In Japan, there are traditional hotels called “Ryokan-旅館” where we can feel the atmosphere of “Wa-和“. The “Ryokan” is neither a hotel (Western style hotel in this case) nor a guest house. Then what is the difference between them? This time I would like to introduce about “Ryokan”
What’s the difference between Ryokan and hotel?
Let’s compare Ryokan and the hotels of Japan. There are differences in the facility standards by the hotel business law. For example, in the Ryokan, it has to be 5 Japanese-style rooms (和室) or more, and 7 square meters or more for a room. A hotel mainly has a minimum of 10 Western-style rooms (洋室), and at least 9 square meters. However, not only the difference in the standards of structure, there are some other differences.
For example, we can experience “Futon-布団” and “Tatami mat-畳” in the guest room of Ryokan. (This kind of Japanese-style room can also be found in some of the hotels in the sightseeing spot). And there is hot spring facility such as an open-air bath in most of the Ryokan. If we look at their service, “Omotenashi”(hospitality) is the service standard in the Ryokan. Perfect smooth service is received for various aspects once we arrived at Ryokan until we leave. It is basically suitable for the people who want to enjoy the extraordinary space. (*The way of hospitality is different by a country. The Japanese hospitality is thought about mainly on services such as the careful consideration to a customer, but not the service by the thing.)
There is no difference between hotel and Ryokan on the mind of hospitality to have a visitor to feel comfortable. But hotels tend to emphasize the point of to keep the distance between the customer and protect the privacy and safety. It can be said that hotels are suitable for people who want to relax and to spend undisturbed.
“Yoshidaya” the Ryokan which fused of the “Wa-和” and the modishness.
Let’s take a look at a Japanese Ryokan with photos than the description. I stayed at “Yoshidaya-吉田屋” in Ureshino, Saga, late winter. The Yoshida is a popular Ryokan and particularly attracts attention in recent years while having the history over 80 years.
We arrived in the lobby of the Ryokan, during the check-in, we had been guided to the lounge. In the spacious space filled with Jazz, a stove was placed at the corner and the welcome tea and sweets were ready for us. While we move to the room, Nakai-仲居 (waitress) politely explained and guided us to the Ryokan facilities and meal and bath locations.
This is the Japanese-style room we booked. A table and legless chairs had been prepared on the tatami-mat. Briefly, the Yoshidaya have Japanese-style room, Western-style room and Japanese/ Western-style room (mixed with Japanese and Western style). And also we can choose a room with or without open-air hot spring bath.
There is a shoji window in the back and it gives a good atmosphere.
This is a beautiful and clean bathroom. Toothbrush and soap, shaving, those necessary goods are prepared. Yes, in most hotels and Ryokan in Japan, those amenity goods are available in the room. So we often don’t need to prepare these items by ourselves. It would be good to check if those amenity goods is provided before staying.
Sets of Yukata were prepared. Yukata is an item not to be missed to taste the “Wa-和” atmosphere in the Ryokan with the hot springs. The detailed description of how to wear was also there. It’s really considerate, isn’t it?
Let’s move on to the hot spring here. Yoshidaya has different hot spring baths such as private bath, family bath, and large communal bath. We can try every bath here if you have enough energy. As private hot spring bath, there are two types of open-air and indoor, and we can use the bath privately by first-come-first-served basis (for about 45 min). This gives us a relaxing time with family or friends. The photo below is an open-air bath which is visible from the dressing room.
This is an open-air bath. There is enough space for a small group of people. Ureshino hot spring is said to be a hot spring of the “Bihada (beautiful skin)” and it makes your skin smooth in sodium-rich alkaline hot spring. This hot spring has a little sticky and slimy feeling. Your skin may become beautiful after bathing immediately.
Many Japanese can imagine two things when we talk about Ryokan: hot springs and cuisine. Because these two are indispensable as enjoyment when you stay in the Ryokan.
After enjoyed hot springs, luxurious dinner waits at the dining space. We had a small kaiseki course (a little fewer dishes than a full course of Kaiseki). I think it is enough portion for the women. Our meal was a fusion cuisine that is based on the Japanese cuisine.
When we came back to the room after dinner, futon had been already prepared on the tatami. If you are not familiar with Japanese Ryokan, then you might think that “What? Someone entered the room?”. This is a normal practice in many Ryokan and hotels (for Japanese style room) in Japan. Room attendants prepare the futon or replace with a new tea set during customers are out for the dinner. Because it is to be performed from the mind of the hospitality, we don’t have to worry much. But it’s better to use a safety box in a room or at the reception to avoid the problem for both customers and inns.
Yoshidaya (吉田屋) information
Address: Kō-379 Ureshinomachi Ōaza Iwayagawachi Ureshino-shi, Saga-ken 843-0304
By train & bus: Get off at JR-Sasebo-line-Takeo-Onsen station (JR佐世保線武雄温泉駅). Take a JR-bus (about 40 min) at South gate of the station (towards Ureshino-Onsen), then get off at Ureshino-bus-center. Walk about 7 min.
By car: Drive 8 min from Nagasaki expressway-Ureshino-IC.
By High-speed bus: Take a high-speed bus from Hakata bus center 3F (博多バスセンター3F) to Ureshino-bus-center (about 2 hours). Then walk 7 min.
Web site: Yoshidaya (吉田屋)
There are a number of highlights in Saga prefecture such as Saga beef, Ureshino tea, Ureshino hot springs and the cuttlefish cuisine. How about taking a trip to Saga next time?
The ryokan introduced this time is a popular ryokan now. Please note that everything that was introduced does not apply in another ryokan.