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Ryokans / Onsen - any advice? Please!

(24 Posts)
SoTiredNeedHoliday Mon 15-Jul-19 15:23:28

Hi,
Has anyone stayed at a Ryokan or in an Onsen town that they thought was good for a family (two teens coming along).

Please let me know if you have, finding it very difficult to decided if we should visit one - not sure the kids would get much from the experience and the cost can be big.

ALSO I'd love to hear recommendations of anything that you found amazing for your family to visit in Japan.

Thanks!

BettyBoozer Mon 15-Jul-19 15:28:24

Hi, we stayed at a Ryokan with an onsen in Nikko. Nikko is up in the mountains and an easy train ride from Tokyo.

It has impressive temples and a beautiful national park. It's a bit of an odd place after the Tokyo day trippers go home though. All the restaurants close at 6pm. My husband had his birthday there and we were in bed at 8.30!

The next day we experience an 8.2richter scale earthquake at 6am and nobody battered an eyelid at breakfast.

SoTiredNeedHoliday Mon 15-Jul-19 16:25:30

were spending a week in the mountains actually but have sorted our accommodation for that part of the trip. Im looking for somewhen near Hakone, Nara, MT Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka areas

Something family friendly and not too expensive!

NotJust3SmallWords Mon 15-Jul-19 16:59:00

Hi!

We recently stayed in a ryokan in Hakone (near Gora station) called Lalaca. It was really nice. It was lovely and wasn't as expensive as some others we'd seen (although still not cheap!)

There's a good onsen with male and female areas and a private onsen which can be booked in half hour slots in the evenings. It was so peaceful and quiet which was lovely, it felt so tranquil and relaxing. It was also interesting to stay somewhere a bit more traditional as we were in very modern hotels the rest of the time. And it was well located for exploring Hakone.

We are an adult couple though. I think it depends how your teenagers feel about the excitement of soaking in an onsen and eating very long multi course traditional Japanese meals! I can see how it might not be for every teen. However, it's so different to staying in a modern hotel I'd recommend going for it, maybe just for 1 night for the experience. I'm sure it'll be memorable for them smile

Generally I'd recommend getting the Hakone free pass (which gets you onto all public transport in Hakone) and using that to travel around the park. We travelled around in 1 day on the bus, train, funicular railway, cable car and golden pirate ship, it was loads of fun! grin

We only had 1 day to explore so we travelled round on the suggested route which was set out in the free park maps you can get at Gora train station.

Hope you have a great trip!

Aragog Mon 15-Jul-19 17:03:50

We are staying in a hotel where the rooms have both western and Japanese style beds. Our room will have two single western beds and a separate area offshoot Ryokan style area with the futon type beds. That's in Kyoto.

We did look at some proper Ryokan hotels but some are very expensive and some need booking a long time in advance.

BubblesBuddy Mon 15-Jul-19 17:06:30

I think the Ryokan experience is a great idea for teens. It’s a real authentic Japanese experience. You can often book your own private onsen experience but the shared ones might not suit your teens. I would also book a smaller one and pay great attention to reviews.

The Hakone area is fun but very much a holiday area for the Japanese. It can be elderly person central!

DarlingNikita Mon 15-Jul-19 17:08:09

This is not at all what you were asking, but some years ago in Osaka I went to a place called Spa World –a big indoor complex of spas/onsen/hot bath/steam and sauna treatments from around the world. So there was an Ancient Rome-themed one and a Scandi one, for example.

It's kind of naff, but magnificently so grin Possibly more fun for the teens than a grown-up onsen? (gorgeous as those are).

BubblesBuddy Mon 15-Jul-19 17:08:33

We liked our Ryokan in Tsumago best. More authentic and fun.

SoTiredNeedHoliday Mon 15-Jul-19 17:19:44

NotJust3SmallWords that is really helpful advice. I was not aware of the free pass. I had been thinking of hiring a guide as we one have 1 day there but it seems you managed it yourself?
Did you also see Mt Fuji?

SoTiredNeedHoliday Mon 15-Jul-19 17:20:44

BubblesBuddy What was your Ryokan called?

Turniptracker Mon 15-Jul-19 17:29:12

Most ryokans also include half board and some absolutely amazing meals. We absolutely LOVED the experience and dressing up and having an onsen experience. I would definitely do it if you have the chance. We stayed at one in mijajima and one in Kanazawa. We also did a temple stay in koyasan but the food was a bit weird for us!

SoTiredNeedHoliday Mon 15-Jul-19 17:57:05

Thanks Turniptracker (great name!) both those locations are doable for us. Can you please let me know the names of where you stayed?

NotJust3SmallWords Mon 15-Jul-19 18:04:36

@SoTiredNeedHoliday I'm sure if you did hire a guide they'd be able to give you lots of interesting information about the area etc. But if it's just a case of getting around then you'll be fine on your own. Especially if you have the magic of google maps! We paid £5 a day for a phone contract bolt on which meant that we could use 4G anywhere, which was VERY useful, or you can rent mobile WiFi hotspots that you carry around with you.

Yes I was so glad we got the free pass. It was much more convenient as we didn't have to queue for tickets and also the buses only accept exact change (which is a different amount depending on how far you're going). It also gets you free or discounted entry to some local attractions. We spent a lovely couple of hours in a beautiful ornamental garden in Gora which was free entry with the pass (would also recommend a visit there if you have time). I realise I sound a bit like the Hakone tourism office here! grin

We didn't make it to Mt Fuji unfortunately. There are lots of places in Hakone where you can see it on a clear day, although sadly it was a bit cloudy when we visited!

Are you going to Tokyo? We went to a digital art exhibit in Odaiba on the recommendation of a friend and it was a real highlight. It's called teamLabBorderless. It's all amazing interactive art exhibits and I bet teenagers would love it!

WrongKindOfFace Mon 15-Jul-19 18:08:58

Hakone area is easy to navigate and I’m not sure you’d gain much from a guide as it’s a set path (the Hakone loop) that people tend to follow. You just buy the pass at the station. We’ve used this hotel group - not the fanciest but it was good fun. www.ichinoyu.co.jp/eng/

Generally spa towns are quite quiet as people spend their time using the onsen and enjoying the meal - probably not masses to do in the evenings for teens - maybe make sure it has decent WiFi!

Turniptracker Mon 15-Jul-19 18:09:51

www.mizuhasou.com/en-us
This place had the most beautiful food and also private onsen experience so if you are feeling prudish you can still have a nice experience!

SoTiredNeedHoliday Tue 16-Jul-19 10:01:37

excellent advice all. Any more comments?

Yeahyeahyeahyeeeeah Tue 16-Jul-19 13:39:56

Hakone was great, I did enjoy the traditional Japanese dinner, but not followed by the traditional Japanese breakfast. Gelatinous eggs in miso sent me over the edge grin

BubblesBuddy Tue 16-Jul-19 14:06:11

‘SoTiredNeedHoliday’ It was the Ryokan Fujioto in Tsumago. The web site www.japaneseguesthouses.com lists some other authentic experiences. They are experts in Ryokans. Audley Travel recommended this one to us.

The trip using the galleon, (the bizarre boats on the lake) mountain railway and cable car around Hakone is easy to follow. I would highly recommend the outdoor Sculpture Museum in the area that is accessed from the mountain railway. It is wonderful.

SoTiredNeedHoliday Tue 16-Jul-19 14:34:10

I find working all the Ryokan website quite frustrating. They mainly seem to need to email you back to see availability?
Am I doing something wrong!?!?

Yeahyeahyeahyeeeeah Wed 17-Jul-19 07:12:43

We used the same website as Bubbles and also the trip around the area. It was easy to navigate getting the train out of Tokyo to Hakone and then onwards

BubblesBuddy Wed 17-Jul-19 17:42:07

We used an agent to book. The web site really gives an overview. Try other hotel booking sites to see if they have the one you want. They might.

SoTiredNeedHoliday Wed 17-Jul-19 18:10:02

thank you!

LuckyBitches Fri 16-Aug-19 13:47:56

One thing to consider - our Ryokan had paper walls. We could hear everything that happened next door. We were child-free at the time, but had we brought kids I would probably have spent the time worried about the neighbours (an anxiety we didn't share, apparently!).

RosyfingeredDawn Fri 16-Aug-19 14:06:59

We stayed in Nara in a place called Sakuraya Ryokan. The owner was wonderful, really helpful and spoke good English. It was an old building that had been renovated really well. We stayed with our teenage daughter and she let her have a separate room for free as it wasn't booked. We would have liked to have stayed another night.

I would recommend Miyajima Island near Hiroshima and Mount Fushimi Hinari near Kyoto. We would stay a night on Miyajima too.

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