When visiting a new country, one of the first things we think about is where to stay. In Japan, there are so many different types of accommodation available, it can be hard to choose! Hotels, B&Bs, ryokan… Is there a reason to stray away from your usual choices?

A ryokan is a special type of accommodation that is often defined as a “traditional Japanese inn”. Many of them offer traditional meals, traditional bedding, and some even come with incredible hot springs!

Seeing as ryokan is a special kind of accommodation unique to Japan, we set out to interview some visitors from overseas who stayed in them, and there were a few surprises on the way!

(The following reflects the opinions of those interviewed.)

Why do many tourists say their trip was “problematic”?

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According to a survey conducted by the Japan Tourism Agency in 2018, a fair number of tourists tourists (20.6% of those interviewed) had trouble with communication in facilities while traveling in Japan.

“Facility” in this case refers to “customs, immigration checks points, and quarantine stations at the airport”, “public transportation”, “tourist spots”, and “lodging”. 26% of the aforementioned 20.6% said that they had a hard time communicating in the places where they were staying.

So, when is it that foreigners feel it’s hard to communicate?
The JTA ran a survey in 2017 on “multilingual support in Japan for improving the reception of the environment for foreign tourists visiting the country”. According to the survey, foreigners had a hard time during check-ins, and when using rooms and facilities that are typically “Japanese”, as well as when they wanted to ask about landmarks in the area.

What did our interviewees have to say?

Seeing this survey, we decided to go out and gather some information of our own. To understand a bit more about Japan’s accommodation, we asked a few people about their experiences with ryokan.

1. Have you ever actively chosen to stay in a Ryokan instead of a hotel?
“I have, many times.” (Australian/man/30s)

“I stayed at one once during my vacation. I wanted to experience the life of a traditional Japanese house and I learned about the culture, but I wouldn’t want to go back. Since then I’ve used hotels that have easy access to everything.” (American/man/30s)

“I stayed at a Japanese ryokan and challenged myself to try out traditional Japanese food, too!” (Filipino/30s/woman)

According to the “Research on ryokan brands” conducted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, in 2014, the reasons why …

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