What a delight this was! I had no idea what to expect from the brief description of a Ryokan and really the experience of staying in one…it just has to be experienced to appreciate it.
A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese style guest house. On the tea tour, we stayed in three different style Ryokans, but my favorite was in Kyoto. At first it appears to be a small hotel, but once we entered our room it was clear that this was going to be different. Our room had a small entrance where we left our shoes and put on slippers (provided). The room was wall-to-wall tatami mats and in the center was a large low table with tea-makings (perfect). The closet held two Yukatas—Japanese style robes which are kind of like bathrobes, but more formal and meant for wearing throughout the Ryokan.
We were due to meet our group for dinner downstairs so put on our Yukatas and slippers and proceeded to dinner. How fun! Dinner in our robes! And it was an amazing dinner–dish after dish of traditional Japanese fare. Just when I thought we had finished, another dish would be brought to us.
After dinner, the custom is to then enjoy the “onsen” which is the Japanese style hot bath. Men and women’s baths are separate, but the idea is to share a large very hot bath with others. The experience starts with your personal “scrub-down” at individual shower stations, then once clean, you enter the onsen and relax. I learned that originally, the Onsen water was always from a geothermally heated spring, but now that may not always be the case. No matter how its heated, it was a perfect way to end a day.
My tour roommate, Amy Riffle (Lizzykate Tea), had lived in Japan many years ago and was a wealth of knowledge about customs and rituals–she was really helpful in guiding us in the use of the onsen.
Once back in our room, the central table had been moved to the side and “beds” had been made up for us. These were three inch think futons with soft down comforters laid out on the tatami mats. It was all so lovely, comfortable and traditional.
Of course I had to buy a Yukata for home, and if I could I’d convert my bathroom to an onsen…but given practicality, I carry these memories of relaxation and wonderful Japanese traditions in spirit even as I’m back to my western ways.
Macaques Monkeys Enjoying the Hot Springs. Author is “Yosemite”
The pictures here are all from Wikipedia and if I have the photographer’s name–you will get that too.