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What is a ryokan?

A ryokan is the oldest sort of inn in Japan. Staying at a traditional ryokan hotel is a travel experience in itself. With thousands of years of history behind them, ryokans surround visitors in Japanese heritage. They come with simple rooms decorated in vernacular style, all sparse and minimalist with Japanese futon beds and tatami-mat floors. There's a system of ryokan etiquette that needs to be followed from arrival, and meals of haute sashimi and sushi are served to guests in the evenings.

Why should I stay at a ryokan?

You should stay at a ryokan if you're the sort of traveler who wants to experience the real culture of the countries you visit. You'll be breaking out of the comfort zone by leaving behind the hotel for sparse suites and communal hot tub baths. Still, it promises to be a stay to remember. That said, some ryokans these days actually offer pure luxury, with pampering and meditative gardens and fine-dining sashimi platters all on the menu (look no further than Kyoto).

Where do you find ryokans?

Japan is the home of the ryokan. With well over a millennium of history in the country – the oldest ryokans in Japan are said to date back to 705 AD – there's certainly plenty of tradition behind them. A search for the best ryokan in Japan often takes travelers to the famous onsen – hot spring – resorts in the mountains, where timber-built inns like these harness the power of the steaming spa waters.

How much does it cost to stay in a ryokan?

These days, ryokans range from the cheap to the 5-star. You can save plenty by going for budget ryokans, which might mean compromising to have shared bathroom facilities and smaller rooms. There are also affordable family ryokans that have rooms suitable for the whole crew. And then there are stunning private ryokan options, where bubbling onsen baths and masterful sushi chefs await.

How do I book a ryokan?

If you're wondering how to book that immersive Japanese stay, Expedia has you covered. In the same way you can find top-rated hotels, these classic Japanese properties are available on our platform. Just enter your travel dates and destination and sort the results by property type. Use the wizard above to search for ryokans by city. Also, remember to save money by combining your flight in the booking. If you're feeling brave as a Japanese speaker, you can always book ryokans on Expedia Japan.

What else do ryokans offer?

A ryokan offers a heritage-rich stay in a traditional Japanese inn. Rooms will be clad in tatami-mats and divided by paper walls. You'll need to remove your shoes on entry and stay quiet while moving around the property. In popular ryokans in the mountains, it's common to have an onsen open-air bath to dip in, while most ryokans serve evening kaiseki ryori, consisting of many small, regional dishes.

What's the difference between a ryokan and a hotel?

Well, there's considerably more cultural immersion at a ryokan compared to a hotel. Granted, staying in a traditional Japanese inn like this might mean forgoing some creature comforts – think ensuite bathrooms, plush bedspreads, and – sometimes – even heating. But you do gain a glimpse of old Japan, a taste of its unique cuisine, and perhaps even a trip to a soothing natural spa.