When I was planning our family trip to Japan, every guidebook recommended staying at a ryokan – they were right! A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn that offers much more than just a place to sleep. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture, where you can experience generous Japanese hospitality, relaxing baths and delicious meals. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be my favourite experience in Japan.
It took me some time to choose the perfect ryokan since Marc and I now have a baby Peanut to consider. We picked a beautiful ryokan in Kawaguchiko, a hot springs town at the base of Mount Fuji, just two hours from Tokyo by train.
After stepping through the doors at the ryokan, we were welcomed with matcha tea and a light snack along with a gorgeous view of the Kawaguchiko lake. What a great way to begin our stay! I wanted to enjoy the view a little longer but Marc was eager to see what our room looked like.
Our personal room attendant led us to our room. We took off our shoes and entered a minimalist room, covered in tatami mats on the floor with not much else in the room except for a low table and some kaisu (chairs without legs). Peanut happily crawled around to explore her new environment while Marc relaxed on the massage chair in front of a lake view.
We traded our clothes for some yukatas (robes), carefully making sure the left side was over the right since the reverse is how they dress the dead. We lounged in these comfy clothes during our whole stay!
The real treat was the multi-course kaiseki dinner served in our room. The dishes were set up meticulously by our room attendant, then she explained each dish, including the sauce.
Marc and I were ecstatic to dig in. Not only was everything delicious, they were presented beautifully like delicate pieces of art. The dishes were small but after three courses, we were left feeling more than satisfied.
Peanut had a great time too, but for different reasons – she was very proud of her sticky hands from squishing rice in her palms and touching every object within her reach to see if they would stick or fall…
Our Japanese breakfast the next morning in the dining hall was just as yummy and very Japanese.
When we were ready to call it a night, the table and chairs were taken away so that futons can be prepared on the floor. Surprisingly it was not as hard as I thought it would be and actually comfortable to sleep on. (And I didn’t have to worry about Peanut rolling off)
Onsens, or hot-spring bathing is a ritual in Japan. They take it very seriously. We booked a room with a private bath because it’s just easier with a baby that way. Plus, who could say no to an open-air bath with a view!
There is a long set of rules when it comes to onsens, especially public ones, so be sure to inform yourself if you’re planning to visit one. Some public onsen rules include, separate baths for men and women, no tattoos allowed, and the one that most foreigners are uncomfortable with, you must bathe naked.
All in all, we had a fantastic time in Kawaguchiko. Even though going out of our way with a baby was a bit of a hassle, I’m SO glad we got out of the big cities to experience authentic Japanese culture. We were even lucky enough to see Mount Fuji! My only regret was not staying longer…But that just means we’ll come back another time 😉
Thanks for reading et à la prochaine!