If you know anything about Japan, or know someone who has been, you might have heard about Ryokans. Basically a traditional guesthouse, these Ryokans are the epitome of old school Japanese living. We’re talking paper walls, gas heaters, dinner on the floor, the works.

We stayed in this family-run Ryokan (I assume that’s like sun-blushed tomatoes in that it’s a complete tautology) so that we could visit Yudanaka – the sanctuary for Japan’s famous snow monkeys. More on that in a later blog.

We were greeted by the owner, who was super excited that it was our honeymoon and offered to give us a lift up to the start of the mountain walk we’d be doing. We accepted and before we knew it were in her K-car climbing some pretty treacherous icy roads.

By the time we got back it was dark, so we had dinner and I took a few shots of the room. There was lovely soft light in the bedroom, and we spent a long time drinking beer and listening to music, just enjoying relaxing in this calm, cosy mini apartment.

Dinner was amazing. I think we got special treatment because it was our honeymoon, but we had a private dining room and what can only be described as a banquet. The owner served us and every five minutes we’d get a knock at the door and ‘Excuse me!’ in Japanese as she brought in more food.

If you were thinking of staying in a Ryokan, my one piece of advice would be: warm clothes. They have a tendency to be pretty cold until the heater has been on for a while, and I definitely didn’t feel like I had taken enough warm clothing with me.

It’s also worth familiarising yourself with Onsen etiquette. It’s likely you’ll be sharing the hot bath with other guests, so you’ll need to follow the rules even if you’re a tourist. We were lucky that our Ryokan had a private Onsen, so I was less worried about doing the wrong thing. I would have been particularly worried if we’d shared,¬†as without my glasses my eyesight is pretty poor. It would have been a choice between steamed up specs or wandering around blind.

Definitely an experience I would recommend, but take some warm socks!

All photos taken on Sony A7ii and Canon 40mm 2.8.

29th May 2018

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