Ryokan are a luxury even for the Japanese. These traditional hotels invite you to don yukata and sip tea on tatami mats in your room. Far more spacious than hotels in the city, they serve as miniature suites, with a full bathroom (as in: a full room for taking baths – not showers), a “living” room that’s converted into a bedroom with futons at night, and a sitting/sun room. Many ryokan also feature a high-end restaurant with full, multi-course, traditional Japanese meals (where you sit on tatami mats and food is partially cooked at your table). If you’re lucky, yours will additionally offer a larger, multi-person sentou or true onsen.
After the quick pace of the city, a ryokan in the mountains – or even in a quieter city like Kyoto – is a pleasant reprieve. They are understandably more expensive than typical hotels, but if you can afford a night or two, you won’t regret the extra pampering.