Ryokan are Japanese style inns found throughout the country, especially in hot spring resorts. More than just a place to sleep, ryokan are an opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine, making them popular with both Japanese and foreign tourists alike.
I booked one night at Oyada Koto no Yume in Takayama ($180 including breakfast and dinner) through booking.com.
A woman greets me, offers a seat and tea, and presents instructions for staying in a ryokan. I am served an ice-cold, gelatinous amuse bouche looking not unlike an olive trapped in snot.
Instructions read, my host gestures to a chest of drawers and allows me to pick my yukata (informal kimono) and obi (wide belt) for dinner tonight.
My room contains a rotary phone, tv, chest, ledge, table and two straight-backed chairs for furniture. I would like to relax before dinner tonight but there's nothing to relax upon. Instead, I attempt to put on my yukata. I eventually call for help.
Dinner is a multi-course affairs, some courses excellent (the hida beef), some not so much (the full fish served with eyes and teeth intact).
In the evening I sleep on the floor on a tatami mat in a sort of sleeping bag. It's odd, but interesting. I wouldn't want to stay in a ryokan every night, but I'm happy to have tried one.