Ryokan Etiquette: 5 Don’ts! | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Ryokan Etiquette: 5 Don’ts!

By Guidable Writers Oct 9, 2017

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Chinese (Traditional)

Do you feel signs of autumn? Some of you might be planning a trip to admire the beautiful Japanese autumn leaves (紅葉 Koyo) scenery and enjoy hot springs (温泉 Onsen) at Ryokan (旅館), a traditional Japanese style inn. You can also enjoy the delicious food using seasonal ingredients there as well! In fact, autumn can be the best season to stay at Ryokan.

But, do you know that there are certain rules to follow when you stay at Ryokan, which even Japanese people might not know? I will tell you some basic but essential etiquette to avoid being a rude guest!

5 Bad manners at Ryokan

1. Arriving late / Checking out late

Ryokan staff asks your arrival time upon booking. This is to prepare your dinner, which is usually served around 6 pm – 7 pm. Try not to arrive later than 5:30 pm if you have arranged your dinner there.

The typical check-out time is at 10 am. It is earlier than normal hotels but you have to be punctual.

Usually, Ryokan has a luggage storage room. If you wish to do some sightseeing before and after checking in/out, you can ask them to keep your luggage. Check if this service is available upon booking.


2. Taking off your shoes with your back facing towards the inside Ryokan

As most of you might already know, you must take off your shoes at the entrance and the toes should be facing out towards the door.

However, you should avoid taking off your shoes with your back facing towards the inside Ryokan! Showing your back to someone’s house is considered to be bad manners.

The correct way of taking off shoes is;
• Remove your shoes before stepping up on the raised floor at the entrance.
• Then turn your shoes. Toes should be pointing towards the door.
• Leave them there. (Staff will store them for you)


3. Walking on Tatami with your slippers on/with your suitcase

You have to walk on the wooden floor with your slippers on but you should take them off before walking on Tatami in your room. Tatami is fragile and easily damaged. If you have your suitcase, you should carry it instead of dragging it.

It is also considered to be bad manners to step on the borders of Tatami, which are usually covered with green cloth. However, you don’t need to worry about this too much.


4. Turndown your bed by yourself

Most of Ryokan guest rooms don’t have beds. Instead, we sleep on a futon bedding which is stored in a cupboard. Staff will come for a turndown service, so you should not prepare your bed by yourself.

Also, in the morning, you might think it polite to put the futon back in the cupboard before check-out, but do not do that! They will need to change the sheets for the nest guests!


5.  Bringing your own drinks

It actually depends on the Ryokan, but generally, it is not allowed to bring your own alcoholic drinks, as Ryokans sell them. A couple of pet bottles of soft drink should not cause any problem, but if you are thinking to bring a lot more, it might be better to check to see it is allowed upon booking.

Tipping at Ryokan?

I bet many of you are not sure about tipping at Ryokan. Basically, we don’t have tipping custom in Japan and I believe nowadays the service charge is included in your bill, which means it is not necessary to tip. However, Ryokan is kind of an exception…. Although tipping is not a common custom in Japan, you might feel better to give the person who attends you a small gift or cash (心付け Kokorozuke) as unlike hotels, the same person attends you throughout your stay at Ryokan.


How much to give?
Normally 1000 yen to 3000 yen, depending on how posh your Ryokan is. Unless you are staying at a very expensive one, I think 1000 yen is good enough. You can also give them a box of sweets instead so that staff can share.


When to give?
There is not a strict rule, but I think ‘the earlier the better’. Probably it is best to give either when the person shows you your room, or at the dinner time.


How to give?
Handing cash directly is considered to be rude. Put it in a small envelope or if you don’t have it, wrap it with kleenex, then hand it saying ’Kokorozuke desu’ or ‘Sukunai desuga’. If he/she refuses to take it, try insisting once gently. In most cases, he/she takes at the second time.

Don’t forget your magic words!
If you wish to receive good service, you should be a good guest. Now that you have learned all about basic etiquette, you can’t be considered as a rude guest. Say ‘thank you’ for every service they do for you could make a great impression! Enjoy your stay at Ryokan!!