A Guide to Japanese-Style Accommodation

Japan, a country where tradition intertwines with modernity, offers travellers a unique lodging experience that goes beyond mere accommodation. Japanese-style accommodation, ranging from ryokans (traditional inns) to minpaku (private home stays), provides not just a place to rest but an immersive cultural experience. This guide introduces the various types of traditional Japanese lodging, each offering a distinct way to experience the essence of Japanese hospitality, aesthetics, and lifestyle.

Ryokan: The Quintessence of Japanese Hospitality

Ryokans are traditional Japanese inns that offer an authentic glimpse into Japan's cultural and architectural heritage. Characterised by tatami-matted rooms, sliding fusuma doors, and communal onsen baths, ryokans provide a serene retreat from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Guests can enjoy kaiseki dinners, multi-course meals that showcase seasonal and regional delicacies, served in the privacy of their rooms or designated dining areas. Staying at a ryokan is not merely about lodging but embracing a centuries-old tradition of hospitality.

Key Features:

  • Tatami-matted rooms with futon bedding
  • Onsen (hot spring) baths, often featuring natural mineral waters
  • Kaiseki meals, a culinary celebration of the season
  • Yukata robes provided for guests

Minshuku: A Homely Experience

Minshuku are family-operated guesthouses offering a more casual and homely version of the ryokan experience. These accommodations are often located in rural or coastal areas, providing a cosy base for exploring Japan's natural beauty. Rooms are typically Japanese-style, but the meals and amenities may be simpler compared to ryokans. Minshuku stays offer insight into the Japanese way of life, with opportunities to interact with local families and enjoy home-cooked meals.

Key Features:

  • Family-run, homely atmosphere
  • Simple, traditional Japanese lodging and meals
  • Opportunities for cultural exchange and local exploration

Minpaku: Private Home Stays

Minpaku refers to private home stays, similar to the concept of Airbnb, where travellers rent rooms or entire houses from locals. This option has grown in popularity, offering a wide range of accommodations from traditional Japanese homes to modern apartments. Minpaku stays provide flexibility and a personal touch, often at a lower cost than hotels or ryokans. They are an excellent choice for travellers seeking an authentic residential experience in Japan.

Key Features:

  • Variety of accommodation types, from traditional to contemporary
  • Flexibility and privacy
  • Opportunity to live like a local

Temple Lodging: Spiritual Retreats

For those seeking tranquillity and spiritual reflection, staying at a Buddhist temple can be a profound experience. Known as shukubo, temple lodging offers guests a chance to participate in Buddhist practices such as meditation and morning prayers. Accommodations are typically modest, with Japanese-style rooms and vegetarian meals in accordance with Buddhist principles. Temple stays are particularly popular in places of pilgrimage, such as Koyasan and Mount Hiei.

Key Features:

  • Participation in Buddhist rituals and practices
  • Vegetarian cuisine (shojin ryori)
  • Tranquil, spiritual atmosphere

Planning Your Stay in Japanese-Style Accommodation

When choosing Japanese-style accommodation, consider your preferences for comfort, privacy, and cultural immersion. Booking in advance is advisable, especially for ryokans and popular minpaku listings. Be mindful of house rules and customs, such as removing shoes indoors and respecting quiet hours, to ensure a harmonious stay.


Japanese-style accommodation offers more than just a place to sleep; it provides a doorway into the heart of Japanese culture. Whether you choose the refined elegance of a ryokan, the homely charm of a minshuku, the personal touch of a minpaku, or the serene simplicity of temple lodging, each experience promises a deeper connection with Japan's rich traditions and warm hospitality.