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Ryokan etiquette 101

A night at a traditional Japanese inn offers a glimpse into the daily rituals of life in times gone by. The etiquette can be confusing, so here are the rules to remember when staying à la Japonaise.

1. Shoes off

Upon entering a ryokan you are required to take off your shoes and don the slippers provided at the genkan, the traditional entryway, before stepping up into the inn proper.

2. Slippers off

Bedrooms in ryokans have tatami matting on the floor; never walk on it in shoes or slippers, just socks or bare feet.

3. Where’s the bed?

Rooms are set for day and night time use, with a low table and zaisu (a chair with no legs) placed in the middle of the room during the day, and a comfy futon laid out for sleeping on at night.

4. Bathing in ryokans

Baths are communal and segregated so check your shyness at the door (along with your clothes) and wash yourself thoroughly before entering the bath itself.

5. Dress code

Traditional yukata (translation: bathing clothes) are provided in your room; you can wear them in lieu of clothing while you are in residence, to and from the baths and to breakfast and dinner.
A yukata set consists of a lightweight robe, an obi, a yukata jacket and toe socks.

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This article appeared in issue 23

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