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Top tips for ryokans with kids

Shōji rice paper doors, beautiful gardens and natural hot springs make ryokans the most calming and authentic accommodation in Japan and a truly charming way for the kids to experience Japanese traditions. But a ryokan stay is a widely different experience to staying in a hotel, and there is a certain etiquette involved. Here are our top tips for a comfortable stay.

Image credit © Boyeatsworld

1. Ask in advance

Ryokans are known for their paper-thin walls and silent guests. Some lodgings don’t allow little visitors, so it’s important to ensure your desired inn is familyfriendly before making a booking.

2. Find the right fit

Ryokans vary in size, from B&B-style to hotel-scale. If your youngsters are a little too rowdy, but you still want an authentic experience, a ryokan-hotel may be your best bet.

3. Dress the part

The kids are bound to be excited at the prospect of wearing a yukata robe, a must when walking around your ryokan’s public spaces and gardens. Just remember, the left side of the yukata goes over the right. Only corpses wear them the other way.

4. Dine in style

A big advantage of ryokans for family trips is the fact that meals are often served in the room. This means no tantrums or misbehaving at restaurants. Breakfast and dinner are included in the original price in the form of a kaisekiryori (Japanese haute cuisine) experience. The range of intriguing dishes is bound to keep the family playing ‘guess the ingredients’.

5. Walk in their shoes

A ryokan’s tatami floors are delicate and outside shoes must remain off at all times inside a ryokan. Make sure everyone wears the special slippers provided. There is even bathroom-specific footwear.

6. Bath time

Onsens are the conventional way to bathe at ryokans. These communal baths are filled with rejuvenating spring water and bathers aren’t permitted to wear swimming costumes (or any other clothes). They are also silent, so there’s no splashing around. Some do allow children, however, it is important to check beforehand.

7. Camp out

After dinner, staff will clear away your room’s table, and futons and mattresses will appear, which kids tend to see as an extremely comfortable, indoor camping trip.

This article appeared in volume 55 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.

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