20 Best Ryokan in Japan for International Visitors (Updated 2021)

Traveling to Japan and looking to relax? Traditional Japanese ryokan are the best way to rest while experiencing the best of Japanese hospitality! Combining aspects of a bed and breakfast, inn, and hot-spring resort, you'll find yourself in a rustic yet relaxing atmosphere full of delicious food and comfortable rooms. If you're unsure of where to stay, choosing any of the 20 ryokan in this article is a safe bet!

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Introduction

When traveling around Japan, there's nowhere more iconic to stay than a "ryokan." Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns serving as a place for travelers to rest and eat. Many also double as resorts, especially those near hot springs. They are often furnished in traditional Japanese style, with tatami flooring, floor chairs, and futons for sleeping. Some will provide Japanese loungewear as well, to be used when walking around or when dining on the outstanding cuisine sometimes served right in your room!

Each year, TripAdvisor releases a ranking of the "Top 20 Ryokan in Japan by International Travelers,"  which is determined by reviews from international travelers. Since there have been no international travelers in over a year, this article will introduce the ryokan from the 2020 ranking. 

20. Shibu-Onsen Kokuya (Nagano)

Kokuya is located in Shibu Onsen, one of Nagano Prefecture's famous hot spring resort areas. As you would hope from a ryokan located here, the baths at Kokuya are exceptional. Each room comes equipped with its own private open-air onsen, and there are another 9 public baths in the facility, many of which can be reserved for private use. The rooms are spacious and furnished in classic ryokan style with tatami flooring and comfortable futon for sleeping. For a hot spring getaway into the mountains of Nagano, Kokuya is a great choice. 

19. Nishiyama Ryokan (Kyoto)

While some of the ryokan in Kyoto can be a bit small, Nishiyama Ryokan offers guest rooms with a generous amount of space, despite its convenient location just 5 minutes from a subway station. It is also within easy walking distance of some of Kyoto's must-see sights, including the Imperial Palace, Gion, and Nijo-jo Castle, making it a perfect hub for seeing the city. However, the excellent full course Kyoto-style meals, lovely Japanese garden courtyard, and relaxing baths on the property will make you want to spend most of your time at the ryokan!

18. Ryokan Fujioto (Nagano)

 

Located in the heart of Tsumago, an old post town nestled in the Kiso Valley of Nagano Prefecture, Ryokan Fujioto is a ryokan in an old wooden building with a wonderful traditional atmosphere. The town is considered to have one of the best-preserved traditional townscapes in Japan, and the wooden buildings that line the streets of town make the area feel as though it is frozen in time. It is truly the perfect place to get a taste of old Japan while staying in a classic ryokan. Fujioto is known for its gardens, which feature koi ponds, as well as its immaculately crafted cypress wood baths and a delicious full-course Japanese dinner served in your room.

Many visitors to the town come to walk along the Nakasendo, an ancient trail that connected Tokyo and Kyoto long ago. A 3-hour hike along the trail from Tsumago will take you to another similarly-preserved town called Magome, where you can soak in the traditional atmosphere even more and feel like you've been transported back in time.

 

17. Hakone Yuyado Zen (Kanagawa)

Hakone Yuyado Zen is a modern ryokan in Hakone, a hot spring resort area in Kanagawa Prefecture, not far from Tokyo. The ryokan is quite popular thanks to its fabulous hospitality, private onsen baths in each room, and spectacular views of Mount Fuji. Unlike a typical ryokan, the rooms here feature western-style beds, but there is also a large sitting area next to the windows with tatami flooring that give the rooms a Japanese feel. If you plan to visit the lovely Hakone area on your trip to Japan, this is certainly a nice ryokan to consider.

16. Hoshinoya Kyoto (Kyoto)

Hoshinoya Kyoto is located in an incredibly scenic spot on the bank of the Katsura River in Arashiyama, a small town to the west of Kyoto City. Despite being less than 40 minutes from Kyoto Station, the secluded location of the hotel will make you feel like you're staying in the mountains far away from the city. Hoshinoya has a reputation as one of the top ryokan brands in Japan, and reservations can be hard to come by (and quite pricey), but your stay will definitely be one to remember. Enjoy the ryokan's top-notch cuisine, elegantly designed baths, and beautiful natural scenery in this quiet corner of Kyoto. 

"20101205kyoto194" by detsugu is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

15. Yokikan (Shizuoka)

Located in a small hot spring town called Ito in Shizuoka prefecture, Yokikan offers the perfect view and great access to the seaside and other fun destinations. The ryokan has everything that you would hope for from a classic Japanese ryokan, plus more. What really makes it memorable is the open-air bath situated up the hill above the main ryokan building. To get there, guests ride up the hillside in a tiny private cable car that seats just 4 people! 

14. Ryokan Asunaro (Gifu)

Asunaro is a ryokan in a beautifully preserved wooden building that is situated in the mountain town of Takayama in Gifu prefecture. The ryokan has a very traditional feel and the owners greet guests with a small-town warmth that makes everyone feel at home. The ryokan's public bath is made entirely of granite, and is the perfect place to soak after a day in the mountains. However, the food is one of the best parts of a stay here, as local ingredients including Hida beef (one of the most famous types of Japanese beef) is featured in the dinner courses. 

13. Kyoya Ryokan (Aichi)

Kyoya Ryokan is located right in the middle of Nagoya, not too far from Nagoya Castle, the city's most famous landmark. You'd never guess it was so centrally located however, thanks to its lovely tree-filled garden and separated bathhouse. It's truly an oasis in the middle of the city. However, what really keeps people coming back is the hospitality of the owner, who goes out of their way to make sure each guest has a special stay. Be sure to eat your dinner here, as you will be served a course featuring Nagoya's specialties!

12. Shimaya (Nagano)

Located in northern Nagano Prefecture, Shimaya Ryokan is a family-run ryokan that takes advantage of its location to provide natural hot spring water to its rooftop bath and easy access to the nature parks in the surrounding area. The most famous nearby attraction is the monkey park where snow monkeys enjoy bathing in the hot spring in winter, and the owner of the ryokan is known to drive guests to and from the park for free. The hospitality doesn't stop there though, with many guests reporting that they were loaned winter boots and given help to plan their train and bus routes after leaving the ryokan. For a taste of truly excellent Japanese hospitality and great views of the beautiful mountains from the hot spring bath, Shimaya Ryokan is a great choice.

11. Luck You Bikkoji Higashimachi (Kyoto)

Luck You Bikkoji Higashimachi is a tiny little ryokan in the middle of Kyoto. The rooms may be small, but they are immaculate and have everything you need. What people most remember about their stays here, however, are the extremely friendly staff, who speak good English and are ready to help you with anything at the drop of a hat, including planning out the best way to tour around the city. Also, unlike a typical ryokan that has a curfew sometime in the evening, Luck You Bikkoji Higashimachi has someone at the front desk 24/7, meaning you can explore the city at any time of the night to your heart's content. 

10. Oyado Yamakyu (Gifu)

Another ryokan in the beautiful mountain town of Takayama in Gifu Prefecture, Oyado Yamakyu is located in a fantastic spot near the old part of the city. The interior of the ryokan has a retro atmosphere that feels like it hasn't changed since the Showa Period(1926-1989), and the staff are incredibly warm and inviting. The home-cooked meals are fantastic, and there are both indoor and open-air onsen baths that make for the perfect way to end the day. Overall, Oyado Yamakyu provides an outstanding traditional ryokan experience that can't be beaten!

9. Gion Maifukan Hotel (Kyoto)

A modern take on the traditional Japanese ryokan, Maifukan offers both Japanese-style and Western-style rooms done up with contemporary furniture and fixtures. The rooms are spick and span and rather spacious by Kyoto standards. There is also a rooftop garden with tables where guests are free to relax and enjoy the fresh air, and the reception desk is staffed 24 hours a day, meaning you can freely come and go without regard to the time of night. The best feature of this hotel, however, is its superb location near Gion, one of the most famous districts in Kyoto known as the place where you can still see Geisha to this day. It is a great base from which to explore the city. 

8. Toshiharu Ryokan (Kyoto)

Located on a quiet side street not far from downtown Kyoto, Toshiharu is a ryokan in an exquisite Meiji era building that is registered as a cultural asset. One of the nicest features of the ryokan is the beautifully maintained courtyard garden, which some of the rooms look out onto and which makes you forget that you're staying in the middle of a city. The traditional Japanese breakfast featuring a magnificent spread of various tiny dishes is also superb, and guests commonly say that it is the best breakfast they had in Japan. 

7. Shima Onsen Kashiwaya Ryokan (Gunma)

Located in Gunma Prefecture, in a mountainous region of central Japan, Shima Onsen is one of the famous hot spring areas within easy reach of Tokyo. One of its many ryokan nestled in the Shima River Valley, Kashiwaya Ryokan is an outstanding place for an onsen getaway in the mountains. The ryokan's rooms are spacious and the numerous hot spring baths offer stunning views of the surrounding scenery. The ryokan is easy to get to thanks to frequent shuttle buses that run to the nearest train station. It even offers rental bicycles for guests to explore the natural beauty of the nearby area, so even those without a car will have an easy time getting around. 

6. Ryokan Sawanoya (Tokyo)

A small and exclusive ryokan in Tokyo, there are only 12 rooms and space for about 20 guests at a time at Ryokan Sawanoya. The ryokan is located in an unassuming neighborhood near Ueno, inside a building that you wouldn't guess was filled with traditionally styled rooms and baths. However, guests love their experience here and the wonderful warm hospitality that can't be found at most lodgings in Tokyo. The ryokan staff will even help you plan the rest of your trip around Japan, and will even call to make reservations at other inexpensive ryokan on your behalf if you need. Best of all, this wonderful service comes at a more affordable price than most other lodgings in Tokyo, especially if you're traveling solo. Feel at home and enjoy the peace and quiet of this hidden gem during your stay in the big city. 

"Sawanoya" by orkosland is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

5. Hoshinoya Tokyo (Tokyo)

Central Tokyo is probably the last place in Japan you would expect to find a ryokan, but it is actually home to Hoshinoya Tokyo, a ryokan that is part of the famous Hoshino Resort group. More of a mix between luxury hotel and ryokan, Hoshinoya offers the hospitality and personalized experience that you would expect from a ryokan with modern (yet still Japanese) furnishings and facilities. Just blocks away from the ryokan entrance are famous Tokyo landmarks including Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace, and it's a breeze to get anywhere else in Tokyo via a short train ride from any of the nearby stations. 

4. Wakakusa no Yado Maruei (Yamanashi)

If you're heading to the area around Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi, Wakakusa no Yado Maruei is an excellent ryokan to consider. Despite being larger than many of the additions on this list, Maruei still retains the incredible dining and impeccable service one would expect from a traditional ryokan. The best part, though, has to be the hot spring facilities. The ryokan has many different baths, both indoor and outdoor, with beautiful wooden finishings. Some of the baths even feature incredible views of Mt. Fuji when the weather is clear, making for a truly unforgettable hot spring experience.

3. Shiraume (Kyoto)

Dating back to the Edo Period(1603 - 1868), Shiraume is a charming ryokan tucked away on an ancient road next to the Shirakawa River that still maintains its original structure. Having started as a tea room, it eventually opened up into a full ryokan for travelers. Today, it remains one of the most popular ryokan in Kyoto, and many people who stay once end up staying here again on subsequent trips due to the unbeatable service and delicious food served right in your room. 

 

2. Luck You Kyoto (Kyoto)

Located right in the middle of Kyoto, Luck You (sister ryokan to No. 11 on this list) is a ryokan that is known for its exceptionally friendly staff who go out of their way to make sure that each guest has a special stay. On top of their friendliness, the staff can also speak English, meaning that they can easily communicate with guests and provide travel tips and recommendations for spots to visit in Kyoto. Although the rooms are a bit small, they are spotlessly clean and come equipped with all of the amenities that you would expect from a ryokan. There is also a bathhouse across the street that guests at the ryokan can use for free. 

1. Hinodeya (Shizuoka)

Hinodeya is a small family-owned ryokan located in Izu Kogen, a small town on the Izu Peninsula, just a few hours from Tokyo. The area is known for its excellent hot spring waters, which can be enjoyed at the baths, as well as for its delicious seafood, including "kinmedai" (Splendid alfonsino) and "shirasu" (whitebait) which will be on full display in the dinner menu. What sets this ryokan apart, though, is the hospitality provided by the owners, which goes above and beyond what would normally be expected. It is not uncommon for the owner to personally drive international guests to various sightseeing spots in the area! 

Conclusion

Ryokan are so much more than just a place to sleep for the night. Most provide a complete Japanese lodging experience with hot springs, traditional Japanese loungewear, and a full-course dinner served right in your room. Stay at a ryokan to rest and relax, or use it as your home base as you explore the surrounding area. No matter where you go in Japan, the ryokan you choose will likely become one of the best memories of your trip.

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Title image: Adriy Blokhin / Shutterstock

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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