Dear visitor, if you know the answer to this question, please post it. Thank you!

Note that this thread has not been updated in a long time, and its content might not be up-to-date anymore.

Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/16 14:15
I am planning on staying at ryokans most of my trip..in some places as much as three to four days/ I have read some pointers about ryokans and I am left with a few questions.

Dinner seems awfully early...6 to 7 PM...Same with brkfst which is served awfully early..can meals be arranged for a particular time?
There is a lockdown mostly at midnight...what happens when a guest stays out beyond the lock down time?
I am aware that shoes are surrendered prior to entering the ryokan, which is fine with me..however,what happens when I want to wear a different pair of shoes out? do I retrieve the first pair or do they just pile up my shoes as I wear them?
I am used to taking a nap in the afternoon to recharge and will probably want to do the same in Japan, however the futon is rolled up after breakfast...can they set the futon up in the afternoon upon request?
Generally speaking, other than in large urban spaces, does nightlife shut down early? Is there a general standard dinner time in Japan or do restaurants serve meals pretty much until very late, say 11 PM or midnight? At home I eat out late most of the time...between 10 and 11 PM

Thank you for the attention
by Cesar (guest)  

... 2012/8/16 15:11
Dinner seems awfully early...6 to 7 PM...Same with brkfst which is served awfully early..can meals be arranged for a particular time?

In general, no.

There is a lockdown mostly at midnight...what happens when a guest stays out beyond the lock down time?

In most places not much happens after midnight, but if you are later it will be case by case as to what the options are. Some may have a key/alternate entry. Others will be strict.

I am aware that shoes are surrendered prior to entering the ryokan, which is fine with me..however,what happens when I want to wear a different pair of shoes out? do I retrieve the first pair or do they just pile up my shoes as I wear them?

Either is fine.

I am used to taking a nap in the afternoon to recharge and will probably want to do the same in Japan, however the futon is rolled up after breakfast...can they set the futon up in the afternoon upon request?

I'm sure you can request it.

Generally speaking, other than in large urban spaces, does nightlife shut down early?

Yes.

Is there a general standard dinner time in Japan or do restaurants serve meals pretty much until very late, say 11 PM or midnight? At home I eat out late most of the time...between 10 and 11 PM

Although you may be able to get a meal at various places (ramen for example) it would be uncommon to eat at most restaurants that late. In general most places will have a Last Order (L.O.) time of around 9:30-10:00pm at a guess.

Here's good examples of closing times in Kyoto:-
http://bento.com/kansai/ka-kystation.html
http://bento.com/kansai/ka-kygion.html

And even in late night spots in Tokyo:-
http://bento.com/ra-shinj.html
http://bento.com/ra-shib.html

Also note that public transport often stops around midnight-1am. At night clubs in big cities like Tokyo people often stay out until the first train in the morning (usually 5am or so) if they miss the last train.
by GC3 rate this post as useful

... 2012/8/16 15:45
By the way, I would suggest adjusting your "normal" schedule so that it fits in with the country you are visiting. You will probably miss out on a lot or at least not be able to cover as much if you have a siesta every afternoon for example.

Just the same way as we adjusted while travelling through Spain where it was a lot easier to eat later and have a siesta in the afternoon!
by GC3 rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/16 18:10
- In general, no, you cannot ask for a different time for dinner/breakfast. As the chefs, kitchen staff and room servers need to wash up and go home for the day, rest, or start getting ingredients for the next meal, they have their fixed time slots.

- Lockdown: Um, if you are talking about real "ryokans" (not the inexpensive, Japanese style budget places), when they lock down, the head staff members are asleep, and the room servers are either asleep or gone home. It's not like a modern hotel where you've got a janitor or security guard up all night. You'd better return before that.

- Nap in the afternoon: be sure to ask up front if it's OK you use the room during the day (meaning after the regular check-out time). Once again, after the regular check-out time, which is normally 10 or 11, the staff clean up the vacated rooms, if they serve lunch in their restaurant they might be busy with that, etc., that they are not really assuming that anyone uses the room during the day.
If they say no problem, you could even set up the futon yourself, but if you are staying at a place where your meal is served in-room, that would give the staff extra work of putting them back up again before serving your dinner.

- Apart from big cities, yes, night life shut down early. Or, even in big cities, bars may be open till 3 in the morning, but regular restaurants stop taking orders around... 22:30 or so. People (residents) need to think about getting home too. Trains don't run around the clock.

About ryokan, generally speaking, though I am Japanese living in Japan, I find the protocols at ryokan too stiff and inflexible at times that I prefer to stay in western hotels, or at least ryokans where they serve meals in their restaurants, not in-room.
by AK rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/16 19:26
Yes, i find that more than 2 nights at a stretch in a ryokan is too much. The food is just too extravagant, by the third night I just want something simple. It is nice for a couple of days though, I generally would stay at a ryokan 4 - 5 nights out of a two week trip, but I wouldnt bother unless it has an onsen.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/16 22:27
I guess I'm wondering why you are choosing to book ryokans so many days? Certainly it isn't to save money. If it's because you want to have a more "Japanese" experience, then pick a small number of ryokans carefully and enjoy short stays (no more than 2 nights) at each, with hotel stays in between. And if you are in fact looking for a Japanese experience, then try to adapt yourself to the way they do things.

Japan has world-class night life in some of its cities, and if you enjoy that, you should definitely make a point of experiencing it. But don't mix that with staying in a ryokan! It just doesn't make sense.
by Uma (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/16 22:38
Some of the best ryokan in Japan don't have onsen...but anyway...

As for ryokan rules, it depends on where you are staying as each establishment will be different. Some will close the front door but you can come & go - just be aware that others are sleeping & the building may not be soundproof. Others lock up, as others have said ryokan are not hotels.
Some are more like being a guest in someone's home - minshuku can be like this.
Some places will cater to your every whim so nothing will be too much trouble. But they won't shift dinner time for practical reasons. The maid who serves you dinner & fusses over you in the evening will be back on shift at 6am. And I bet they don't get a nap in the afternoon to recharge!
But they will be happy for you to relax in your room & they should take the futon out for you if you need it. But most Japanese will just snooze on the tatami without a futon during the day. Just ask if you really want the futon.
Many small towns & tourist areas have little going on at night, you may find a local bar. People will go for an after dinner stroll but usually retire early.
I wouldn't worry about shoes too much - they'll be there when you need them - they'll put them out ready for you -like magic! So if you want to wear another pair take them to the entrance. Just don't put shoes on the floor once you step up into the ryokan (keep the spare ones in plastic bags in your luggage.)

Dinner time 6-7pm does not seem abnormal to me, you eat very late in your country when most people I know would be in bed. And also you have the luxury of an afternoon nap - that's why you have energy to stay up late! Most people would have 30 mins for lunch & no time for naps in Australia. You are lucky.

Ryokan meals are very elaborate - like a banquet.
The cities will have late night eating options.
It will be an interesting cultural change for you. You just have to be open minded and flexible.

by elyse (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/16 22:45
Regarding hotels, if you want to take naps in the afternoon you should make sure not to stay in a budget business hotel that has a daytime cleaning policy where they want you to vacate the room from 10 until 3 or 4. A number of the well-known large chains are like this, but you may not find out the policy until you arrive, and it can be an unpleasant surprise.

If your budget allows for many days in ryokans, then you can afford to instead book some nice, comfortable mid-priced (or better) city hotels in popular districts. This is definitely the way to go if you want to dine late and sleep in!
by Uma (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/17 03:18
Thanks to everyone for the insightfull input. I do have a concern with having to eat dinner at fixed times and in my case at a time when a simple snack will do...I understand the elaborate nature of ryokan dinning and frankly that much food that early will require adjustment.I donot eat a huge meal breakfast at 7 AM...my usual breakfast is tea, pastry, cheese and fruit and that is it. The ryokans serve a huge dinner at 6 in the afternoon, at that time we enjoy a snack: coffee or tea and pastries perhaps or wine, cheese and crackers but not a ten course meal. A lot of ryokans offer a no meal plan which I think would be better for me...The other thing about having to be at the Ryokan before 6 PM is my concern that I will feel pressed to hurry and do my sightseeing in order to rush back to the ryokan to be there on time for dinner.
I can probably nap on the tatami...not a big issue specially if rolling down the futon implies extra work for the staff...that said I will be on vacation and part of that is to relax and shake off the routine and the strees...napping to me is a source of regeneration not a waste of time...
Lock down rules I can probably live with specially since I will be shifting clocks to do most things earlier that I am used to. We dont think about going out until 10 or 11 PM...Once, while visiting Florence, Italy I booked a guest house that had a strict lock up rule at midnigh,in Florence! I must confess that I really hated my stay at that place.I gather that in Japan it is early out of bed and early in bed...I will adjust.
I am flexible and respect other culture's traditions and idiosincracies and this is why I inquire prior to landing there with unrealistic expectations...when in Japan do as the japanese do...
I will consider booking less traditional accommodations in the hub cities I plan to stay for longer periods of time and book ryokans for the short 1 to 2 overnight stays in the smaller locations. I am looking into renting an apartment for two weeks in Tokyo which would allow me to go as I please/ The fees are actually cheaper that a lot of hotels but the paper work is horrenduos...security deposit fees, bank wire transfers, cleaning fees, etcetera..I have to read the fine print prior to signing on thought.
Thanks for the tip on public tranportation
time schedules..I do confess that I expected metro lines in Tokyo to operate 24 hours..good to know that they shut down early. All of your suggestions have been very usefull and their implementation will make my vacation in Japan a more enjoyable experience. Thank you very much...
by Cesar (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/17 05:03
There are a lot of short-term apartments that are managed more like hotels and don't make you go through the formal rental process. They are typically called "weekly mansions" or "monthly mansions." In Tokyo, the Tokyu Stay chain of business hotels with kitchenettes is another studio apartment-style option. (And I don't believe they have a "daytime lockout" policy, so you can nap in peace.)
by Uma (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/17 05:33
Hi again. As alternates to the ryokan stays, we have stayed in the kasuien rooms at Westin Miyako Kyoto (essentially the rooms are set up like a ryokan, but you can order room service from the hotel), also consider a machiya stay - we stayed at the iori machiya in Shinmonzen dori, Gion. It is spectacular, but you cant cook inside (microwave only) so you eat out at night. And yes, the reason why I dont bother with ryokans unless they have an onsen is because I really like the onsens, but the regulated eating times for the ryokan is all a bit much for me, some nights I've been setting in front of a 10 course meal wishing that I could just have something simple.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/17 11:55
another thing to consider is that ryokan often have a dinner menu that usually rotates every 3 days so if you stay 3 nights, the chances are that you'll eat the same menu on the 3rd night that you ate on the 1st... it's very rare for japanese to stay more than 2 nights...

I agree with the other posters that you'll be better off staying in western style properties in big cities. I personally don't see the point of staying in a ryokan in a city when the real joy of a ryokan stay (apart from the food) is the hot spring baths and sitting in the rotenburo admiring the views - no onsen in city centre ryokan and no nice views...

I understand that you're not used to eating big meals at 6-7pm but bear in mind that for just about every other culture on the planet, the spanish custom of eating dinner around 11pm is also very very strange!
by roman style (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Customs and behavior at ryokans 2012/8/17 13:07
Jejejeje Roman style you made me laugh jejeje I suppose eating that late can be considered strange...I am getting the message loud and clear donot stay at ryokans for long periods of time and choose a ryokan in the smaller locations and get use to eating early like the rest of the planet jejejeje...at least for the one month I plan to be in Japan!Thank you for your input.
by Cesar (guest) rate this post as useful

reply to this thread