Formerly rest stops for weary travellers and samurai warriors, ryokans retain their place in Japanese culture as a sanctuary from the outside world. These Japanese guesthouses are a wonderful addition to any Japan itinerary, the perfect place to indulge in traditional customs and relax all at once. Ryokans are a window into age old Japan, varying in style and luxury; a world away from the shiny newness of its innovative cities. There are very few places in the world where such authentic accommodation abounds within such easy reach of well-connected towns and cities, and the idyllic setting of many ryokans confirm them as a real holiday highlight.

Be greeted at the front door of your ryokan with a customary bow, step back in time and into a pair of inn issue slippers, and enter a world of bare minimalism, paper screens, sliding doors and immaculate design. Bedrooms are a mosaic of tatami and bamboo, calligraphy adorns small alcoves and barely there furniture blends into the beiges and browns of the timelessly decorated rooms. You can choose to while away an afternoon soaking in the on- site onsens (hot springs) or relax in the comfort of your yukata or kimono set; lounge wear so comfy you’ll be loath to leave it behind.

Enhancing the authenticity of the ryokan experience is undoubtedly the cuisine. The spectacle of dinner time starts early. Each dish is a masterpiece plated on ornate ceramics and usually served in the comfort of your room. Garnished with flowers and washed down with a giant glug of sake, meals tend to be a delicious spread of kaiseki-ryori or Japanese haute cuisine. Course after course of exquisite dishes are presented to your table, a painstakingly prepared menu of seasonal and local produce which compliments the surroundings of these quaint old inns superbly.

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