A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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A Few Nights At the Ryokan


It’s hard to find a reasonably priced hotel room in Tokyo — especially when Japanese school children are on spring break and the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

There are plenty of hostels, but they tend to be booked well in advance. Brand name hotels can run US$500+ a night and independently owned hotels aren’t much cheaper.

The search for a room for less than US$200 led us to a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn.  Our stay at the Homeikan Honkan made our visit to Tokyo truly memorable.


A ryokan room is a simple rectangle.  There is a straw tatami mat on the floor.  During the day, the room is set up as a sitting area, with cushions on the floor around a low square table.

In the evenings, the innkeeper comes to each room to make up the bedding – double-layer futons on the floor.

Each guest gets to use two robes – a light cotton robe and a heavier yakutura to use when its cooler.


What distinguishes a ryokan, though, is its public bath.

Typically, a ryokan will have a bath room for men and another for women. The bath has a shower area and a large hot tub for soaking. There are no showers or tubs in the guest rooms – it’s the public bath or nothing.

When we checked in the innkeeper, speaking in very limited English, tried to explain the rules, procedures and protocols for taking a bath in a ryokan.

I got the naked part.  I got the shower first part.  But there was a whole bunch of other stuff that I missed completely.

I certainly didn’t want to offend my fellow guests with some major breach of bath-time ettiquete.  So I waited them out.

When the bath opened for the day, I stood watch until the half dozen male guests had either bathed or gone out for the day.

And then I had a good long soak.


Our Tokyo pictures are here.


1 Rick Grimsley { 05.04.09 at 8:36 am }

Craig –

I have been quietly following your progress while waiting out the economy. Your photographic eye is really maturing. Absolutely beautiful shots!

My fave posts were from Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat. But Japan is a place that I definitely want to visit someday. Thanks so much for documenting and sharing your journey.

Safe travels!

Rick Grimsley

2 Doug Spiro { 05.04.09 at 2:47 pm }

Ahh there is nothing like a good long soak especially if you have observed Emily Post’s Rules of the Ryokan.

PS: nice robes!

3 Theresa { 05.06.09 at 5:18 pm }

Sounds like quite the interesting experience. If I ever make it to Japan, I’ll have to check myself into a Ryokan.

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