We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Ryokan Etiquette

California
Level Contributor
43 posts
9 reviews
Save Topic
Ryokan Etiquette

Hi Everyone - we will have the pleasure of staying at the Marukoma Onsen Ryokan on Lake Shikotsuko for two days/nights on our upcoming trip to Hokkaido.

I've done a little bit of reading on Japanese Guest Houses to get an idea of the general customs when staying at a ryokan, but I have a few questions and I'd appreciate any help so we don't accidentally offend anyone by our ignorance!

Also, any input from someone who has stayed at a ryokan - maybe advice you would have liked before your stay?

1) I read that we are supposed to take off our shoes as soon as we walk into the building. I assume if I want to wear different shoes from one morning to the next, say, hiking boots, I would carry my hiking boots to the front with me in the morning before heading out and leave my other shoes there from the day before?

2) I read that we will likely get a yukata to wear inside the ryokan. What do we wear underneath the yukata?

3) Do we wear the yukata everywhere in the hotel (for example to a hotel restaurant or bar if there is one?)

4) Do we put our own futons away in the morning?

5) How do we know when meals will be served in room? (if we're sight seeing around the lake, we don't want to miss food! haha)

6) I assume for mixed bath outdoor onsen we're supposed to wear bathing suits? If so, are there any understood requirements, or is any bathing suit fine?

Thanks in advance!!!

Kanazawa, Japan
Level Contributor
3,920 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

1. Absolutely carry your shoes if bringing them from your luggage.

2. Whether you wear the yukata or not is your choice. Some places, guests where yukata everywhere. Some not. Case by case.

3. See #2

4. Usually no. But some budget places won't have service so in that case you would take care of your own futon.

5. Meal time will be set at check in if ot before.

6. Usually people wear a towel provided - I've not seen swimsuits except in super onset recreational places.

You can feel free to ask all of these questions to the staff, too, when you check in. They will be happy to help.

Boston...
Level Contributor
286 posts
Save Reply
2. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

The answers supplied by fish2 in the previous reply match my experience.

As for what to wear under the yukata, as much or as little as you care to. Perfectly acceptable to wear underwear.

The meal time will be established when you check in. You may have a choice, or you may not, depending on the ryokan. However, you are expected to be in your room and available for dinner at the specified time.

The only towels that I have seen at onsen are very small, face-cloth sized, towels. You would carry this in your hand, discreetly covering yourself. I've nver seen a towel large enough to wear in the sense of wrapping around your waist (except, of course, in the shower area/changing rooms -- but you would not bring one of these towels to the onsen).

Don

Owner .... Don Topaz Travel

California
Level Contributor
43 posts
9 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

Thank you both! Very helpful!

travelling
Level Contributor
155 posts
20 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

There aren't any mixed onsen at marukoma onsen. There are 2 outdoor baths and 2 indoor baths and although they are shared baths, they are same sex baths. Usually what happens is that the ryokan will rotate the baths between men and women so that everyone may have a chance to try the different baths. Eg...bath 1&2 for women and bath 3&4 for men in the morning, then in the evening, bath 1&2 for men whilst bath 3&4 will be for women.

Bathing suits are not appropriate in an onsen....to really enjoy the experience, leave your inhibitions behind and go naked. Have a great trip.

Sapporo, Japan
Destination Expert
for Sapporo, Hokkaido
Level Contributor
2,459 posts
71 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

Yes - I was going to add....all answers ok apart from the last one....onsens are naked.

Marukoma doesn't have a mixed area - onsen that do have these areas set speratly with enough signage to stop you wandering in an awares!

You'll be bathing with kids and grandparents and it's fun!

Marokoma gets many foreign guests, so they aren't going to be shocked by anything you do...just enjoy!

Amanda

California
Level Contributor
43 posts
9 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

Thanks for the info about the Marukoma Onsens. I assumed the same sex baths would be typical nude bathing but I thought I had read that there were same sex bath and mixed area baths. I think I must have been confusing mixed area with "family bath" that I saw described.

Has anyone done the "family bath" at Marukoma - the private reserved hot bath? I think I might like to be able to share a bath with my husband if that is still something they do. I suppose I'd want to inquire about it when we check in?

Aoyama Dori and San...
Level Contributor
9,424 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

As Amanda says, you should just enjoy. Japan does not have puritanical hangups with nudity and such. In the men's area we sometimes see female attendants (not sure about woman's area) and the concept of nudity is just not an issue unless you personally have some sort of hangup about it. Nudity and using the toilet are treated quite differently from the west. Although unisex toilet facilities are not common much anymore they still exist in some older public buildings.

Kanazawa, Japan
Level Contributor
3,920 posts
3 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

The last question, #6, refers to mixed onsen bathing, in which case there are larger towels provided to women which most women use to wrap around themselves (but if you are not tiny it won't wrap).

In usual, same sex onsen, the towel is small and must not be put into the bath water. Swim suits are not allowed.

Super onsen theme park like places have areas where swim suits are worn and it is mixed men and women. The bathing areas there are divided, too, and no swimsuit or towel in the bath.

Family bath, if offered, is really nice to do with your family, spouse or friends. You will find many people take advantage of the option. You may also find, though, that the best baths are the public ones.

Sapporo, Japan
Level Contributor
688 posts
50 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

>Has anyone done the "family bath" at Marukoma - the private reserved hot bath? I think I might like to be able to share a bath with my husband if that is still something they do. I suppose I'd want to inquire about it when we check in?

I haven't done it, but I saw the sign. It looks good. As people said above, no mixed bathing at Marukoma except for the family baths. I believe these are indoor, so you don't quite get the hot spring effect. The outdoor baths are right at the lakeside.

The staff are really friendly at Marukoma. You made a great choice.

I don't know what season you're staying, but there's an easy hike up an active volcano on the south side of Lake Shikotsu, with ocean views: Mt. Tarumae.

Aoyama Dori and San...
Level Contributor
9,424 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Ryokan Etiquette

Regarding outdoor bathing, there is absolutely nothing I can think of that compares to sitting in a hot bath outside in the middle of winter when it is snowing and very cold. It is a unique experience that should not be missed. The mad dash indoors is usually not a factor because your body is sufficiently heated up to stand the walk through the cold to the door leading inside. Likewise, you can heat up your core in the inside bath prior to stepping outside.