Serena Ogawa

Sawanoya Ryokan

Another home in Tokyo

Serena Ogawa
Serena Ogawa   - 6 min read

Welcome to the Ryokan Sawanoya. Located in Yanaka, near the Ueno area of Tokyo, this traditional Japanese inn offers guests a soothing stay at a rustically charming home. Celebrating more than 70 years in the service industry, Sawanoya Ryokan offers cozy living in a warm, comfortable space that is welcoming to all.

With a wooden exterior that would not be remiss in an old Japanese film, the interior of Sawanoya is just as comforting. Visitors can slip into luxurious futon beds in the tatami-mat rooms to feel a taste of authentic Japan or visit the private bathing space where you can soak in two different baths.

Rooms

Feeling like a rest during the day but not ready to stop for the night, Sawanoya also rents out rooms for a short stay during the daytime. Whether you’re traveling alone or with someone, you can borrow this Japanese space for telework, an afternoon of relaxation, or a taste of Japan along your travels.

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

When you rent a room during the day, you will also gain access to the hot springs with reservation—a great chance to rest. These day rooms are available from 9 am to 7 pm and allow guests to bring in their own food and drink while enjoying the free Wi-Fi.

Full-night stays are also available, of course.

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

Of course, if you aren’t in the mood for a Japanese-style stay, you can use the dining room in the hotel space. With a limited number of seats rented out, you can be sure that you won’t feel cramped or crowded by other visitors.

Baths

Unlike many ryokan inns, Sawanoya has two private baths that can be reserved by phone between 2 pm and 10 pm for a 45-minute bath period. Gaze out at the private garden space and let zen wash over your body and mind as you simmer in the hot waters.

There are two bathing options, one is a cypress bath that lends a woody smell to the air and the other is a bath made of pottery, perfect for warming up. Let the warm waters of either of these baths soothe your aches and worries away. As these are not communal baths, you can have peace of mind and more comfort than at a large bathhouse. It’s the perfect stop if you’re a little bit on the shy side.

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

A word from the owner

Born in 1937, Isao Sawa is the second generation of Sawas to run this ryokan. Aided by his family members, they all work together to run the ryokan smoothly and for the sake of visitors. Sawanoya is unique in the fact that it allowed guests from abroad to stay at their ryokan long before the surrounding area adapted. Sawa also happily welcomes guests of the LGBT+ community.

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

This twelve-room inn is a deeply personal and family-owned business venture to the Sawa family who prides themselves on their roots in the area and longstanding ryokan. The Sawa family even keeps a diary of visitors, of which 30% are repeat guests. They believe that people visiting their inn can gain a real sense of Japanese hospitality and family living.

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

Stamp rally

Sawanoya Ryokan is currently conducting a stamp rally campaign. Guests can obtain a stamp booklet (tenugui) and collect stamps from other eligible inns. After gathering six stamps on your card (tenugui), show this to the hotel concierge for a free gift. The stamp rally and gifts vary by hotel and season and may not always be available.

(Photo: Mark Oxley Photography)

Serena Ogawa

Serena Ogawa @serena.ogawa

Travel Editor for Japan Travel by day, novel-writing cat lady by night.