A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, which originated on the foot highways that connected Kyoto and Tokyo. These paths have existed for hundreds of years, with ryokans dotting the road every few dozen miles (equal to a days travel). In more recent times the same concept has been adapted to more remote locations where people can get away from the city and be pampered.
How is a ryokan different from a hotel? For our case that starts when you pull up to the curb, where they checked our name against reservations and took our bags. After reaching the entrance we slipped off our shoes and changed in slippers, with them keeping our shoes safe during our stay.
Our room was similar to a western room with an additional extra room without any furniture. This room would serve as a dining room and optionally a sleeping area. One of the bathrooms also featured a hot mineral bath which we took advantage of multiple times. Rather than washing in this bath, however, you soap up and wash on the stool outside of it with a showerhead and bowl. After you are clean and have rinsed off all soap, you’re ready to jump in the mineral bath.
Our room was so unexpectedly awesome, we ended up taking a few extra photos of it. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Hakone, I’d recommend checking out the Mikawaya Ryokan.
Eating at a Ryokan
Many ryokan, including ours, offer breakfast and dinner served in your room. This is coordinated with an attendant who greets you and acts as a point of contact with the hotel. Ryokan meals are experiences of their own. It’s customary to take a bath before dinner and change into a yukata, provided by the ryokan.
We completely forgot about the bathing tradition for our first meal, which our attendant seemed to notice, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the amazing meal presented to us. The size and scope of the meal was more than we expected, but we ate every last bite.
At 7:45am on Saturday morning, our attendant arrived and started setting up breakfast. Even though it might look similar to dinner, it was much more sweet and tofu heavy. For this meal we had 4 different types of tofu. Although I’m generally a meat guy, the tofu dishes were memorable and delicious.
After a day of traveling around Hakone, we returned to our room with enough time to get in a relaxing mineral bath in our room before dinner. This meal included blowfish, something I wasn’t expecting to try, but was on my bucket list while in Japan. As exotic as it was, I wouldn’t order it again. It tasted like fish, but beyond that the intricacies were lost on me.
Our last meal at the ryokan was breakfast on Sunday morning. It was raining out, so we took our time eating before checking out.
This covers all the food we had during the 2 nights and 3 days we stayed at Mikawaya. Two nights means two travel days and one full day to explore the area. We set out on our next day and