If you are staying at a nice ryokan and it is your first time at a ryokan, this description of ryokan customs will give you a better idea of what to expect.
When you arrive at the ryokan, take off your shoes in the entrance (Genkan) and put on the slippers provided. Do not step out of your shoes and onto the genkan (entrance area) floor before putting on the slippers provided. The slippers are used for walking around inside the ryokan. Your shoes will be placed in the entrance when you want to go outside. If you want to take a short walk near the ryokan, you may also wear the ryokan’s sandals or Geta (wooden clogs) provided.
After you check in, follow your hostess to your room. When you get to your room, take off your slippers before you walk on the Tatami(straw mats). Walk on the tatami with your socks or your bare feet, not your slippers.
Your room may have a Tokonoma(an alcove built into the wall used for placing flower vases and hanging scrolls), a glass enclosed sitting area separated by a Shoji (sliding paper door), and several Zabuton(cushions) for sitting. Your hostess will show you where to place your luggage. If it rains at night, please be sure to close the outside glass window. Usually a maid will bring tea for you, and you can sit on the zabuton and relax and enjoy your tea.
During your stay, a Yukata(robe) is provided for you. You can wear the yukata in your room, around the ryokan, and if you like you can wear it when you take a short walk near the ryokan. If it is cold, a Tanzen(outer robe) will be provided. Wear the tanzen over the yukata.
Before dinner is a good time to take a bath. You may use the bath in your room or you may use the large public bath in the ryokan. When you arrive at the public bath, put all of your clothes into the baskets in the changing room. Take the small towel provided for you, and go into the bathing room. The large public bath you will see is only for soaking your body. Cleaning your body is done in the bathing area outside the public bath. There will be small plastic stools, soap, shampoo, and a mirror provided for the guests. When you have finished cleaning yourself and there is no soap left on your body, step into the public bath. If the public bath is unbearably hot, you can adjust the temperature a little by running a cold water into it.
In the evening, the maid will either serve your dinner in your room or you will eat in the dining room. When you have finished eating, the maid will clean your room and prepare theFuton(quilt bedding) for you to sleep on.
The front desk at a ryokan closes early. Be sure to confirm both the check-in and check-out times.