A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where you sleep on a futon mattress on the floor covered by tatami mats. Our dear Lonely Planet highly suggested travelers stay at one during their trip to Japan.
But one thing that I don’t think is made clear: Ryokans can be very expensive. A high-end ryokan can charge upwards of $400 per person per night. This cost can be justified in that dinner and breakfast are often included and is probably very high quality and locally sourced. And the service would be fantastic. And the ryokan might have hot pools on the premises.
We don’t have multi-hundreds to fling around. And I have a very tall husband to take into consideration. Could he sleep on a Japanese futon on the floor and be comfortable? Will the futon and the room we will stay in be spacious enough for his long legs?
I found a ryokan that was comfortable and spacious enough for the Kiwi. And it was favorably priced. And it was great.
For $70 a night at Tokyo Ryokan in the Asakusa neighborhood, we could have a reasonably priced room in Tokyo and have a traditional Japanese experience. But there were some tradeoffs: This ryokan did not serve food at all. That was fine because there were many ramen restaurants, izakayas (Japanese pubs) and yakitori (Japanese skewers) restaurants in the Asakusa neighborhood. And we would have to share a bathroom with guests in two other rooms, but that was fine too.
After some emailing about our flight information and a submission of payment via PayPal, Tokyo Ryokan confirmed our reservation. A few days before arrival, the hosts emailed me with train information based on when our flight would arrive. I returned the email to let the hosts know our plane was on time and we would try to arrive by 9 p.m.
Kenichi-san, one half of the couple that operates the ryokan, met our cab outside the ryokan, took our luggage, gave us a tour, and walked us to a local ramen shop. The next morning, jet lag struck us something vicious, and we wanted to find breakfast and coffee. Fusako-san, Kenichi-san’s wife, gave us a couple of options in person and Kenichi-san followed up via email with some more options. We were appreciative of the guidance on where to go after hours and before hours.
The room was simple but comfortable. It was the size of three tatami mats (roughly 25-30 percent bigger than a standard adult-sized sleeping bag). Kiwi had one mat, I had the second and the backpacks took up the third. Two futon mattresses with a blanket, flat sheet and pillow were laid out each night. It was really nice to lay down on a hard floor after a 10-hour flight of sitting upright.
My favorite part of Tokyo Ryokan was the common room area. The bathroom and shower is located just off the area. There was a nice library of guidebooks to peruse by Lonely Planet, Wallpaper* and others. It was a pleasant area to set up a computer to check email, blog or figure out how to get to a tourist destination.
Kenichi-san and Fusako-san were lovely hosts, and very knowledgable about Tokyo. I told Kenichi-san that our train to Kyoto was at noon, and he asked “Noon, or 12:03?” It was the 12:03. Damn. We also told Kenichi-san about our cat cafe experience, and he had an interesting theory about why the cats were standoffish.
Overall, we are glad we stayed at a ryokan for a few days. Would we do it again? Sure, says Kiwi, adding that three days is about perfect. I was happy with our stay as well and would recommend Tokyo Ryokan for anyone on a budget.
I would also be keen on trying a hot springs ryokan, where you can relax in a hot pools on the premises. Maybe one day, when we have multi-hundreds to fling about.
Tokyo Ryokan is located at Nishi-Asakusa 2-4-8, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan 111-0035. Reservations can be made via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Would you stay at a ryokan? Have you stayed at a ryokan? Share your experience by leaving a comment.