Places to stay and experience the culture

Ryokan

An outdoor hot spring in Yamanashi Prefecture

©Japan Ryokan Association   ©JNTO

Accomodation

hot spring town

Taking Stroll around the hot spring town to Tawarayama in Yamaguchi Prefecture

©JNTO

Accommodation in Japan runs the whole gamut, from luxury five-star hotels to traditional inns at the peak of Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, to places that are more affordable to stay at. The uniqueness of accommodation in Japan embodies the omotenashi spirit, a personalised and thoughtful quality of service seen even in small inns in Japan.

Besides the usual chain hotels, there are cheaper “business hotels” that have the basics, such as WiFi. At the other end of the scale are extravagant places like the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Tokyo, a 38 storey embodiment of luxury with a spectacular night view and extensive spa facilities. The Conrad Hotel near Ginza is another example of luxurious living.

For longer stays, weekly apartments, share houses and even complete houses are also available for travelers on a budget.

delicacy

Taking Stroll around the hot spring town to Tawarayama in Yamaguchi Prefecture

©Japan Ryokan Association   ©JNTO

Another cheap option is “capsule hotels,” though they are not for the faint hearted and best appreciated for a night or two at most. Beds in stacked capsules along a wall provide only enough space to lie down, while bathroom facilities consist of a shared bath known as a sento.

In the mountains near ski resorts are the usual hotels, as well as lodges that feature Alpine European design, complete with fireplaces and feather beds. Sometimes there may even be an onsen that can be used both as a bath and for relaxation.

A truly unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience of traditional cuisine and hospitality is a ryokan. A room typically consists of tatami mat flooring perfectly suited for sitting while wearing a yukata following a dip in the adjoining onsen. A kimono-clad attendant serves a a kaiseiki course consisting of seafood and local dishes. The food is served in separate dishes, artistically arranged to balance their tastes, textures, appearance and colours.

Another option is a minshuku (B&B), consisting of a reasonably-priced room in a private house, typically located near resorts and sightseeing spots, with family style meals.

If you’re exploring temples and pilgrimage routes, then a fitting option is shukubo, or temple lodgings. These come with vegetarian meals and a chance to participate in morning chants and prayers. Buddhist mountain retreats on Mount Koya in Wakayama offer an especially unique opportunity to refresh the soul due to the holy nature of the location.