Welcome to Kimi Ryokan
When Kimi Ryokan opened its' doors in 1952 the original intention was to be a "Geshuku" a kind of Japanese college rooming house . However, it quickly became a ryokan and has stayed one ever since. At that time the only places to stay in Ikebukuro were Ryokan and it was extremely rare for any place to call itself a "hotel". Years later when urban renewal changed the face of Ikebukuro, all the ryokan except for the Kimi either disappeared or changed into Western style hotels.
In 1972, when I was in my early 20s, I found myself at the dock in Yokohama ,about to board a ship for Nakhodka in Russia, at the beginning of a trip around the world that would ultimately take me eight months . It was a terribly difficult journey for a poor student like me, who often could barely even afford enough money to eat. But it was precisely because I went on a journey like this , and what I went through, that I was able to bring back to Japan an experience of infinite value, and see things that I had never been able to see before.
At the time, foreigners were very rare in Japan, and to us Japanese, it was unthinkable that a foreigner would stay in a ryokan with tatami on the floors. But from this trip, I came back with the strongest possible feeling that it didn't matter a bit if your country, race or culture were different. If people tried they could understand one another. I felt "Hey! That Japanese guy. He did it! You can too!"
Maybe this is all obvious, but it's one thing to think it and another altogether to genuinely feel it. It was out of this feeling that the Kimi Ryokan came about, to be a place where all the people in the world who loved to travel could gather together.
Travel isn't just about what places you see. It's about the people you meet. This is the point of it, I think.
The lounge at the Kimi Ryokan is a natural place for travelers from around the world to congregate and meet. I hope to see you there soon too.
What is a Ryokan
A ryokan is a traditional Japanese Inn. One of the very oldest in Japan still standing dates from the middle of the 1500s . It is on the road to the Hoshi spa in Gumma Prefecture. The entire front of the building is carved in the form of waves, which in those day announced that the building was an Inn.
In ryokan, shoes are left in the entry way, the Genkan, like in a private house. You wear slippers in a ryokan. In a sense, you are entering a private house when you enter a Genkan, as the owner and his or her family usually live in there too, and share the building and day to day life with the guests. The atmosphere is relaxed , unhurried, and soothing . The rooms are all tatami matted, with shoji (sliding paper doors) and hall ways with smoothly polished wooden floors kept spotlessly clean . Guests often lounge around the common rooms wearing Yukata, which is somewhat like a kimono, but much more casual. Life is lived entirely on the floor, pretty much devoid of any furniture except for some cushions and futon to sleep in. The rooms, the pace of life, and the way of living is entirely Japanese.
For foreigners, staying at a ryokan is not merely a place to stay, but rather, an entry into an alternate way of life, that of traditional Japan. This is the way the Japanese lived before Japan opened to the West, and more and more it is slipping away with every passing year. At one time, ryokan were very common in Tokyo and other large cities. With the exception of Kyoto, they have almost entirely disappeared.
Ryokan can also still be found near onsen (hot spring spas) in the countryside that are a favorite place for Japanese to go and relax. Onsen and ryokan seem to go together as a long standing Japanese tradition .
The Kimi Ryokan is one of the few ryokan remaining in Tokyo. It is also perhaps the only one that has both modernized to offer guests all the facilities they would expect in a good value economy hotel, yet also maintained in its entirety the unique qualities that make a ryokan totally Japanese and part of the entire experience of realizing Japan.