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Origins and History of the Japanese Ryokan

The Japanese ryokan embodies many of the best emerged the 'kichin-yado' (a cheap inn). This type of
elements from the Japan of olden times, such as inn came to be called 'kichin-yado' from the fact that Then, with the Meiji Reformation, a trend toward
culture, technology, art, and customs. Ryokans are no meals were provided, with the traveler being Westernization swept Japan, and the diffusion of
the place to go to experience the lifestyle treasured charged only the price of the wood used for fuel in railways brought radical changes to the way people
and handed down by the Japanese people; staying cooking his own meal. As the years went by and the traveled. Instead of traveling mainly on foot, people
at a Japanese ryokan is surely the ideal way of Edo Period (1603-1867 ) arrived, highways were started to take the train as a means of transporta-
getting to know the true 'Japan'. constructed and the money economy developed, tion, and many ryokans were established near
leading to frequent trips by merchants. To support railway stations. Furthermore, the purpose of travel
The origins of the Japanese ryokan can be traced back them, 'hatago' inns which also provided meals were broadened, such as traveling to a cooler place in
to the so-called 'fuseya' of the Nara Period (710-784). newly established. For a while, the 'hatago' and the the summer or to a warmer place in the winter, or
'Fuseya', which were free rest houses, are thought to 'kichin-yado' existed side by side, but by the latter even just for leisure, which led to the emergence of
have been the first facilities in Japan for travelers staying half of the Edo Period, the 'hatago' inns had become numerous ryokans in tourist spots and hot spring
overnight. Back in those days, with transportation the mainstream. Meanwhile, the Shogunate (the resorts all over Japan.
facilities and traffic networks still undeveloped, traveling Japanese feudal government) established a system
was indeed perilous, for people had no choice but to known as ' Sankin K o tai ' aimed at preventing the The 'hatago' inns standing along the former
sleep out under the stars. Large numbers of travelers provincial daimy o (feudal lords) from gaining too highways declined, and the 'honjin' which were no
died of starvation by the roadside, and so Buddhist much power and forcing them to swear a pledge of l o n g e r u s e d b y d a i m y
o lords remained only to
monks who could no longer turn a blind eye set up the allegiance, and consequently, the daimy o lords were become historic sites. Nevertheless, the appeal and
'fuseya'
_ with the aim of assisting travelers. In particular, obliged to live in Edo or their domains in alternate advantages of the 'hatago' , which provided meals,
Gyoki, who later became a high priest, constructed roads years. When traveling to or from Edo, the daimy o and the 'honjin' , where a unique culture based on
and bridges in dangerous locations, and also opened lord and his large entourage of attendants would the spirit of hospitality was fostered, were passed
nine 'fuseya' within Kinai or the Five Home Provinces stay at a 'honjin' (a lodging officially designated for down as a part of traditional Japanese culture; they
around Kyoto (namely Yamashiro in Kyoto, Yamato in a daimyo) or 'waki-honjin' (secondary lodging for a formed the original model of the Japanese ryokan,
Nara, and Izumi, Settsu, and Kawachi in Osaka). The daimyo ) located at shukueki and shukuba post towns and laid the groundwork for the development of the
Ritsuryo System (the historical legal system modeled along the route. Assignments for providing 'honjin' Japanese ryokan.
after that in China) was established, and a or 'waki-honjin' for the daimy o entourages were
centralized state system was developed in the Nara mostly entrusted to reputable families, temples and From the latter half of the 1950s when post-war
Period. It was around this period that roads leading shrines, and the wealthy. Today, the 'hatago' inns Japan entered an age of rapid economic growth,
to the capital and umaya (public facilities for would probably correspond to ordinary ryokans, Japanese people became more affluent and began
travelers built along the main roads of the country whereas the 'honjin' and 'waki-honjin' would be to indulge in traveling, with recreational company
under the Ritsuryo System) were first constructed. equivalent to deluxe ryokans, yet it appears that trips, group trips, and school trips becoming fixed
there was a considerable gap between the two events in society. In line with this new trend, large
In the following Heian Period (794-1191), pilgrimages types of lodgings. ryokans came to be built one after the other at
to religious sites became popular among members of tourist sites and hot spring resorts. Having passed
the imperial family and aristocrats, and Sho en manors In the Edo Period, moving freely from one place to through the era of mass transportation, we have
(private land owned by aristocrats, temples and shrines, another was not officially permitted, but pilgrima- entered an age in which people prefer to visit
and also by powerful families of the provinces) and ges and visits of worship of a religious nature were ryokans that are committed to improving quality
temple buildings came to be used as lodging houses. exceptions. Moreover, as regulations were not so and that offer unique and attractive features. This
The accommodation facilities set up in the temple rigid concerning short trips to hot springs for to ji stems from the diversification of the purposes of
precincts were open to religious devotees and (hot spring cure) or sightseeing, a travel boom travel and of personal preferences. Globalization
worshippers, and later came to be called 'shukub o' arose among the ordinary populace. At the popular has been underway for a while now, and ryokans,
(temple lodgings). These have been passed down to tourist sites and to ji -ba (therapeutic hot spring which are loved by Japanese people, are also now
today as lodging facilities open to the general public. resorts), quite a number of the long-established enjoying increasing popularity among visitors from
inns later developed into ryokans and remain in overseas.
During the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), there operation throughout the country today.


An onsen ryokan (ryokan with hot spring baths) A Japanese ryokan of wooden structure. A Japanese ryokan of ferroconcrete structure.
- in early Showa .

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