Inside a ryokan - a traditional Japanese guesthouse

It's been a long time between blog posts because Mum and I have been travelling! Last Saturday night, we arrived in Japan for a week's holiday.

Our plan was to stay in Narita for the first two nights, then Tokyo (about an hour by train from Narita) for the next five. Having visited Japan a couple of times before, we wanted to stay in ryokans in both cities - traditional Japanese guesthouses, quite similar to B&Bs.

The ryokan at Narita was somewhat of a luxury version, and much larger than the one in Tokyo. It was huge!

You might notice that there are no beds in traditional ryokans. As you can see in the first couple of pictures, there is minimal furniture altogether, and it's quite lightweight and easily moved. The sliding panels (which feel like rice paper mounted to wooden batons), slide back and forth to section off parts of the living space.

Once dinner is over each evening (in the Narita ryokan, we could choose to have dinner in the room), the Futon Man comes to the room, bows furiously before entering the living area, moves the table, and rolls out the futons, which are stored in cupboards in the room. He repeats the whole process each morning, stripping the sheets and rolling the thin mattresses up for storage.

The floor is made of tatami matting, and you do not wear shoes anywhere in the ryokan. They're left at the door and swapped for socks, which are typically provided by the ryokan. If you want to walk around the ryokan, say down to the lobby or communal bath, you can wear slippers provided in your room.

This particular ryokan had a bathroom, although many have shared facilities outside of the rooms. It was tiny, but came with the mandatory electrically heated toilet seat (great for those chilly winter days), and a deep bath and shower area. I'll cover bathing Japanese-style in another blog post!

Ryokans also provide yukata's (similar to kimono's), to wear in the room and around the ryokan. That's the folded thing in the last picture. Whack it on with your slippers, and you're feeling well and truly Japanese desu ne!

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