We often wonder why anyone would want to visit amazing Japan yet choose to stay only in western-style hotels. In order to experience the true Japan, we highly recommend visitors stay in a traditional hot spring (onsen) hotel known as a ryokan. In fact, all our tours are purposely designed to give our valued guests these experiences. Our Cherry Blossom Tours, both the Classic Route and Northern Japan Route, accommodate guests in some of the most exclusive and ultra-luxurious hot spring hotels. Why do we do this? Well the answer is simple, hot spring hotels (ryokans) are amazing. They are luxurious, comfortable, relaxing, serve the very best cuisine, but most of all, they offer an experience that is unique to the true Japan. If you are planning to visit Japan you have to experience a hot spring ryokan. Here are the top ten reasons for choosing to stay in a hot spring ryokan.
Not to be confused with Kimono (traditional Japanese female attire), Yukata are essentially incredibly comfortable Japanese style robes that are worn to and from hot spring baths (onsen) and meals in hot spring ryokans. It is not uncommon for guests to take off their clothes as soon as they arrive and wear the yukata for the entire duration of their stay. Yukata are often colourful and come in different styles for men, women and even children. Wearing a yukata to your evening meal is simply a fantastic immersive experience that is a must try. We guarantee you’ll love wearing your yukata so much you’ll wonder why you don’t have one at home.
The pinnacle of Japanese cuisine is Kaiseki. Essentially a traditional style, multiple course, seasonal and regional meal that is enjoyed at hot spring hotels, kaiseki is the ultimate dining experience. Kaiseki is presented in the most beautiful, often hand-crafted, Japanese ceramics and takes diners on a journey of the senses. Hot spring hotels, pride themselves on their kaiseki offering as it is usually the main deciding factor for potential guests. There is no other gourmet experience like a kaiseki meal and it is a tantalizing experience we ensure all our guests experience on our tours.
Ask a Japanese person living abroad what they miss most about Japan and after they say the food and my family they will inevitably say tatami. A tatami is a type of mat used as a flooring material in traditional Japanese-style rooms and traditional Japanese hot spring hotel. Tatami has been made for generations and is traditionally made using rice straw to form the core, and woven soft rush straw to form the covering. In luxury Japanese hotel rooms there is usually a tatami mate area where guests can relax, enjoy a Japanese-style tea, a sake and even the morning and evening meals. Tatami are a natural product and are unique to Japan. Staying in a hot spring hotel allows guests to sleep on a mattress which is placed on the tatami mat floor. This again is a fantastic experience that is unique to Japan and something we ensure guests experience on our tours.
The Japanese are famous for their hospitality, making guests feel welcome and ensuring they enjoy their time in Japan. A traditional hot spring hotel is where this famous Japanese hospitality is on full display. The staff in these hotels are immaculately presented, perfectly polite and will stop at nothing to ensure their guests receive the very best experience. The old world hospitality present at traditional hotels is simply amazing and something you need to experience to believe.
The Japanese are perhaps the world’s greatest gift givers, always purchasing souvenirs from their travels to give to their friends and family. Due to this gift giving culture, Japan has countless omiage (pronounced o-me-aaa-ge) or as we say in English, souvenir shops. Some of the very best souvenir shops are located in the lobbies of traditional hot spring hotels. Here you will find not only exquisite souvenirs directly related to the hotel itself, but also the finest famous produce and products from the immediate area. Japan is very local-centric and each area produces something unique; this means that souvenirs available in your traditional hot spring hotel cannot be found anywhere else.
Traditional hot spring hotels are purposely designed and built to showcase the epitome of the natural environment. With this concept in mind the traditional hot spring hotel is built in an area that is rich in underground volcanic hot springs that can be tapped into to provide the onsen (see point 10). Furthermore, the whole traditional hot spring hotel is always designed to showcase the very best scenery for guests to enjoy. Whether located in the pristine mountains, picturesque valleys or by the seaside, we guarantee the scenery is as good as it gets.
Japanese gardens are in a word magnificent. Painstakingly crafted over decades, and in some case, generations, Japanese gardens are something to behold. Traditional hot spring hotels always have meticulously manicured gardens composed of water features, bonsai, sculptures and rock features. The gardens are a perfect place to escape and relax whilst admiring the artisan creations.
Feeling like a VIP is something everyone wants. That special attention, luxury experience and divine décor makes anyone feel important. Traditional Japanese hot spring hotels are designed to provide guests with a private and exclusive experience. Luxury Japan Travel carefully selects traditional hot spring hotels that provide the highest level of exclusivity for guests.
The first and sometimes referred to as the most important meal of the day, breakfast at a traditional hot spring hotel is wonderful. Seemingly endless delicious offerings are perfectly presented for guests to devour. Dishes that are created with locally sourced, seasonal produce are simply magnificent and give new meaning to the term bed and breakfast. Best enjoyed after a morning soak in the hot spring (onsen), breakfast at a traditional hot spring hotel is absolutely amazing.
We’ve saved the best for last. Hot spring baths, known as onsen in Japan, after the cuisine, are the best thing to experience in Japan. Guests can soak their worries away and sooth their bodies in the mineral rich volcanically heated water. Ranging from crystal clear water to a thick milky colour, these natural hot springs are a perfect way to experience true luxury. Listed as number 10 but definitely the number 1 reason to stay in a luxury traditional hot spring hotel.