With Tokyo being the massive sprawling conurbation that it is, at times the city seems to go on forever. For those visiting Japan for the first time, this can make sightseeing quite an overwhelming prospect. As great a city as Tokyo is, sometimes it can seem difficult to find that traditional culture and architecture that many visitors are looking for. Most people opt for a bullet train to the Kansai area to explore Kyoto or Nara, which is not such a bad idea. However, for those looking to kill a day and explore some of the historical sites of the Tokyo (Kanto) area, a tour of Kamakura and Yokohama is a must.
Well, first of all, "What's a ryokan?" Well... That's an extremely difficult question to answer. In light of this fact, we at JAPANiCAN have thrown together this guide - Ryokan 101 - in order to offer information that should hopefully answer your questions. So, again, what's a ryokan? Well, try to imagine a top class restaurant that also offers comfortable accommodation, throw on top of this a building with exquisite architecture set against the backdrop of beautiful natural scenery which changes with the seasons, then we are beginning to get a picture of what the essence of a ryokan is. While, with a hotel, we pick a destination and then book a hotel nearby, with a ryokan, we pick a ryokan and that is the destination. We've written this guide and divided it into 5 different categories (and included a miscellaneous section and some useful links). If, once you've read the whole guide and there are still some questions left unanswered, please email us here and we will do our best to answer your questions. Let's begin...
The New Akan Hotel sits snugly next to Lake Akan in the Akan National Park. The lake itself is famous for its rare marimo balls of algae that form naturally here; in fact, this type of larvae is only found to form naturally in Japan, Estonia, Iceland and Scotland. The lake was formed some 6,000 years ago by volcanic activity, hence the rich sprinkling of hot spring resorts in the area. The waters of Akan have been popular since ancient times when they were frequented by Hokkaido's original inhabitants, the Ainu. The hot spring waters of Akan are said to be therapeutic for nerve pain and arthritis. The views in this area are astounding, a delicious blend of crystal lake and sharp, snow-covered mountain ranges - which goes a long way to explain why this area has been designated as a national park. In the photo above Mount Oakan can be seen in the background.
The Toya Sunpalace can be found on the banks of Lake Toya, a beautiful crystal-clear caldera lake - formed by the collapse of a volcano. The lake is some 10 kilometers in diameter, and hosts a number of onsen resorts on its shores. The Toya Sunpalace is a large, long-established hotel with 452 guest rooms, the majority of which proudly boast beautiful views of the lake.