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Staying in a Ryokan during a Travel in Japan

There is a saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." With that said, staying in Ryokan is one of the most enjoyable ways to experience a true Japanese atmosphere, completed with tatami mats and yukata dresses. These Ryokans also offer true Japanese hospitality. Especially in recent years, the number of Ryokans that welcome foreign tourists is increasing. One of the characteristics of such a Ryokan is its reasonable price when compared to that of city hotels. They also offer guests a chance to exchange their travel information with each other. The lobbies almost become "salons of information exchange," as guests mingle and learn detailed local information posted on notice boards that they would not find in guidebooks. Since the number of rooms is limited in Ryokans, the staff can then provide detailed service and plenty of hospitality. Useful information on shops and restaurants in the surrounding area is plentiful, as they have been operating their business over a long period in their community. Privacy and security are priorities in Ryokans, just like in hotels.

"I have been taking care of foreign guests for over 35 years. There are many that stay at our Ryokan whenever they come to Japan, while 90% of our guests are from abroad. As we keep 'Ryokan-style', we accompany guests to their room at arrival, serve tea, and make the first greeting there. Because of the Internet, there are many guests coming to Japan, getting real-time information in their countries in advance. In order to provide information of even better quality, for example, we show them directions for taking subways, together with the number of platform they should be at" (Mr. Katsuo Tobita, Ryokan in Asakusa, "Shigetsu").

Shigetsu is located in the typical downtown area of Tokyo, Asakusa. It has Japanese rooms with tatami mats and a cypress bath on the top floor (the 6th). Bathing on this floor allows visitors a view of the five-story tower of the Senso-ji Temple nearby. For those wishing to use a personal computer, the lobby offers a free Internet connection, and LAN cables are free to borrow for the use at each guest room. The price of a Japanese room per single person is 8,400 yen, and 15,750 yen per two persons (per night, excluding meals).

Sento (Public Bath) and Dining Out

Japanese Ryokans normally serve dinner, but there is a choice to stay there without meals, just like at hotels. When dining out, guests may also want to experience a sento, if there is one nearby, as it is something that can only be experience in Japan. A sento is a public bath with two huge, separate bathing areas, one for ladies and the other for gentlemen. Bathers relax in the big communal bath, and wash themselves outside of the tub. Shampoo and soaps can be purchased, and some sentos also rent bath towels to guests. Sentos sometimes have what is called an "tebura (empty-hand) set" which includes a towel, soap, shampoo and conditioner in the admission fee. In Tokyo, the admission fee is 450 yen, and many sento are open in the afternoon, or evening through midnight.

In Kyoto, there is a big bath on the 3rd basement floor of the Kyoto Tower Building. The Kyoto Tower Building is located in front of Kyoto Station. The admission for this sento is 750 yen, and includes the use of a towel, soap, shampoo, conditioner and hair dryer.

Mr. Xavier Solsona Balasch's Views on Staying at the Ryokan Shigetsu

"When I came to Japan for the first time from Girona, Spain, I found this Ryokan through ITCJ's Welcome Inn*. Besides traveling in Kyoto, I also visited Akihabara and Ueno in Tokyo from this Ryokan. Although I take breakfast at the Ryokan, I enjoy dinner in the neighborhood. Yesterday, I tried the monja-yaki (pan-fried batter). Although one needs to have a bit of skills to eat them, it was an interesting experience and tasted good! Compared to Shinjuku and Roppongi, Asakusa has a traditional atmosphere, and I enjoy the quietness of the night in this town. I take a bath with friends of mine in the Ryokan, in a huge bathtub, which can never be done in Spain. Wearing a yukata after taking a bath is also good. It suits me, doesn't it?"

* ITCJ's Welcome Inn Reservation Center's services are to be discontinued after December 1,2011.
Japanese Inn Group

This is a group of Ryokans organized for foreign guests who wish to enjoy a family atmosphere. Family-oriented Ryokans are members of this group, whose chief purpose is to display the hospitality and excellence of Japanese Ryokans.
Youth Hostels

There are about 360 youth hostels in Japan ready to welcome all kinds of visitors. These offer reasonably priced accommodations at around 3,000 yen without meals, or 4,500 yen with two meals for the members (additional 1,000 yen for non-members). Both Western-style rooms with double-deck beds and Japanese-style rooms with tatami mats are available, and rooms are shared with 4-8 persons of the same gender. Although guests must make their own beds, and set and clean their own tables, it is great fun communicating with their "temporary roommates."

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