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Exploring Japan

Where to stay

Hotels

We have hand-picked our hotels considering their location, value and boutique-style. If you have a special request of a certain hotel that is not listed on the website, please let us know and we will try to make it happen.

What is a Ryokan?

A Ryokan -Japanese inn- is the authentic traditional Japanese accommodation that has existed in Japan since the 8th century. They all have a typical traditional architecture and design and they are characterised for their excellent “omotenashi” or Japanese hospitality, meaning that guests have a more personal treat with the ryokan staff in opposition to a regular hotel.

Generally, ryokans have a big entrance (where normally you will have to change your regular shoes for the ryokan sandals), tatami floors, sliding doors, tea making space and communal baths segregated by gender where guests enjoy their therapeutic and relaxing bath with hot spring (onsen) water from the nearby area.

Rooms are usually very simple revealing the charm of a culture of simplicity and minimalism that we can see reflected in design and decorations, traditionally made using natural elements and materials.

Many ryokan do not have private bath or shower in the room. In order to understand the reason behind this, we need to consider the traditional Japanese ritual of showering right before using the hot spring bath.

Usually, at night, the low table and chairs that can be found in the Japanese rooms will be substituted by the hotel staff by futons and duvets laid on the tatami mats for sleeping.

Some modern ryokan have western style beds, an adaptation made for western people who want to experience this unique accommodation without compromising western comfort.

Yukatas -housecoat- are provided for guests to wear within the ryokan installations to help them feel comfortable and “at home”.

Dinner and breakfast are usually served in the room except in some places where the kind of food served is specially aromatic. Normally dinner is served early at the time set for dinner -with no exceptions- and meals are well known to be home made and delicious; a truly authentic culinary experience of traditional Japanese home made food cooked with seasonal and locally grown fresh ingredients.

Nowadays ryokans can still be found in rural areas offering the chance of embarking western visitors into this unique “little adventure” of experience by themselves the authentic Japanese traditions.

A great variety of wide range ryokan can be chosen. Usually high-end  ryokan offer luxurious western comfort and are more like a “wellness retreat” in the middle of stunning nature in a lovely Japanese traditional ambiance with exceptionally good service. Some of these rooms have the particularity of having their own private hot spring bath in your own room or terrace with beautiful views of the nature around. A truly treat to yourself.

At Fleewinter, we have handpicked some of the best ryokan -from the very simple to luxurious ones- to offer our clients the exceptional experience of staying at a traditional Japanese accommodation and enjoy the wonderful hospitality, delicious handmade traditional food and the ultimate relaxation experience of soaking in natural hot spring baths within a lovely Japanese genuine atmosphere.

Onsen Etiquette

The onsen experience is certainly one of the highlights while in Japan. The traditional Japanese bath has their own rituals that Japanese strictly follow and everyone (including western people) is expected to do so.

The baths are gender segregated, what means that you will be soaking with same sex people only.

The majority of the onsen do not allow people with tattoos to use the public onsen and same rules are applied to western people. In Japan there is still a big stigma towards tattoos and the reason behind it lies in the strong connection that still nowadays Japanese people make between gangsters and tattoos.

However the good news is, in spite of not being able to use common baths if you have a tattoo, you can still have a room with your private onsen to soak in or rent one for private use at your ryokan. This is a good solution for couples or family use as well.

Please read below a short resume of the most important things to consider when using an onsen:

  1. Undress yourself in the dressing area before entering the bath space. Passing this area, everyone is expected to be naked with no exceptions.
  2. Scrub yourself carefully, without splashing, in the bath area before soaking in the onsen. Use the plastic chair designed for each bath spot.(soaps are provided).
  3. While soaking in the onsen do not speak loudly or stare at people.
  4. Both your hair and towel must not touch the onsen water.
  5. No cell phones or cameras are allowed.
  6. You can rinse yourself after the onsen or not, the choice is yours.
  7. Before you leave the bath space and before entering the dressing area wipe yourself dry carefully.

 

Tokyo
In the medieval times Tokyo was known as Edo, a small castle town which became Japan´s political center and a few centuries later, Edo grew into one of the world´s most populous cities . Nowadays, Tokyo is one of the world’s most cutting-edge capitals, offering a huge offer of entertainment, dinning, shopping, and culture to visitors.

Tokyo is city of contrasts where you can find the most modern technology, neon-lit landscape and towering skyscrapers but also excellent museums, sprawling parklands, sacred and ancient shrines and temples, and lovingly tended traditional gardens and green spaces in the middle of the city center.

Despite its mania for anime pop culture, fashion, digital trends and discernable consumption, the city embraces an ancient heritage evident in the temples and shrines scattered amongst the vast skyrise.

Almost all travelers to Japan will go through Tokyo and it is definitely worth spending a few nights in this fascinating city. Whilst it is not easy to find boutique hotels in Tokyo, we have put an extra effort into finding the best places to stay for all budgets and tastes.
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Kyoto
Kyoto was for more than thousand years the imperial capital of Japan and nowadays is known as the cultural city of the country. With 2,000 religious buildings, including 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens etc it is one of the best-preserved cities in Japan and has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

Go back in time to Japan’s mysterious past where echoes of the court nobility resonate at the Imperial Palace and the search for contemplation in the zen gardens, explore the city’s narrow alleyways where tea houses thrive and kimono-clad geisha hurry from elegant function to function.
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Hiroshima
Hiroshima is notorious for its destruction when the first Atomic Bomb was dropped over the city during the Second World War which obliterated nearly everything within a two kilometre radius. From this absolute annihilation, Hiroshima emerged, phoenix-like, and become a beacon of hope and peace for the rest of mankind.

Many destroyed monuments of the city’s historical heritage had been reconstructed, such as the Shukkeien Garden and the Hiroshima Castle. The city centre boasts a large recreational area named Peace Memorial Park, reflecting the aspirations of this reborn city. Besides excellent museums, Hiroshima is also the most popular gateway for trips to nearby Miyajima, a nearby island considered to be one of Japan’s most scenic spots.
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Kanazawa
Kanazawa was an important city during the Edo period and became a town with a great cultural scene rivalling with Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo). Nowadays, the samurai and chaya entertainment districts, have survived in good condition and you can walk in these streets and imagine how life was in the ancient Japan.

The city boasts many historical attractions such as restored residences and districts, as well as modern museums and its great castle. But Kanazawa´s unchallenged main attraction is Kenrokuen, one of Japan’s “three best landscape gardens”, and often considered the most beautiful of them all.
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Takayama
Full of temples, shrines, festivals, rivers and bridges, this beautiful mountain town Takayama has been called “little Kyoto” and has preserved the ancient atmosphere of the Edo era until now. This area is well known not just for its natural environment and preserved culture but also for its delicious food and sake breweries. Local dishes including Hida beef and Hoba miso are highly recommended. More
Hakone
Hakone is a lovely mountainous town less than hundred miles south of Tokyo on the foothills of Mt Fuji. Traditional inns aka Ryokans and pleasantly relaxing hot springs “Onsen” are the staple attraction in Hakone, with Mt Fuji being its crown jewel. Beautiful Hakone is a natural nature wonderland, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, and has about everything a vacationer could wish for. A great destination for hiking, with marvellous views at every turn and plenty of hot springs to soothe any aching muscles after a days of exploring. Besides the towering mountains, lakes and views of Mount Fuji, it is also blessed with interesting historical sites, temples and Shinto Shrines. More
Osaka
Osaka is the historical commercial capital of Japan and Japan’s second largest metropolis which has been the economic powerhouse of the Kansai region for centuries.

Nowadays Osaka, is one of Japan’s most vibrant cities, known for its lively people, large aquarium, underground shopping arcade, Universal Studios amusement park… and specially famous for its local spectacular cuisine. Its nickname “Tenka no Daidokoro” (the nation’s kitchen) inspired us to create some foodie tours for you to experience the real taste of Osaka.
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Shirakawa-go
This picturesque village, famous for its traditional Gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Gassho-zukkuri translates as ‘Praying Hands’, as the farmhouses steep thatched roofs resemble the hands of Buddhist monks pressed together in prayer and are designed to withstand the heavy snows which fall in the region.
Miyajima
Miyajima Island. A small sacred island located in the Island Sea, it has been a holy place of Shintoism since the earliest times.

Here you will find perhaps the most photographed site in Japan: The Floating Torii Gate. Designated as one of Japan’s ‘Most Beautiful Views’, the shrine it belongs to dates back to the 6th century. The harmoniously arranged buildings reveal great artistic and technical skill, and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nikko
Nikko had been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries before Toshogu was built in the 1600s, and Nikko National Park continues to offer scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails.

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Kamakura
Kamakura is a beautiful historical town located one hour away from Tokyo by public transport. Home to a collection of beautiful temples, shrines and impressive large buddhist statues.

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Kawagoe
Kawagoe is a delightful city west of Tokyo, usually called “Little Edo” because it still preserves the atmosphere of the ancient Tokyo (Edo is the old name of the capital).
The old storehouse merchant houses are lined up, and the Toki-no-kane (Bell Tower)
rings to tell the time. Take a stroll through the town in a kimono and
you'll feel as if you've travelled back in time to ancient Edo. In Kawagoe, you can
experience the traditional and pure Japan which you can't see in Tokyo.
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Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s most iconic images, instantly recognisable for its snowcapped symmetric beauty. Still an active volcano to this day, at 3766 meters it is the country’s highest mountain. More

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