On our many travels, we have always found that staying in a Bed and Breakfast (or B&B) has always been much more comfortable, affordable, and family-friendly than staying in hotel.
Travel tip: Family-run guest houses tend to be kinder and more generous towards people travelling with young children (and more affordable too!).
In Japan, a B&B is called a ‘Ryokan’, and is a type of Japanese inn with a tradition of simple hospitality that dates back to the 15th century Edo period when such simple guest houses popped up along the busy Tokaido Highway, a stone-paved road which connected the capital city of Edo with the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
We were very fortunate to find the Family Inn Saiko, a very affordable ryokan located near the Ikebukuro region of Tokyo city, in a quiet suburb. When we arrived and I saw the stone owl plaque at the doorway, I knew we’d come to the right place!
On the first day that we arrived in Tokyo, we only managed to get to Family Inn Saiko at 10pm at night, and we were all exhausted. Fortunately, the ryokan stocked a variety of snacks and instant noodles, so we did not have to wander out to look for a restaurant. The owner’s mother (who insisted that we call her ‘Obasan’ – grandma), came out to greet us. When she saw how hungry the children were, she went to her room and made a plate of onigiri (rice balls) for them to eat!
The ryokan itself is clean, peaceful and the family that runs the inn are warm and hospitable hosts (they even allowed us the use of their washing machine!). It was such a joy to come back after a long day of traipsing about the city, to a hot shower and a fluffy, comfortable futon on woven tatami-mats.
All the rooms had a television and a great wi-fi connection, but we hardly spent any time in the rooms (unless we were sleeping) because after changing into the ryokan’s comfortable cotton yukata (japanese cotton robe) and zori slippers, we would lounge in the common room, drinking tea and chatting with Mr Yuki and Betty (the owners), as well as the other ryokan guests.
In the mornings, whilst we helped ourselves to a simple yet delicious continental breakfast, Nicholas and Kasumi (the sweet and knowledgeable receptionists) helped us to plan our trips for the day. They even procured some toys for the children to play with and gave us advice on local cultural events taking place in the vicinity.
On the last day of our visit in Tokyo, the family gave us little presents to commemorate our stay – some beautifully folded origami boxes containing little sweeties – and even gave us a lift to the train station!
However, the best part of my stay was having a kimono experience with Obasan! I’ll write a more detailed description of our experience in our next post, but until then, here’s a little teaser: