Japan’s Ryokan Experience

Japan is notorious for its zen aesthetic, attention to detail, and appreciation of nature. When it comes to hotels, the unique ryokan-style lodging is a magical fusion of all these expressions. That’s why we highly recommend immersing yourself in the traditional ryokan and futon experience when traveling to, and cycling through, Japan. Read on to learn more about these special opportunities to step back in time and to absorb this artistic way of life!

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What is a Ryokan?

The ryokan (旅館) is a type of traditional lodging dating back to as early as the eighth century. Originally built along famous roadways for travelers to stay, nowadays ryokan are found throughout the country. Though you can find some in cities, the most cherished ryokan experiences are those that hide deep in the heart of Japan’s countryside. You’ll find them nestled in cozy valleys, perched atop epic mountainsides, and clustered around famous hot spring towns. These luxurious inns are the perfect way to rest and rejuvenate while cycling through Japan. It’s also a great way to connect with locals, support family businesses, and enjoy a uniquely Japanese experience!

Bike Tour Japan’s travel experts have scouted Japan’s hidden ryokans, and are bringing these experiences to our guests. Read below to find out why we think the staying in a traditional ryokan is so special!

1 | The Food: fresh, local & BEautiful

When you travel with BTJ, you are invited not only on a cycling journey, but also on a culinary one. Each region of Japan is home to a rich heritage of local cuisine. Our ryokans are carefully selected to showcase these regional flavors on each day of our trip!

Our ryokans highlight chefs who are local legends and experts at blending ingredients into masterpiece meals. We’ll savor fresh seafood, enjoy vegetables grown in the valleys we ride through, and taste sake made from the rice from the fields we ride through.

Your meals at each ryokan are a pure expression of the very landscapes we ride in each day.

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2 | The Rooms: zen & inviting

When you take your shoes off and set foot into your room, you’re stepping into a rich tradition of Japanese architecture and interior design. The first thing your feet will feel is the natural tatami straw boards lining the floor. Take note-every aspect of the room has a special purpose. From the sliding doors that hold your futon bedding, to the poem written in calligraphy, to the plants symbolizing the current season. Shoji sliding doors welcomes natural light into the space, and also allows the room to shift sizes. Large windows have been designed so that you have a great view of nature while allowing fresh air to flow into your room.

Seats and table will be set up for you when you arrive. When you return from dinner, you’ll find that they have been swapped out for traditional futons–ready for a great night of rest.

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3 | The Onsen Hot Springs: rejuvenating natural mineral water

Though not traditionally found in every ryokan, our team at Bike Tour Japan knows that the onsen experience is one of the most wonderful moments on tour. That’s why we do our best to incorporate it into our cycling tour itineraries whenever possible. It’s no surprise that each one of our ryokan partners offers an unforgettable and unique onsen experience.

Each region we ride through is famous for different mineral contents, all with unique healing properties. Experience the rich orange-red iron of Mt Akagi and Mt Haruna. Then, soak in the silky magnesium waters of Mt Norikura and Mt Nantai. See if you can feel the differences between these baths, and understand why the onsen experience is an absolutely essential part of Japanese culture.

Many of our ryokans will have rotenburo as well, which are are outdoor onsens. These are magical and natural baths, crafted from wood and stone. Surround yourself with stunning views, splendid nature, bonsai gardens, and water features. The rotenburo is the best post-ride relaxation ritual you will ever experience!

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4 | The Community: Connecting with locals and taking in the experience with family and friends!

This is one of the main reasons we love coming back for more! Trying out new things is not just interesting, it’s also incredibly fun. Sharing these unique cultural experiences with amazing people from around the world after a long day of cycling is truly rewarding . Creating these immersive experiences with amazing friends and guests keep us daydreaming about our next opportunity to return.

Ready to dive into the ryokan experience? Check out our cycling tours, and experience it for yourself!

Want to go bespoke or self-guided? Craft your own private adventure with us!

Ready to dive into the ryokan experience? Check out our cycling tours, and experience it for yourself!