A great way to experience Japanese culture, hospitality and cuisine, a traditional stay is a must for any Japan travel itinerary. Here are five great destinations to consider when planning your trip, each with its own unique atmosphere.
A remote monastic retreat reachable only by slow countryside trains and a funicular railway, Mount Koya is home to over fifty Buddhist temples, many offering overnight stays in temple lodgings, or shukubo. As well as exploring the mountain's many beautiful sites, guests can enjoy the vegetarian cuisine known as shojin ryori and take part in morning prayers and meditation.
A classic hot spring resort with a nostalgic atmosphere, the charming town of Kinosaki Onsen is located in the north of Hyogo Prefecture close to the Sea of Japan. Guests at the numerous traditional inns can enjoy a range of local delicacies including snow crab, and experience each of the seven popular public baths for free.
A quiet rural town in the Japan Alps, Takayama has long been celebrated as a centre of craft and carpentry. Today, visitors can wander along beautifully preserved streets, tour sake breweries or use the town as a base to explore the nearby countryside - a taste of the rural life perfectly complimented by a stay at one of the many local ryokan.
By far the most easily accessible destination on this list, the hot spring town of Hakone is located in the mountains of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, just an hour from central Tokyo by shinkansen and local train. As well as an impressive number of hot spring ryokan, visitors can enjoy a range of sightseeing spots including a "hell valley" of volcanic springs and an outdoor sculpture park. The mountain scenery affords a number of spectacular views, and on a clear day Mount Fuji can be seen in the distance.
Located right at the foot of Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture, Lake Kawaguchiko can be reached from Tokyo in just two hours making it the most easily accessible of the Fuji Five Lakes. Many of the traditional inns dotted along the lake's eastern shore have their own outdoor hot spring baths, allowing you to bathe in the healing water while gazing at Japan's most iconic mountain.