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The ryokan and
Japanese omotenashi hospitality

Let’s become familiar
with the traditional Japanese-style inns
and learn to appreciate them.

As you probably know, ryokan refers to a traditional Japanese-style inn.
They say it is perfect for travelers who wish to experience true Japanese culture and enjoy the comforts of Japanese hospitality.
Although there are many kinds of accommodation including ryokan in Kanazawa, we recommend one night in a small,
family-run ryokan that will doubtlessly provide you with warm service. In this kind of ryokan,
the wife of the owner is called okami-san, acting as the chief service manager on behalf of the accommodation.
Today we will visit Sumiyoshiya, one of the homey ryokan in Kanazawa,
with Raffaele from Brazil to learn about the appeal of ryokan, and what okami-san’s role is.

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If you wish to feel Japanese culture, a ryokan might be just the thing for you.

Raffaele, who has stayed at a ryokan before with her Japanese colleagues, mentions three points to sum up the major attraction of ryokan accommodations: traditional Japanese architecture, sleeping on a futon spread out on tatami mats, and wearing a yukata after taking a bath. “I have been interested in Japanese omotenashi culture for a long time, so I wanted to take advantage of thisopportunity to understand it”, she says.
When we arrived at Sumiyoshiya, Ms. Mie Sumi, the okami-san of the ryokan greeted us. Raffaele’s appearance in a kimono and classic Japanese hair-style delighted her very much.
Ms. Sumi outlined the servicing system of a ryokan while leading us to one of the guest rooms. Ryokan guest rooms are usually designed in the traditional Japanese style with straw tatami mats, shoji paper sliding doors, and a tokonoma alcove used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls (you already know that you should take off your slippers when entering the tatami room, right?). They feature a glass enclosed sitting area called hiroen that overlooks a garden or surrounding view.

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“I feel quite comfortable”, Raffaele said looking at the quaint furnishings in the room with great interest. “I suppose the futon is kept here during the day?” she asked while pointing to the oshiire closet. Bingo! And it will be prepared by ryokan staff when the guests are out of the room eating ryokan-4545.jpgAlign guests shoesdinner or taking a bath (most ryokan have communal baths for guests to use). In the corner of the room she found a set of yukata; a light cotton kimono the guests may wear after taking a bath for relaxation and for sleeping as well.

Behind the furnishings:
the omotenashi spirit and
house manners.

In a ryokan, the role of the okami-san and the heart of hospitality are handed down from mother to daughter or to daughter-in-law, and they dedicate themselves to making their guests’ stay a pleasant one.
Ms. Sumi showed Raffaele the basic manners and behavior of ryokan staff, such as making oneself presentable or communicating with the guests properly.
About bowing, it is polite and seems beautiful to bend from the waist with a straight back while putting the hands together on the thighs. Imitating what Ms. Sumi does, Raffaele giggled with embarrassment and then added, “I can’t do it, but I think I’ve come to learn the heart of hospitality behind these manners.” After this, Raffaele met a guest at the entrance and took her to the room. Raffaele, pouring a cup of Japanese tea for a guest, seems like a real okami-san, doesn’t she?

Enjoy an experience
that really captures
the flavor of Japan.

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Meals are another charming aspect of staying in a ryokan. Normally breakfast are included in the accommodation rate. In the morning, a simple Japanese style breakfast basically consisting of rice and miso soup is served in the dining room (you can request Western-style breakfast if you choose). The check-out time at a ryokan is usually about 10:00 a.m., so most guests leave directly after their breakfast. A quick bath before or after breakfast can be a pleasure at Sumiyoshiya.
When the guests leave the ryokan, okami-san or another staff member will usually see them off at the entrance. Today, Raffaele sent off a foreign guest. The number of foreign visitors to Kanazawa has increased substantially in recent years. Yet, only a few ryokan in Kanazawa (including Sumiyoshiya) are adapting to suit the needs of foreign visitors.
“I was very happy to play the part of okami-san. Actually, I’d like to be engaged in service business in the future, spreading Japanese-style hospitality to my country”, Raffaele said afterwards.


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  • You may also wear the outdoor slippers provided when taking short walks near the ryokan.
  • Leave your shoes at the entrance and the ryokan staff will care for them.
  • Take off your shoes at the entrance and put on the slippers provided for indoor use.

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  • Do not put your bags in the tokonoma.
  • The walls are made of clay, tatami is made straw, and shoji is made of paper. Treat them with much consideration.
  • Be sure not to wear slippers or shoes on tatami.

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  • Rinse your body before getting into the communal tub. It is important to keep the hot water in the tub clean.
  • Do not lather up with soap in the communal tub – it is only for soaking.
  • When you have finished soaking, remember not to drain the water so that all guests can use it as well.