Being one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations, Tokyo has an endless list of lodging options for its guests. There’s something to cater to all types of travelers with different tastes and budgets, with your usual hotels and hostels scattered all over the city. However if an “only in Japan” experience is what you’re after, ryokans are the listings you should consider to book. The options are not as many and the price may be a bit steep for budget travelers, but a stay in these inns guarantees a taste of traditional Japanese hospitality in the midst of Japan’s ultramodern capital. To see what these accommodations have to offer, here are the city’s 10 Best Ryokan Inns:
Consistent with its old-world character, the historic downtown district of Asakusa offers travelers the most options when it comes to traditional inns. Shigetsu Ryokan is one such establishment conveniently located by the famous shopping street Nakamise Dori that leads to another tourist magnet, the Sensoji Temple. This 3-star accommodation offers mainly Japanese tatami rooms, but does have regular Western rooms as well. All rooms come with private baths, while a communal Furo – a Japanese-style wooden bath is situated on the top floor, with a spectacular view of the nearby five-storey pagoda.
Address: 1-31-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Sadachiyo is also only a few minutes walk from Sensoji temple but despite its proximity to a popular tourist attraction, it maintains a serene environment for its guests. This small but elegant ryokan only has 20 Japanese-style rooms that vary in size, with the smallest one measuring approximately 12 sqm. Rooms are equipped with private baths while guests can also enjoy two types of communal baths: wooden and stone. Its interiors are decorated with antiques and wood block prints to add to the Edo-period atmosphere. As for the meals, traditional breakfast and course dinner are also served for an additional fee.
Address: 2-20-1 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
Nestled among little-cobbled street shops, Ryokan Kamogawa fits the quaint charm of its neighbors. It is a small inn that offers 3 types of tatami accommodations that can fit two people for the economy room, up to 3 people for the standard room, and as many as 5 persons for the deluxe rooms. Each room comes with an en-suite bath, free wifi access, and a TV. The in-house 24-hour communal family-sized wooden bath can also be booked for private use if you’re not comfortable with the idea of sharing it with other guests. The optional breakfast is a choice between Japanese or Western, while full meals can be ordered from the ryokan’s restaurant located next door.
Address: 1-30-10 Asakusa, Taito, Tokyo
Price: Japanese rooms from ¥8,700
The Edo Sakura
The Edo Sakura is owned by an architect who meticulously designed this traditional inn to transport its guests back to the time of the samurais. A stay here is a cultural experience in itself, where aside from the public bath and the general ambiance, which are likewise offered in other ryokans, tea ceremony events are hosted as the essential representation of Japanese hospitality. This inn is just one subway stop from Ueno Station in a more relaxed part of the city.
Address: 3-2-13 Shitaya, Taito, Tokyo
Aside from a traditional inn experience, a stay in Ryokan Sawanoya offers its guests a glimpse of the mundane and a truly local side of the city. The surrounding neighborhood of Yanaka is a residential enclave where you can enjoy watching Tokyoites go about their daily activities, but at the same time, provide opportunities for tourists to try out cultural activities like Ikebana (flower art), calligraphy, among others through the Yanesen Center along Yomise-dori street.
On the other hand, the ryokan itself is a simple establishment with basic tatami rooms and a shared bathroom, except for two premium ones. Breakfast is Western-style for an additional fee, and a small library with English-language guidebooks can be accessed by the guests.
Address: 2-3-11 Yanaka, Taito, Tokyo
Andon Ryokan is situated in a quiet residential neighborhood tucked in between two top tourist areas Ueno and Asakusa. It stands out among other ryokans in the city because of its unique approach – a hybrid of modern and traditional sensibilities. Its 24 tatami rooms are simple spaces for 1-2 persons fully equipped with modern amenities like fiber-optic and wifi internet, cable, TV, DVD player, and with shared bathrooms on each floor.
Though basic, the appeal of Andon Ryokan is its design aesthetic combining Japanese pop art with the owner’s own collection of antiques, the building’s overall architectural style, its rooftop terrace, and the application of eco-friendly practices like the use of solar panel technology. As a hub for travelers from around the world who’d be interested in getting more culture out of their trip, cultural activities like tea ceremony and Ikebana workshops are also made available for guests.
Address: 2-34-10 Nihonzutsumi, Taito, Tokyo
This classic ryokan has been in the business for at least half a century. Everything about Homeikan is a blast from the past, from its façade down to the smell of its old wooden interiors. It consists of three properties with the Honkan (main building) being the oldest and listed as a “Tangible Cultural Property” since 2000. Each building has around 25 to 30 guestrooms equipped with air-conditioners, TVs, and safes. The bathroom facilities per site, however, are limited to two communal bathrooms (1 each for men and women).
Homeikan is hidden in the quieter parts of Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. The nearest places of interest are Tokyo University and Tokyo Dome City, while Ueno is a few metro stops away. Its location is not the most strategic, but as far as authentic ryokan experiences go, this one has a long history and a proven track record to boast about.
Honkan 5 Chome-10-5 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo
Daimachi Bekkan 5 Chome-12-9, Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo
Morikawa Bekkan 5 Chome-23-5, Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo
Other areas in Tokyo
Similar to Homeikan, Seikou Ryokan in Ogikubo is a long-standing establishment built in 1930 and likewise registered as a “Tangible Cultural Property”. It has 12 rooms with basic amenities, a shared bath, a courtyard garden, and many nostalgic items scattered here and there. The suburban neighborhood it belongs to is dubbed as Tokyo’s ramen town, but aside from its noodles, visitors can enjoy other places of interest and hangout spots enjoyed by locals. On the flipside, the more mainstream tourist area of Shinjuku is just a few minutes away by train.
Address: 3-38-9 Ogikubo, Suginami, Tokyo
Housed in a modern building with 38 rooms that stay true to the signature feel of a ryokan, Kimi Ryokan in Ikebukuro prides itself as a venue where the old mixes with the new and at the same time, the point of intersection of different people and cultures from all parts of the globe. It offers the conveniences of a modern inn like coin laundry, free wifi on all floors, cable TV, kitchen facilities, and a multilingual staff so that travelers from all over can feel more at ease. Apart from all these, it is centrally located and a night’s stay here is inexpensive, making it the choice ryokan for those with budget considerations.
Address: 2 Chome-36-8, Ikebukuro, Toshima, Tokyo
This ryokan is a great choice for those who want a traditional inn experience but would rather be based nearer to Tokyo’s modern tourist districts. Hotel Fukudaya in Meguro is one of the very few ryokans on the western side of the city, with the tourist hotspot Shibuya as its next door neighbor. Come spring time, its surrounding area becomes an attraction in itself as the Meguro River, located a few minutes walk from the hotel, gets decorated with canopies of pink cherry blossoms that line its riverbanks.
In total, Fukudaya has 17 rooms, 13 of which are Japanese-style. There are room options for solo travelers and for groups of up to 5 persons.
Address: 4-5-9 Aobadai, Meguro, Tokyo
Information in this article is as of September 2016. Refer to the official websites for the latest information.
Thumbnail image is from Flickr.