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Ryokan: Japanese hospitality

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Do you know the word “おもてなし” (“Omotenashi”)? “Omotenashi” is the way of Japanese Hospitality. The philosophy of “Omotenashi” is originally rooted in “茶道” (“Sado”). Tea ceremony – “茶会” (“Chakai”) is known as a part of “Sado”. “茶人” – “Chajin” or “Tea person” have to always have a sense of welcoming. No matter what, in order to focus on taking care of their guests and to maintain a neat environment, “Chajin” very strictly control themselves and display thoroughness at all times.

“Ryokan” (“旅館”) are Japanese traditional hotels. They are known for “Omotenashi”. Higher grade ryokans’ mission is to accept guests’ selfishness as much as possible. In those places, employees are told by their bosses to accomplish customers’ requests at more than 120%. 100% is not enough. Workers at a ryokans always arrange the garden perfectly, set the furnishing very neatly, and express their sense of willingness moderately.

Do you know “黒子” (“Kuroko”)? This is a stage assistant dressed in black who help Kabuki actors during a performance. Workers in Ryokans are just like Kuroko. Needless to say, guests are the main characters and Kuroko’s role is to be the shadows of the actors.

This kind of attitude isn’t actually so different from the Western hospitality. The main differences are unspoken communications such as lively decorated flowers in accordance with the philosophy of “華道” (“Kado”, Ikebana – flower arrangement), “掛け軸” (“Kakejiku” or Hanging scroll) which silently tell a message.

Usually Ryokan offer “浴衣” (“Yukata”, Japanese Bath Robes) – they sometimes have their own Yukata. In “温泉街” (“Hot spring town”), you will see some of the visitors walking around in Yukata and enjoying a nostalgic atmosphere of “温泉情緒”。Ryokan is a precious place where one can perceive traditional Japanese taste. It is therefore a place one must experience while being in Japan.