Our Ryokan Experience at Tanabe

A humble slice of Edo life at Ryokan Tanabe in Takayama, Japan.

When you’re long term traveling, sure, it’s important to keep your budget in mind. But then again, you travel for experiences – to meet new people, to get cultured – and sometimes, those experiences are worth a little splurge. That’s what built-in cushion and emergency funds are for, right?

A ryokan stay is one of those screw-the-budget type experiences we were both looking forward to do. We decided for a nice and quiet and relaxing retreat and found comfort in the small, old town of Hida Takayama.


 

Ryokan Tanabe

Ryokan Tanabe echoes the past: the gentle warmth of chestnut brown interior against light-honey blonde walls, sliding screen doors, bamboo cushions in place of chairs, tatami matted floors, lantern lit hallways.

IMG_2248the lobby

Much of the decor and furniture was established over 70 years ago and reflects the spirit of local craftsmen. It’s not simple but rather refine. Definitely a departure from the hustle of Tokyo. There is harmony and balance and the moment you step through the sliding doors, you feel instantly relaxed.


 

Room

Our room is cozy and in true Japanese style with sliding shoji doors and tatami mat flooring. The toilet is separate from the shower and is my favorite amenity in the room: the seat is heated and the toilet lid doubles as a sink when you flush!

IMG_2322our room

In addition to awesome toilet/ sink combo, a small lounge with two chairs and table separated by sliding door. Hot green tea, towels and dining room turned bedroom, free wi-fi and tv (a modern touch we appreciated) is also included.

yukata

Also provided, our yukata, casual kimono-like robe which we’d wear to go to the onsen or just lounging around the room. Guys, just make sure you wear your belt low on the waist otherwise it’s wrong and you’ll look girly wearing it.


 

Private Spa

Downstairs, an intimate stone bath equip with small indoor bath, outdoor private bath tubs and wash station with stool, faucet, wooden bucket, shampoo and body wash.

tanabe-onsen

IMG_2298

This was our private bath. Actually, it was suppose to be the shared onsen but given we were the only guests at the ryokan, we were allowed to lock the doors and made it our own. Neither of us were comfortable with the idea of bathing separately, naked with strangers (yet..). Perks for traveling off season!


 

Dinner & Breakfast

We opted for the dinner and breakfast package. At any given ryokan across Japan, the kaiseki meals vary. I appreciated ours because it highlighted Takayama’s regional specialty cuisine hoba miso to miso ramen.

Dinner was nothing short of spectacular from start to finish. A symmetry of dishes on the table: round bowls, square plates, a trio of this and a stack of that.

IMG_2328

Some hot, some cold. Cooked and raw. Some beautifully arranged and some just out right strange looking. At one point, I thought they’d bring in a second table. It just kept coming.

ryokan-kaiseki-dinner

Hoba miso, a regional specialty is my personal favorite of the bunch (top right corner). Gerard’s pick goes to the mix sashimi plate which include tuna, shrimp and squid (top left corner).

My favorite part, other than eating the food of course, is watching our host strategically lay each dish one by one. Here she is in action!

 

Breakfast for us started promptly at 8am and that’s the later option. Another beautiful arrangement, a hodgepodge of offerings from fruit salad to nori on rice and of course my favorite – hoba miso.

IMG_2363

I love the fact that no matter how much food is laid out in front of us, everything is portion controlled and nothing is heavy. After a meal like this, I felt great. Not in the usual food-coma-I’m-stuffed feeling kind of way, but the I’m-ready-to-tackle-the-day great feeling way.

DSC_0497

During breakfast, our host showed me how to properly eat my nori and rice and drink my tea among other Japanese dining etiquette which I appreciated wholeheartedly.


 

Bedroom

As mentioned earlier, our living room/ dining room is also our bedroom. Once we finished with dinner, our host shifts the table off to the side, and magically behind another set of sliding doors, are our bedding.

IMG_2356Look.. my yukata matches our bedding!

The beds are extremely comfy minus the beanie pillows. Even so, I slept like a baby. In fact, I’d much prefer sleeping on Japanese beds on the floor than lumpy old hostel mattresses on bunks.


 

Summary

Overall, Ryokan Tanabe was a wonderful stay and a great way to get a taste of what a traditional Japanese inn is like. I adore the cozy home stay, appreciated our host for showing me how to properly tie our yukata. I love the level of attention to detail to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The little things like hot water for my tea in the morning.

If you’re ever going to splurge on one thing in Japan, make it a ryokan experience, even if it is just for one night.

Have you ever stayed in a ryokan before?

Damage: Our standard room w/ dinner & breakfast came at a whopping ¥28,664 or roughly $350 for one night! It was worth every penny.

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  • http://twitter.com/georgieonthego George on the Go

    I’m so jealous I definitely want to stay in a Ryokan, although I know how expensive they are, maybe one day I can treat myself!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It will be worth it.. Definitely treat yourself. You won’t regret it.

  • George on the Go

    I’m so jealous I definitely want to stay in a Ryokan, although I know how expensive they are, maybe one day I can treat myself!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      It will be worth it.. Definitely treat yourself. You won’t regret it.

  • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

    Oh now THAT is stunning! I’ve never stayed in a ryokan but I think with a little convincing I’d splurge a little! Please tell me you get to keep those kimonos. I’m loving your Japan posts, really makes me want to go one day! : )

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Unfortunately, we didn’t get to keep the yukatas. But you can easily buy them in Japan if you really wanted one.

  • Caro_PassportandaToothbrush

    Oh now THAT is stunning! I’ve never stayed in a ryokan but I think with a little convincing I’d splurge a little! Please tell me you get to keep those kimonos. I’m loving your Japan posts, really makes me want to go one day! : )

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Unfortunately, we didn’t get to keep the yukatas. But you can easily buy them in Japan if you really wanted one.

  • idelish

    Your post makes me miss our stay at the ryokan!!!!!! Love love love your captures, video and writeup of your experience! I’m thinking ryokan for our 5 year wedding anniversary? 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      We drooled over your post first. Thanks you guys, for the initial inspiration. 🙂

  • idelish

    Your post makes me miss our stay at the ryokan!!!!!! Love love love your captures, video and writeup of your experience! I’m thinking ryokan for our 5 year wedding anniversary? 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      We drooled over your post first. Thanks you guys, for the initial inspiration. 🙂

  • http://www.facebook.com/sasa.jancikic Saša Jan?iki?

    Amazing dinner you had. And love your video so much that i shared on Takayama fanpage on FB! Hope that is ok… 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Of course that’s OK! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sasa.jancikic Saša Jan?iki?

    Amazing dinner you had. And love your video so much that i shared on Takayama fanpage on FB! Hope that is ok… 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Of course that’s OK! Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    Most definitely looks every penny…I have got to experience one of these!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      You won’t regret it. Definitely worth every penny.

  • http://www.theworldofdeej.com The World of Deej

    Most definitely looks every penny…I have got to experience one of these!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      You won’t regret it. Definitely worth every penny.

  • Dami

    Aaa I’m adding this to my bucket list!

  • Dami

    Aaa I’m adding this to my bucket list!

  • http://twitter.com/ilivetotravel Raul

    Wow, how cool! I need to try this. Do they have these all over the country?? Love the pix, the video and the tip to wear the belt lower…

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yes, I believe so. There are plenty in bigger cities but they tend to book up in advance and be overcrowded. It’s much quieter and romantic in the smaller towns.

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    Wow, how cool! I need to try this. Do they have these all over the country?? Love the pix, the video and the tip to wear the belt lower…

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      Yes, I believe so. There are plenty in bigger cities but they tend to book up in advance and be overcrowded. It’s much quieter and romantic in the smaller towns.

  • CaptainandClark

    It looked like an amazing experience! I loved your dinner spread. Your pictures were fantastic, as always. I think I’m adding this to the “things to do in Japan” list. 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      The dinner spread was the icing on the cake, for sure. Hope you guys get to Japan soon and try this.

  • CaptainandClark

    It looked like an amazing experience! I loved your dinner spread. Your pictures were fantastic, as always. I think I’m adding this to the “things to do in Japan” list. 🙂

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      The dinner spread was the icing on the cake, for sure. Hope you guys get to Japan soon and try this.

  • http://twitter.com/mrsoaroundworld Ana Silva O’Reilly

    wow wow wow! this is pretty cool! i would love to experience this – didn’t even know you could. You guys have so inspired me to give Asia a proper try. I really need to start planning this. I would seriously love to do this

    • http://twitter.com/mrsoaroundworld Ana Silva O’Reilly

      how much roughly would it cost?

      • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

        This particular ryokan was about $350 a night.. Location is key to cost. We originally wanted to be in the mountains, overlooking Mt. Fuji, but that was just too much for our wallet.

  • @mrsoaroundworld

    wow wow wow! this is pretty cool! i would love to experience this – didn’t even know you could. You guys have so inspired me to give Asia a proper try. I really need to start planning this. I would seriously love to do this

    • @mrsoaroundworld

      how much roughly would it cost?

      • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

        This particular ryokan was about $350 a night.. Location is key to cost. We originally wanted to be in the mountains, overlooking Mt. Fuji, but that was just too much for our wallet.

  • http://twitter.com/L_e_a_h Leah Travels

    I’ve never heard of such a thing. This looks so awesome, and of course I’m in love with the food having never even tasted it. You’ve given me so much to look forward to on my return trip to Japan.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      We look forward to going back again too!

  • Leah Travels

    I’ve never heard of such a thing. This looks so awesome, and of course I’m in love with the food having never even tasted it. You’ve given me so much to look forward to on my return trip to Japan.

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      We look forward to going back again too!

  • http://lifethruamoka.com/ Barbylucedistelle

    OMG we went to Takayama for the Spring Festival 2010!!! Amazing place and yes, we slept in a ryokan, different one though 😛 !!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Ahh.. The popular Spring Festival. We hear so much about it. Wish we made it to that. But we still got to enjoy Takayama being a quaint quiet town. 🙂

      • http://lifethruamoka.com/ Barbylucedistelle

        I would have loved to be there in a quiet time. Spring Festival was great, really packed though.

  • http://lifethruamoka.com/ Barbylucedistelle

    OMG we went to Takayama for the Spring Festival 2010!!! Amazing place and yes, we slept in a ryokan, different one though 😛 !!!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Ahh.. The popular Spring Festival. We hear so much about it. Wish we made it to that. But we still got to enjoy Takayama being a quaint quiet town. 🙂

      • http://lifethruamoka.com/ Barbylucedistelle

        I would have loved to be there in a quiet time. Spring Festival was great, really packed though.

  • Mark Wiens

    I’m finally at the point in my life where I agree that sometimes a splurge is a great great thing… and this is about as good a splurge as it could come. Lounging around in a kimono and feasting on that deliciousness looks about perfect. I’d love to try this someday in Japan!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Oh yeah. Not to mention in the onsen. If you think about it, it’s a splurge, but still good value.

  • Mark Wiens

    I’m finally at the point in my life where I agree that sometimes a splurge is a great great thing… and this is about as good a splurge as it could come. Lounging around in a kimono and feasting on that deliciousness looks about perfect. I’d love to try this someday in Japan!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

      Oh yeah. Not to mention in the onsen. If you think about it, it’s a splurge, but still good value.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/30HomeGames 30HomeGames

    I stayed at a Ryokan in Kyoto with my ex. You’ve described it correctly “for some things you need to splurge”. I’d be curious to see if any budget travellers managed to find their way into a Ryokan experience, Couchsurfing maybe?
    For myself the experience was worth it but nothing particularly notable. What I’ll remember most is how the owner helped us with directions, making calls to an area he didn’t know himself so we could get to a ‘Pro Wrestling Noah’ event in a town near Mt Fuji. Good Times.

  • http://30homegames.blogspot.com.au/p/blog-page.html 30HomeGames

    I stayed at a Ryokan in Kyoto with my ex. You’ve described it correctly “for some things you need to splurge”. I’d be curious to see if any budget travellers managed to find their way into a Ryokan experience, Couchsurfing maybe?
    For myself the experience was worth it but nothing particularly notable. What I’ll remember most is how the owner helped us with directions, making calls to an area he didn’t know himself so we could get to a ‘Pro Wrestling Noah’ event in a town near Mt Fuji. Good Times.

  • Mimi

    So excited for our trip in November! We are planning to stay at a Ryokan, too! Did you book it beforehand or was it during your travels that you decided to treat yourself and splurge? There are so many to choose from!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      When we were booking, we notice the ryokans in big/popular cities book up a month or so in advance. I think we booked a few weeks out but chose Takayama because it’s a quiet small village and lucked out – having the place to ourselves.Good luck.. you’re going to love Japan!

  • Mimi

    So excited for our trip in November! We are planning to stay at a Ryokan, too! Did you book it beforehand or was it during your travels that you decided to treat yourself and splurge? There are so many to choose from!

    • http://www.GQtrippin.com/ Kieu – GQ trippin

      When we were booking, we notice the ryokans in big/popular cities book up a month or so in advance. I think we booked a few weeks out but chose Takayama because it’s a quiet small village and lucked out – having the place to ourselves.Good luck.. you’re going to love Japan!

  • Pingback: Itadakimasu: Traditional Japanese Dinner at a Traditional Ryokan

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