We'd chosen a Ryokan (traditional guesthouse) for this part of our stay in Japan - and they have some unusual differences to western hotels, most notably;
- You always take your shoes off at the door, where you call out to the owner who swaps them for a charming pair of Ryokan slippers. I never found a pair that fitted my western size 10's.
- Slippers are just for getting from reception to your room. You're not allowed to wear them past the room entrance, just bare or stocking feet on the mats.
- When you go to the toilets (usually shared) you swap to Bathroom slippers in order not to cross contaminate different floor areas. Have I mentioned the Japanese are sticklers for order yet?
- Probably the biggest difference though is that there's no bed in your room. Come bedtime, you move the table & get a mattress, sheets and quilt from a cupboard to make your own bed on the floor.
- It's good manners to have at least 1 meal a day in your Ryokan. Evening meal in your room, breakfasts in a big tatami mat room. You always sit on the floor to eat (on top of your legs), and every meal consists almost solely of fish and soy delicacies.
- Bathing is in large communal rooms (sex separated) as consists of a shower, followed by a few minutes reclining in the sento - what we'd know of as a hot tub. Absolute bliss after a day pounding the pavements in 30 degree heat.
- Apparently there's loads more to a Ryokan stay if you're Japanese - this is just the minimum to get by as a Westerner without causing offence!
The Ryokan's we stayed in were all scrupulously clean, welcoming & just as stylish as everything else over here. They are also fantastic value and a great way to appreciate Japanese culture - a highly recommended part of any stay.