One of the highlights of traveling in Japan is the chance to experience the traditional hospitality of a Ryokan. These quintessentially Japanese inns have no real equivalent in the West, their old-world atmosphere being little changed since the Edo period of the 16th century, when ryokans first sprang up along the imperial Tokaido highway between Tokyo and Kyoto.
Shoji sliding doors of translucent handmade washi paper, low tables, futons and fragrant tatami mats made from rice straw set the tone. For dinner, guests are encouraged to don the full-length yukata and obi sashes specially supplied by the inn. The kaiseki cuisine tends to be as refined as the decor, with dishes prepared from fresh, seasonal ingredients and served in great style on beautiful handmade plates enlivened by an edible garnish of leaves and flowers. Some of our favourite ryokans feature spring-fed hot tubs in their gardens boasting serene views – simply heavenly!