Our First Ryokan Experience in Japan

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

Mount Misen was cloaked in white as our ferry approached the pier at Miyajima Island. We could see the bright red torii (a traditional Japanese gate at the entrance of a Shinto shrine), ever so faintly amidst the fog. After docking, we asked the nice gentleman at the visitor booth to make a call. Within 10 minutes, Watanabe-san appeared to greet us (with the most sincere bow ever!) and loaded our bags into his van. AS, my mum, and I were all giddy on the short ride through the ancient alleys of Miyajima. Not only was this her first time traveling with us, it was also our first time staying at a traditional Japanese inn- a ryokan.

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

We received a warm welcome from Watanabe-san‘s wife and snacked on momiji manju while we waited. These are maple leaf shaped cakes loaded with azuki paste; they’re also Hiroshima’s most popular souvenir!

Read more: Planning your visit to the sacred island of Miyajima, Japan

After being shown to our rooms, we washed up and changed into yukata.

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

The Location

Watanabe-Inn is a short drive from the pier. Watanabe-san picked us up and dropped us off in his van (the signature white van in many Japanese anime series I grew up watching- so nostalgic) so we didn’t have to haul our luggage. The famous torii and Itsukushima Shrine are about 10 minutes away on foot, and the stairs to Daishō-in‘s main entrance is right outside the inn!

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

Our Rooms

There are only 4 rooms at Watanabe-Inn (for maximum service!) and each comes with a Japanese cypress tub. These are Japanese style rooms with tatami mats, meaning you sleep on a super comfortable futon that’s laid out for you on the floor.

AS and I stayed in Momiji which was awesome, while my mom stayed in the peasant room (kidding, hers was dope too because it came with a loft!). We liked ours just a tad more because it came with an attached sitting area for tea that overlooks a beautiful garden and pond.

Remember that cypress tub I was talking about? Not only does it smell refreshing, it fills by itself and stops once it reaches a certain level. And it keeps the water at the temperature you set!

Read more: How to see Kyoto in 2 days

Food

Food. The best part. This is the main reason why we wanted to stay at a ryokan– to experience Kaiseki-ryori, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal originally served at tea ceremonies.

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima

These guys use only fresh seafood caught from the Seto Inland Sea and present every dish beautifully. Seriously, just leave it to the Japanese when it comes to immaculate culinary details with a homey touch. Needless to say, our taste buds were very happy and thanked us (and the chef) for the delicious meal.

The traditional Japanese breakfast was exactly what we expected. Rice, miso soup, some proteins, and pickled vegetables as side dishes. It was so yummy- I don’t normally eat rice (even though I’m Asian- weird, I know) but I finished the whole thing!

Service

I think it goes without saying that the Japanese are one of, if not the most polite and well-mannered people in the world. Watanabe-san and his wife are perfect examples of what hospitality should be. They lent us umbrellas and rainboots, and did everything they could to ensure our stay was on point.

Have you ever stayed at a ryokan? Tell me about your experience below!

Kollecting Koordinates - Miyajima Ryokan

tips

  • If you’re looking for an authentic ryokan experience, pick somewhere that’s not in the big cities (i.e. Kyoto or Osaka). We were so glad we did this on Miyajima Island- the remoteness and serenity made our stay extra special. Our friend stayed at a ryokan in Arashiyama and he loved it.
  • A night’s stay isn’t cheap, but it’s totally worth it! Rates range from $230-280CAD per night per person.
  • Pick the Momiji room if you do end up choosing Watanabe-Inn.
  • Stay longer! We regret spending only 1 night.

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Kollecting Koordinates - Ryokan

 

38 Comments

  1. Omniya Fareed Shafik
    October 23, 2016 / 2:57 am

    wow this looks really peaceful. I would have never thought of going to a place like this but you have definitely encouraged me to pay it a visit. Great pics as well. Was it expensive to visit or was it somewhat affordable? I find touristic places to be a bit expensive 🙂

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:24 pm

      They charge per person per night, and the rates include breakfast and dinner. It’s in the $200’s Canadian!

  2. October 23, 2016 / 3:07 am

    Wow, this seems absolutely spectacular! My favorite part was the bathroom– a tub that fills itself and keeps the water warm? Sign me up! But everything about this ryokan is beautiful. Thanks for the tips, we will keep them in mind when we visit Japan!

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:24 pm

      Haha totally! I was like WHOAAAAAAA when it was doing its thang 😛

  3. October 23, 2016 / 3:05 pm

    I love Japan because they have plenty of beautiful places that are beautiful and away from the crowd. It looks really serene and relaxing. I would not mind to stay here for a month or so. But for sure, it will really be expensive.

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:25 pm

      A month here sounds like a goooood time. So zen but our wallets won’t be too happy haha

  4. October 23, 2016 / 5:10 pm

    I visited Miyajima island for the day and had a great time. The weather was nice until we decided to get the cable car up and hike to the top and then the rain came out. I love the place you stayed in, I stayed in something similar in Koyasan. I loved Japan the people are just so nice 🙂

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:26 pm

      The weather was terrible when we were there so we didn’t get a chance to take the cable car 🙁 Next time though. I’d love to read about your experience in Koyasan if you’ve written about it!

  5. October 23, 2016 / 6:50 pm

    How quaint! Miyajima looks like a true gem! I love the bedding arrangements! I think that is such a cool cultural phenom with everything lower to the ground in Japan. The food looks absolutely decadent there. I am a lover of Japanese cuisine. I cannot have too many exotic fish and shellfish, but if I stick to the usual choices I think I would enjoy this haven as much as you have!

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:27 pm

      Is it because of allergies? So sorry to hear that. Everything in moderation is okay though right?

  6. October 23, 2016 / 7:09 pm

    I also grew up watching animes, so reading this post and knowing that this exist made me want to visit Japan even more. The service is really great given that the owners can also focused on a controlled number of guests. I hope I can get an authentic Ryokan experience too!

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:28 pm

      Yes you must! It’ll bring back so many good childhood memories 🙂

  7. October 23, 2016 / 9:12 pm

    Did they speak English? I wouls like to experience this as well when I go to japan. It sounds exciting

    • October 24, 2016 / 7:28 pm

      Yes they do! Although it’s not completely fluent but you’ll be able to get by no problem.

  8. October 25, 2016 / 10:52 am

    What a beautiful ryokan! I stayed in a ryokan in Tokyo before and it was nice and all but not as scenic as this. And we didn’t have all that delicious food that you had! Also, you are a cute couple! I love how you look at each other 🙂

    • October 31, 2016 / 5:55 pm

      Hehe thanks, Nadine!

  9. October 26, 2016 / 6:42 am

    This sounds like such a fantastic stay! You had sold me with the talk of the cypress tub, but then…the food! It all looks so delicious. I really respect the attention to detail that goes into Japanese cuisine, it looks so immaculate. I’ll definitely be adding a stay like this to my Japan wish list.

  10. October 26, 2016 / 7:56 pm

    Growing up in Japan, this is one thing I miss! I especially love the food at Ryokans. I haven’t been to this one and it looks like it did not disappoint.:)

  11. October 26, 2016 / 8:03 pm

    Oh wow I love the look of this. The only thing that puts me off is that I have a bad back and wonder whether I would actually be able to get out of the futon bed! Looks fab though.

    • October 31, 2016 / 6:01 pm

      It was actually incredibly comfortable sleeping on the futon. I have a bad back too and I didn’t have an issue with it!

  12. October 27, 2016 / 12:17 am

    Wow gorgeous photos, I only ever ventured as far as Tokyo when I visited Japan… I think its time for another trip! x

    • October 31, 2016 / 6:07 pm

      Yes! To be honest I enjoyed the Kansai region more than the Tokyo area- definitely add it to your list for next time!

  13. October 27, 2016 / 2:17 am

    Oh wow this looks like such a fun experience and authentic experience! I have always been skeptical yet curious about the japanese beds on the floor… Im sure its a little strange at first. But I love that the hotel is so small for maximum service !

    • October 31, 2016 / 6:12 pm

      You’ll love it, Claudia! It’s actually suuuuuper comfortable- we had a great night’s sleep!

  14. October 27, 2016 / 5:02 am

    OMG this looks SO incredible and so relaxing! The food looks so delicious too. I could use a getaway like this – although I feel like I wouldn’t be able to leave :p

  15. October 27, 2016 / 5:09 am

    This looks like an incredible trip! I’m loving the coziness each of the photos evoke. I would love to have a trip like this. I need to spend more time in Japan next time I go!

  16. October 27, 2016 / 8:27 am

    The ryokan looks tranquil and the food looks delicious. Did it have a traditional communal Japanese onsen? Bathing in public is quite an experience.

    • October 31, 2016 / 6:13 pm

      Not this one! We’re thinking of heading to Kinosaki next time for a ryokan + onsen experience though! Although I don’t know how I feel about wearing my birthsuit in public haha

  17. October 27, 2016 / 9:22 am

    This looks like my idea of relaxing. Something I should do more of.

    The food looks incredible – that’s a big bonus staying anywhere.

  18. October 27, 2016 / 12:59 pm

    Sounds like a fabulous experience … especially the traditional Japanese food! I’m pretty sure I stayed in a Ryokan when we visited Japan in year 9 on a language immersion trip – I was 15 at the time though so my memory isn’t the best, but your experience and photos are very familiar 🙂

  19. October 27, 2016 / 4:28 pm

    I’ve never even heard of a Ryokan before this. Looks like a great experience and something I would enjoy. You had me at snacks as soon as you arrive!

  20. October 27, 2016 / 6:03 pm

    I love how small it is, it feels like the experience would be more “real” than a chain version. With only four rooms, did you see or get to know the other guests in the other 3 rooms? I cannot wait to visit Japan, I’m totally going to bring back one of those cakes!

    • October 31, 2016 / 6:17 pm

      My mum stayed in one other room but nope we didn’t see anyone else there! It’s like we ha the whole place to ourselves 🙂

  21. October 28, 2016 / 3:00 am

    This looks like a truly incredible authentic experiences. From the service to the the beds, this is something I would love to try.

  22. October 28, 2016 / 8:06 pm

    This whole experience sounds so dreamy! I’ve always dreamed of visiting Japan and if I ever get to, I’ll definitely go off the beaten track.
    Dora

  23. October 29, 2016 / 6:30 pm

    That food looks incredible!! What a fun experience 🙂 Loved the joke about your mom’s room!

  24. November 3, 2016 / 4:37 pm

    What an amazingly authentic experience, Ivy! I didn’t even know this was an option and am definitely looking into staying at a Ryokan when we go to Kyoto next March!

    • November 3, 2016 / 11:01 pm

      Oooh exciting!! Can’t wait to live vicariously through your IG feed 😉 You’re gonna love it omg

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