentic Japan

Staying at a traditional Ryokan is more than just accommodation—it’s an immersive journey into Japanese culture and hospitality. From the serene onsen baths and exquisite kaiseki meals to the rich cultural activities and tranquil surroundings, a Ryokan stay offers a unique and unforgettable experience. 

Ready to experience the charm and tranquility of a traditional Ryokan? Start planning your stay today. Explore our recommended Ryokans and book your perfect retreat. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful escape in the mountains or a culturally rich experience in a historic city, these Ryokans offer something for every traveler. Click our links to find the best Ryokans, plan your trip, and embark on an unforgettable Japanese adventure.

The information provided in this article was accurate at the time of publication. However, it's important to note that dates, times, fees, and other related details are subject to change without prior notice. We will always make every effort to update the information whenever possible.

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