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Travel bucket list idea:

Stay at a ryokan in Tokyo

  • Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

Last updated: 21 April, 2024

To stay a night at one of Japan’s ryokan (traditional inns) is to immerse yourself in living history – the oldest hotel in the world is a ryokan, established in 705 and still going strong 51 generations later.

Ryokan can be modest or uber-luxurious, but there are defining traits.

Almost all have tatami mat rooms and futon beds, staff wearing traditional attire like kimono, and an air of calm and quiet. Many have in-house onsen baths, and serve traditional kaiseki-ryori dinners (if not the full 12-course extravaganza, then at least simpler multi-course dinner that focuses on local produce and specialities).

But it won’t be for everyone. Kids can find ryokan a bit dull – and the food challenging. The service, though often superb, can also be inflexible, with mealtimes locked into narrow windows and many mid-range and above ryokan not offering room-only stays. The best approach is to stay for just one night.

Who to go with: tour operators

2
  • Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

  • Official star rating:

Traditional bedding in ryokan

Place to Stay

Ryokan Sawanoya

Friendly and family-run, this Japanese inn in the retro Yanaka district offers a budget-friendly version of the traditional ryokan experience.

While high-end ryokan are all about luxury, what you get here is a simple tatami-mat guestroom, with futon beds put out at night, plus access to a pair of modest hot-spring baths.

Because the Sawanoya doesn’t come with the non-negotiable multi-course kaiseki-ryori dinner served in plusher inns, you also get an inn that’s great for a multi-night stay – ideal if you want to immerse yourself in Yanaka and other parts of Tokyo’s older, down-to-earth northeast.

Average £140

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

  • Tokyo, Kanto, Japan

  • Official star rating:

Layered outdoor light feature

Place to Stay

Hoshinoya Tokyo

Accenting the high-rise Otemachi financial district like a towering black monolith, this 17-story reimagination of the traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) is one of Tokyo’s most luxurious retreats.

While there are 84 rooms here – alot for a high-end ryokan – they are divided between private floors. That makes it feel like staying in an exclusive, intimate inn – one that combines kimono-clad staff, tatami-floored common areas, and minimalist spaces that mix traditional sensibilities with contemporary luxury.

The whole package is capped by two gender-separated open-air onsen baths on the rooftop that draw natural hot-spring water from 1,500 metres below the city.

It’s a great location too, with Otemachi being a comfortable walk to the Imperial Palace, Ginza, and Tokyo Station, which gives easy access to all of central Tokyo.

Average £600

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Logistics

Price from: £-
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: 1 night