5 FAVORITE JAPANESE RYOKANS
BY REBECCA MAZZARO
Japan is one of my very favorite travel destinations. I love the bustle of Tokyo and the historic charms of Kyoto but it’s the beauty and traditions of the Japanese countryside that keep me coming back. Staying in a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) is one of the best ways to tap into the country’s unique history and mystical customs and most come with a rustic onsen (hot spring), my favorite way to recover from a full day of touring.
Tucked away in a lush mountain valley outside Hakone, this contemporary spa resort takes its inspiration from the simplicity and tranquility of traditional ryokan design. Wide doors welcome the outdoors in and stone soaking baths perched over the river invite the ultimate relaxation.
This simple ryokan provides Japanese and Western style rooms that open onto a picturesque riverside setting. The adjacent hot springs baths offer a variety of communal bathing pools, each with views of towering Mt. Yusaka. In traditional Japanese style, there are separate bathing pools for men and women but a lovely lounge unites the two areas, offering the chance to cool off and reconnect over a cup of local green tea.
Set in a delightful mountain village, seemingly frozen in time, but just 30 minutes from Kanazawa, this ryokan is nothing short of magical. With only 10 suites, it feels more like the private home of a good friend with exquisite taste—original painted screens, fine pottery and handmade furnishings decorate the rooms and hallways. Some suites come with private outdoor baths and all guests have access to the on-site hot spring pools. With so few rooms, it is not unusual to find yourself blissfully alone, soaking in the restorative water while marveling at the majestic forest towering above.
This authentic ryokan located on Japan's quaint Miyajima Island offers gorgeous views of the iconic torii gate. The location is best appreciated from a seat in the rooftop open-air bath as you watch the sunset over the Miyajima Strait turn the water brilliant shades of pink and orange.
This special retreat located outside of the town of Takayama is housed in hundred-plus-year-old buildings of the local Gifu vernacular style. Underneath the traditional moss roofs lie exposed wood beams, comfortable futons with fine linens, beautiful hardwood floors and an eclectic mix of local art and furnishings. Rustic stone and wood soaking pools complete the experience.