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Ryokan Etiquette Guide; How to behave in Ryokan

Ryokan etiquettes Culture, Etiquette

The experience of staying “Ryokan” will be in one of the bucket lists when you visit Japan.

Many overseas tourists also select to stay in Ryokan to have unique experiences during their trip.

As you know “Ryokan” is a Japanese traditional-style accommodation, therefore there are lots of Japanese original rules even more than staying in regular hotels.

But, it is very important that “To stay Ryokan” means “To enjoy the total service from the Ryokan” such as “To relax”, “To enjoy meals” and “To enjoy Hotspring”.

If you don’t understand the basic Ryokan concept, there will be misunderstandings with each other.

To avoid troubles of cultural differences between overseas tourists and local Ryokans, both sides need to find out measures.

If you consider staying in Ryokan style accommodation, you should learn proper etiquettes as a polite smart guest.

Five Major Troubles

As the number of overseas tourists who stay in Ryokans has been increased, Ryokans are bothered by cultural differences that they didn’t have before.

  1. No cancellation notice
  2. Cut in the line at the front desk
  3. Take (steal) Rokan’s items out home
  4. Take a “Hotspring” with bathing suits
  5. Transfer strong smell of perfume and incense the room (have to close the room for a while)

No-Cancellation Notice

Recently, many overseas travelers book Ryokan online, but some of them didn’t notify Ryokans about their cancellations for some reason such as traffic conditions, language barriers.

But for those who are waiting for booking guests, no-notification is a big problem. You need to understand that “Staying Ryokan” means includes dinner and breakfast. Ryokan tries to get ready for serving meals at the best timing.

No cancellation notice means destroying their hospitality and food.

Cut In The Line

I talk about “Japan is making a “LINE” country here.

I would say Japanese people are insanely good at standing in lines and also are very strict to follow the order.

Of course, at the front desk in hotels and Ryokans, Japanese people make sure whether other guests have been waiting to check-in or check-out.,

Due to the cultural difference, some overseas guests can’t wait for their turn and just do like in their countries, it is one of the troubles gives accommodation staff recently.

Take Room Items Out Home

Certain items, like the complimentary shampoo, toothbrush sets, shavers, tea bags.. are given to you and are perfectly fine to take them out with you.

However, some guests temp to take Ryokan belongs out home.

For example, yukata (Japanese pajamas), bath towels and bath mats, interiors such as ashtrays, vases, wall-paintings. Moreover, there are reports someone stole vacuum cleaners and toilet seats!

All of these items belong to the hotel and are meant to stay in the room.

Take a Hot Springs wearing bathing suits

Except for overseas guests-friendly Ryokans, generally, guests are required to be naked to bath public “hot springs” or “bathtubs” in Ryokan.

For Japanese, “Hot Springs” are recognized as the actual means of “taking a bath” not as the warm water swimming pool.

If you think to enjoy hot springs based on your recognition, there are cultural misunderstandings to do so in Japan, but you need to follow the rules while traveling in Japan.

Make sure a dress code if you like to stay Ryokan in Japan, some Ryokans allow guests to wear bathing suits.

Strong Pafume

It is a difficult issue, but strong perfume smell stay in bathrooms, tatami floors, beddings even after guests left, Ryokans have to leave rooms empty until smells disappeared.

Also, some guests enjoy incense in their rooms while staying

Take Shoes Off At The Entrance

ryokan entrance

“Ryokan” is a traditional Japanese-style accommodation, like going to authentic Japanese houses,

You must take shoes off at the main entrance and change to room slippers, like going to authentic Japanese houses.

Whenever you see the floor is higher than the entranceway, it means remove shoes over there.

Do not step on the floor without taking shoes, and also you can’t go out with room slippers.

Once you take shoes off, do not forget line shoes up.

Probably Ryokan staff will take care of your shoes, or put shoes in the shoe rack.

Don’t Damage The Floor


Do not drag suitcases inside Ryokan buildings.

Rolling suitcases damage wooden floor areas (entranceways and the room) and tatami floors badly.

tokonoma, alcove, ryokan, japan

Also, it is impolite to put bags on “Tokonoma”-an alcove, a small recessed section of a room in which items for artistic appreciation are displayed.

In addition, you should also take slippers on the Tatami floor.

Do Not Wear YUKATA Sloppily

You are provided “YUKATA”(浴衣) once you are in a room,

It is exciting strolling around inside and outside of Ryokan buildings wearing Yukata.

Make sure enough to putting Yukata on in the proper way.

It is a shame to wear YUKATA sloppily in public.

Don’t walk with just putting it on like a jacket or cardigans.


wear yukata properly

  1. You can wear t-shirts under YUKATA.
  2. Put both arms through the sleeves.
  3. Bring the right side body first, and then pull the left side over the right side.
  4. Make sure the left side on the right side, because the opposite style is for a dead person.
  5. Tie your sash to keep your yukata in place. Men should wear their sash at the hip, and women at the waist.

Beware Loud Talk

ryokan room

Ryokan houses are mostly Japanese traditional wooden buildings, so walls are supposed to be thinner than you think.

Beware loud talk especially after 10 p.m.

You are the not only guest staying at the Ryokan,

Don’t forget the purpose of other guests staying in Ryokan is relaxing.



When you stay in a “Ryokan”, the attendant (generally female) called “Nakai-san”(中居さん) is assigned to provide all-around service for the guest such as serving dinner to your room, cleaning up, setting Japanese bedding.

As you know, no tipping custom in Japan.

However, it is the only situation in Japan to give a tip called “Kokorozuke”(心づけ) to the room attendant.

Yet, it is not mandatory, and the service quality will be not varied because of that.

The average price of “Kokorozuke” is between ¥1000($10) and ¥3000($30) and here are some manners for it.

  • Give “Kokorozuke” when the attendant serves the dinner.
  • Using a special tiny paper bag, “Pochi-bukuro” or warp with kleenex
  • New (neat, not wrinkle) bills


You can get “pochi-bukuro” in 100 yen shops or find one online.



Not only you don’t have to make Japanese-syle bedding by yourself, but also you can leave the bedding in the morning.

Moreover, the attendant appreciates if you leave them alone.

Don’t feel guilty, just let her do it.

bed in ryokan

Sleeping on the floor is the Japanese traditional style.

However, if you prefer to sleep on the bed, you can find the Ryokan where has a bed that has the design made for not bother Japanese tradition and atmosphere.

Avoid Late check-in

boshitoromatsuri imari

Avoid late check-in.

Check-in time is usually from 3:00 pm. Try to check-in before 5:30 pm.

You may not be able to be served dinner when you check in Ryokan after 7:00 pm.

“Staying Ryokan” means enjoy relaxation time and meals, so the concept of Ryokan can be similar to Resort hotels and spa.

However, you can’t pass the dinner when you book the Ryokan room.

The price includes room and meals (dinner and breakfast).

If you don’t know this concept, you and Ryokan will misunderstand each other.

As I mentioned, Ryokan is a different type of accommodation, where guests come to enjoy and relax with great food and service, a great view from the room, and Hotspring to escape from the hassle bustle life.

So chose the day you don’t have to ask late check-in and understand Ryokan wants to provide you to fully relax with serving high-class dinner courses.

Bring Cash Just In Case

Some old small Ryokan houses may not accept credit cards, especially international credit cards.

Make sure you can use a credit card before your stay or bring enough cash just in case.

It is better to bring some cash anyway when you want to buy something from local stores.

Check The Food Menu Before Booking

ryokan, kaiseki, dinner

At Ryokan, the “Kaiseki”(懐石) style, Japanese traditional cuisine used local seasonal signature foods is served in your room.

Kaiseki style cuisine is a course menu, you can’t change whole the menu.

Generally, Japanese people don’t have a strong restriction for eating from beliefs, ideologies,

So it has been likely delayed introducing the “Vegetarian” “Vegan” menu.

restaurant, kitchen, top-class chef, ryokan

Again, top-class chefs start getting ready for your meal before check-in time, they try to do the best dinner for you.

It is very important to Make sure what kind of foods are served before booking and tell them if you have a food allergy in advance.

Be Punctual

breakfast Japanese-style Ryokan

Be punctual at dinner and breakfast time if you can’t make the serving time, you will not get food served.

Serving meals is one of the differences from western-style hotels, generally, dinner is served to your room, and you can’t order each item of food.

Breakfast, It depends on the Ryokans or room plan, it is served in your room or public breakfast room.

Breakfast is also a Japanese style set and served for each person. It commonly not buffet style. so make sure they have continental breakfast instead if needed. Why not enjoy Japanese-style for your experience?

The typical Japanse breakfast at Ryokan is

  • Rice and miso-soup
  • “Nori”(seaweed papers), row or soft boiled egg. (Row egg is safe in Japan.)
  • Grilled salty salmon

Bringing In Own Foods

Ryokan hotels are very sensitive about “bringing in own foods” because Ryokans run their businesses based on the permission from the national health center.

In other words, they have to be responsible for what YOU eat and drink during your stay even if you get sick form own food. There is a case one Ryokan had suspended of their business until the investigation had done.

It is acceptable to eat bags of snacks and drinks in the room, however, they don’t like you bringing in the foods that may cause food poison.


Even though you need to learn about Ryokan etiquettes and will get confused with authentic Japanese styles, the Ryokan experience must highlight your Japan trip.

It is not a cheap day, but Rokan’s hospitality will be worth. They always do their best to provide an atmosphere like you are at home- relaxation.

This is also why Japanese people still love to visit Ryokan from ancient years.

To make your experience better, understand the Ryokan concept, and follow Ryokan’s etiquette and rules.

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