A Traditional Japanese Experience: Sleeping in a Ryokan in Sendai

There was one thing in particular on my Sendai itinerary that people oohed & aahed about when I mentioned it – sleeping at the very traditional Hotel Sakan, a Japanese ryokan.

“Oh my God, I’ve always wanted to stay there!”

“You’re going to just love the traditional rooms.”

“Don’t forget to bath in all of the onsen.”

These were just a few of the comments I heard, which got me pretty excited to take the hour and a half ride from Tokyo on Japan’s Shinkansen (the bullet train) to the city of Sendai.

What is a Ryokan?

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn where the floors are typically tatami mats and the rooms are separated with sliding shōji doors.Hotel Sakan is a small ryokan that began about 1,000 years ago by Kanzaburo Satoh. The family has carried on the Sakan tradition for 34 generations…and counting.

The front of Hotel Sakan in Sendai Japan

It was not what I expected from an old ryokan, it was so much more luxurious.

The Room

When I opened the door to my room at the Hotel Sakan, I may have let out a squeal. For one night I would be enjoying this traditional ryokan, and its onsen that was over 1,000 years old!

A short table sat in the middle of the main room which was perfect for my morning cup of green tea. I would have never left my room if they didn’t have delicious dining and four onsen on premise, giving me a chance to relax in communal baths that are supplied by natural hot springs.


Before soaking in the onsen, there was an evening meal scheduled. Dinner was not served at their on-premise restaurant, but rather in a private room set for just the three of us.

Course after course was delivered to the table until almost every inch was filled with a rainbow of deliciousness.

Definitely worth leaving my room for.

The Onsen

An onsen is a public bath house that is fed by a Japanese hot spring, and Hotel Sakan has one of the best.

Not knowing proper etiquette, I asked our host for the rules before entering the onsen, because I knew there was a high probability that nothing would be written in English (I was right!). Even so it was still a little confusing, so my plan was to just follow what everyone else was doing. Unfortunately, when I arrived there was only one other woman there and she wasn’t doing much. So I just creepily waited, pretending to need to use the sink to wash my hands and getting tiny cups of water to drink.

As others arrived, I was the ultimate copy cat.

I did as they did – got undressed, completely naked, and put all my belongings into a basket, laying my towel on top.


I follow a woman into the bath facilities and saw a set of showers all in a row. Except they weren’t like Western tall ones, they were short with a tiny stool to sit on. There were about 10 stalls aligned along the wall and bare ladies sat facing that wall using a hose to spray down their bodies. I sat on my teeny stool and turned on the water to wash my entire body with the array of products they provided.

When I thought I was done and ready to leave, none of the other ladies had left their stall yet. They must have been getting extra clean! So I rewashed again and again until the first lady exited the shower. This may have been the cleanest I had ever been in my life.


In this particular bath there were three pools. two indoors and one small open air. The women soaked in one for a short time, then moved on to the next. Of course, I did the same.

After the initial shock of being naked wore off, the baths were warm and peaceful – a time to reflect on the incredible Japanese Adventures that were experienced in the past week.

After my fingers were pruned, I gathered my things and headed back to my room. I laid down on the tatami mat floor and wondered how the Japanese could do without a memory foam mattress! I think I need to show the hotel receptionist reviews of the best memory foam mattresses on the market and see if that can be passed to Management or Interior Design, haha.

One onsen at Hotel Sakan in Sendai, Japanbooking.com

Hotel Sakan | 28 Yakushi Yumoto Akiumachi Taihaku-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture | Booking & Pricing | MAP

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11 thoughts on “A Traditional Japanese Experience: Sleeping in a Ryokan in Sendai”

  1. That looks amazing! It’s funny how you go-with-the-flow when traveling and have no issues with getting naked at an Onsen. So cool.

  2. Hello Annette,

    Just recently started following your blog! Its very inspiring. Just wondering what theme/template are you using for your website, and where did you get it? Thanks!

  3. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan! This looks an amazing experience Annette – the Ryokan’s look so natural and minimal. How would you describe their culture after having such an authentic stay?

    • Japan has a fascinating and multifaceted culture. That’s why I love to travel there, it is so different than any other I have experienced. From removing shoes upon entering a room to sleeping on tatami mats to bathing at an onsen. There’s nothing like it!

  4. Thanks for the pictures! And hey, my wife is excited about the Ryokan experience. She said she’d probably do what you did – be an ultimate copy cat LOL. We’re travelling business class using our accumulated points via Japan airlines, how cool is that?

  5. We stayed at a ryokan just outside Kyoto and had the same lovely experience as you do, especially the kaiseki-ryori dinner! I was just too chicken to dip in the onsen because the water was too hot to my liking.

  6. This looks like an awesome experience (and I’ve just added Sendai to my bucket list for when I next visit Japan). Fabulous images also.

    I remember getting naked in public for the first time at an onsen in Tokyo. As a reserved Brit, this felt slightly weird at first but I was surprised how normal it became after a short time!


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I'm Annette.

I’m a goal obsessed mid-lifer, traveler, experience collector, fear crusher, digital marketer and author with big bucket list dreams. Let's Connect!

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