Now we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get into the details. To help you decide which style or combination of accommodation is right for your family, here are a few things to consider:
Isn’t it uncomfortable sleeping on the floor?
Lots of guests worry about this, but Japanese futons are thick, fluffy, and very comfortable indeed. The only caveat we’d add is that the pillows tend to be thinner than we’re used to in the West. This isn’t a problem for the vast majority of guests, but might be something to think about if you’re particularly picky in that department.
If you’re still not into the idea — or if getting up and down from the floor is going to be an issue — we can recommend ryokan and machiya that have both futons and Western-style beds.
Won’t the kids bother me at night, if we’re all in one room?
No more than usual! In the 20 years we’ve been sending families to Japan, the overwhelming majority of parents report that they sleep just as well in traditional accommodation as at home. If you’re still worried, why not stick to just a night or two in a ryokan for your first trip, just in case?
How does the food work at a ryokan?
Because food is such a big part of the ryokan experience, you’ll nearly always have dinner and breakfast included in your stay. This will typically be served in your room or a shared dining area with seating on the floor, and you’ll likely be given a set time slot for dinner.
The type of food served at a ryokan is traditional multi-course cuisine (called kaiseki), which consists of many different small, seasonal and regional dishes brought out at regular intervals. Most ryokan guests choose to wear their yukata bathrobe to dinner, breakfast and onsen visits, which can be a fun novelty for children.
For breakfast, the pricier inns will usually offer a choice between traditional Japanese and Western-style options (which might be more or less “Western” than you’re expecting!) If Western food is a must for you be sure to check in advance, as it's not always offered.
For more about eating at a ryokan, have a look at our section on food and families.
I’d like to experience a traditional stay, but my kids won’t eat the food. What are our options?
If you have a picky eater in your midst, the food issue might put you off staying at traditional Japanese-style accommodation. It’s possible to book a ryokan stay without included meals, but it’s not really the done thing. Instead, perhaps you might consider staying at machiya townhouse, where you can sleep in traditional Japanese fashion but have your own kitchen for preparing meals.
Will we all be able to sleep in one room?
Depending on the size of your family, usually yes. In bigger cities, it’s easy to find twin and triple rooms in Western hotels, with a smattering offering quad rooms (four single beds) and even fewer offering rooms for five or six. If you want to stay in Western-style accommodation and have your own private space, it’s probably better to consider staying in a self-service apartment.
In Japanese-style accommodation, it’s common to fit up to four people in one tatami-mat room, and some may accommodate up to five. While tatami rooms tend to be smaller than Western hotel rooms, they’re also more versatile. During the day, the futons are cleared away to create living space, and while you’re at dinner the staff will roll them back out ready for bed.
If you’ve got a larger family and being in one room is a dealbreaker for you, it might dictate the destinations you can stay in. This isn’t necessarily a problem — for instance, if Hiroshima doesn’t have accommodation for six, you could easy base yourself in a machiya in Kyoto and do Hiroshima as a day trip. Chat to one of our travel consultants if you’d like to know more.
Are connecting rooms available?
In most big cities, yes — although many hotels won’t confirm that you’ve been given interconnecting rooms until check-in. It’s also possible to request adjacent, non-connecting rooms, but again this may not be confirmed until you actually arrive.
It’s worth noting here that in many hotels in Japan, certain room types will be specific to certain floors. So, for instance, triples might all be on floor eight, while double and twin rooms are on floors ten to eleven. This means that if you’re getting a room for yourself and one for your children, there’s a chance they could be on separate floors.