Japan Incentive Travel: Staying at a Ryokan

Kyoto Ryokan As Japan continues its efforts to recover from a year of natural disasters, companies around the world can assist through fund-raising initiatives and planning incentive travel or a corporate retreat in Japan as soon as feasible.

One unique experience that Japan offers is a stay at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. It's a delightful alternative to staying at hotels. Some are family run establishments and others are small inns. I have stayed at ryokans in Tokyo and Kyoto and I assure you that your group is in for for a treat. I particularly enjoyed my stay at a ryokan in Ginza with large tatami rooms and a perfect blend of modern and traditional touches.

You'll be greeted upon arrival. Remove your shoes and use the slippers provided for indoor use. Remove your slippers before you step into your tatami room. Never wear slippers when stepping on tatami mats. After you're shown to your room, slip into the yukata that is provided for maximum relaxation and comfort.

Garden at Kyoto RyokanAt each ryokan where I had the pleasure of staying, tea and biscuits were provided, a welcome treat after the journey to get there.

If your ryokan has a garden, special slippers will be available for relaxing and strolling in the garden. At the ryokan where I stayed in Kyoto, there was a stream that flowed through the garden, creating a soothing ambiance.

A traditional Japanese breakfast is usually included in the room rate and many ryokans serve dinner for an extra charge. At these establishments, you can arrange group dining.

You will definitely want to relax in a traditional Japanese bath intended for relaxation not cleansing. The bath is shared by everyone in the ryokan. Shower and rinse completely before entering the bath. Remove the cover from over the bath that is intended to keep the water hot. Soaking your cares away in the very hot water.

The toilet will be separate from the bathroom. Special slippers will be provided for use in the toilet. It is a breach of etiquette to wear the slippers that you are wearing inside the ryokan when you enter the toilet. Remove your slippers. Leave your shoes outside the door and slip into the special slippers that are provided for use only inside the toilet.

At night you'll sleep on a comfortable futon spread on the floor. It will be aired out in the morning, rolled up and put away in a cupboard to clear the way for seating and living space in your room.

Incentive travel in Japan doesn't have to be expensive. Ryokans are available in all price ranges. (I have stayed at ryokans where the room rate including breakfast started at under 10,700 yen a night.) Some ryokans have multi-purpose rooms that are perfect for small business meetings. In fact, if your group is small and you reserve well in advance, you may be able to have exclusive use of some ryokans.

A stay at a ryokan will be a memorable experience that your group will rave about for years. For small groups, it's definitely an alternative that event and meeting planners will find worthwhile to explore.

Photo Credits: Executive Oasis International

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