A big part of the draw for me with Shikoku was the accommodation. Besides the appeal of a warm bed every night, I had no desire to add a tent, backpack, and sleeping pad to my pack. So what were my accommodations like?
I stayed in five different places: a guesthouse, a ryokan, a minshuku, a sort-of hotel, a hotel-like ryokan, and then back to the guesthouse.
Except for the guesthouse, all the places I stayed came with both breakfast and dinner. Meals were always served at a set time in a common dining room, sometimes on the floor on a tatami mat, other times at a western-style dining table. Dinner was always some combination of fish, rice, miso soup, and other small side dishes. Breakfast was always some combination of … fish, rice, miso soup, and other small side dishes.
The rooms always came with a clean cotton yukata (robe) and sash. Everyone wore the yukata to dinner, and sometimes to breakfast. The inns always came with slippers, too (and I could write a separate post about Japanese slipper rules, although I’m sure there many out there that have already been written).
Bathrooms were either in the room or down the hall. Newer construction seemed to have little prefab bathrooms (with a tiny shower) in the room. Older buildings had the bathrooms down the hall.
Every place I stayed also had a traditional Japanese bathing room, with sitting showers and a large hot tub. These were often in a lower level or basement. Japanese bathing etiquette would also require its own post.
Sleeping is usually done on the floor, on a futon. Usually the bedding is folded upon arrival, and you unfold it when you’re ready to sleep. Other times, though, I had a western-style bed/mattress.
The rooms also always had some kind of hot water kettle and green tea.
Here’s a rundown of the different places I stayed, to give you an idea of what you can expect.
I started and finished my trip at Sen Guesthouse. I can’t say enough about how lovely and helpful they were. Matt booked my other accommodations for me, answered lots of worried questions, and gave me a “pilgrim class” before I departed. The guesthouse itself has a variety of rooms: private rooms of various sizes, a mixed dorm, and a female dorm. The rooms have a sink; bath and toilet are down the hall.
This was definitely the nicest place I stayed on the pilgrimage. I’ve used this word a few times without defining it, so: a ryokan is Japanese-style accommodation. Under the ryokan umbrella, there’s a whole range of styles and luxury levels. Some are very serene and spa-like. Others are more like modern hotels. Most of them seem independently run.
This one was quite beautiful, and the meals were unbelievable (though unfortunately the place smelled moderately of sewer gas, I guess because no s-traps). I was the only guest staying here, I think because the location isn’t quite right considering the distances that most pilgrims walk in a day. In fact, the woman who made my dinner went home for the night, and left me her phone number in case of emergency, so I was truly alone in the place overnight.
While technically listed as a ryokan, I’m going to call this place a minshuku. A minshuku is like a ryokan, only often smaller, more family-run, more basic. A ryokan is closer to a hotel in terms of service and formality, whereas a minshuku is closer to a homestay.
I didn’t take too many photos here, but here are a couple. The decor was pretty … interesting. I can’t explain the ceramic St. Bernard statue (which was maybe three feet tall).
The Sort-of Hotel
I don’t mean “sort-of” in any negative way. It’s just that this place had some aspects of a hotel, but other things that made it more … hostel-like? It was definitely the cheapest place I stayed. The room was small but had everything I needed, and had a western-style bed. Dinner here was particularly delicious, and the staff quite kind and friendly. They served beer, and there’s some grocery stores very nearby.
The Hotel-like Ryokan
I mean, this place was definitely a ryokan. But because it was built more recently, more in the style of a hotel.
After this, I headed back to Sen for my last night on the island.
All-in-all, I wouldn’t call the accommodations “fancy” or anything. Sometimes I felt like the rooms could have used a good deep cleaning, though other times everything was perfectly spotless.
Beware that walls are often very thin, which means you can hear everything going on in the next room (though everybody quieted down between 9 and 10 p.m.); I’d highly suggest bringing along a pair of earplugs just in case. Prices ranged from about $45-$85, which considering it includes two meals, seems like a great value.