Being immersed in culture is the new way of luxury travel. But speaking a different language can hinder exploring and understanding the true sense of a city.
That’s why ex-hotelier Hiroki Fukunaga, founder of The Ryokan Collection, is stepping up efforts to introduce omotenashi – the spirit of Japanese hospitality and service – to the foreign market. Previously, family-run ryokans catered mostly to locals.
This could change with the group’s latest Experience Programme that offers insider experiences like one-to-one meetings with local artists who would otherwise be hard to get hold of, and kaiseki meals served on hallowed temple grounds. A place that exemplifies this is Ryokan Kurashiki, a traditional inn nestled along the banks of a pretty willow-lined canal in Okayama, Japan. This particular ryokan under the group has only five bedrooms, compared to most ryokans that have at least 10, so the proprietress can devote more time to each guest.
Think a visit to Morita Shuzo sake brewery, which is usually closed to the public, personally accompanied by the landlady who will help in the introductions and translations. Arrangements can also be made for a private tour of the Ohara Museum of Art, Japan’s first museum of Western art, with the museum’s curator.