The Difference between Hotels and Ryokans

Where do you make a reservation when you visit Japan? In Japan, there are hotels and ryokans.

I think that you know hotels very well, but if you want to feel authentic Japanese culture and atmosphere, I recommend ryokans. What is the difference between hotels and ryokans? In this next part, I will introduce them for you.

Ryokan’s dinner

Hotels are in the western style and ryokans are in the Japanese style. 

First of all, the food is different. Hotels are almost a smorgasbord style of eating. You can choose to eat breakfast or not. The ryokan meal is in the Japanese style, and then there are women called “Nakai-san” who carry food and clean up the table. You can even have breakfast and dinner.  


The bedding is different. 

Hotels have beds,  but ryokans have futons. The workers in the ryokan lay out the bedding on a tatami mat at night, and return the bedding to the closet in the morning. 

Spring water

The bathrooms are different. 

Hotels have a bathroom in each room, but ryokan have a big communal bath. Anyone can take them. Of course, these communal baths are gender-segregated. In Japan, many ryokans have spring water. This is called an “Onsen-Ryokan”. They have them inside and outside. 

Shoes rack

At a hotel, you wear shoes all day, but at a ryokan, you take off your shoes before you go into the room.

This is a part of Japanese culture in general. You take off shoes and put them on the shoe rack. And then you put your shoes back on when you go out. 


Finally, the room is different. 

Hotels have a lot of single rooms and double rooms. And you can stay alone or with family. Ryokans, on the other hand, have a lot of huge rooms. You typically don’t use a ryokan room by yourself.  For example, you might stay with your friend group, coworkers, or your family. The rooms in a ryokan are called “Washitsu.” This means “Japanese-style room.” Washitsus are convenient. They can be separated into a few rooms using a partition known as a “Fusuma.”

Washitu (huge room)

How was this article?

I introduced the difference between hotels and ryokans. Famous ryokans are built like hotels because many foreigner have been visiting Japan recently. I recommend that you use Japanese-style ryokans if you would like to experience Japanese culture. Thank you for reading this article. I hope that this article helps you study Japanese.  

One Comment on “The Difference between Hotels and Ryokans”

  1. Wonderful explanation. Thank you. Great good luck with studying English. Your goals are terrific! I am traveling to Japan in October, so your words help me to choose Ryokan Wayne

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