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10 Things to Expect at a Traditional Japanese Ryokan

SmarterTravel

When you walk into a Japanese ryokan—or traditional Japanese inn—you should be tired and dirty. Your back should ache and your feet should be sore. The best way to experience a ryokan is the way the people they were built for did. Along Japan’s old highways, innkeepers welcomed weary travelers who had walked long distances—and who likely still had a long journey ahead of them. When travelers arrived at the inn, exhausted and dusty, the innkeepers knew just what to do with them.

Always in the same order, guests were welcomed in, served hot tea, and offered fresh robes to change into before dinner. When you follow this order and respect the rules of a traditional ryokan, you are doing more than just being culturally polite. You are taking part in a ritual of relaxation and hospitality that has been in practice for centuries. Though these customs can be tricky for Western visitors to navigate at first, they’re well worth the experience. By the time you walk out of the door the next morning, you’ll be clean, well-fed, and ready to take on a brand new day.

What to Expect at a Japanese Ryokan

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Jamie Ditaranto traveled to Japan and experienced many different styles of ryokan as a guest of Walk Japan. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

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