There are many different types of accommodations in Japan,from cheap youth hostels or reasonable price business hotels to fancy grand hotels.
"Minshuku (guest house)" and "ryokan (Japanese style hotel)", compared to hotels, usually have cozier atmosphere. They are Japanese style lodgings with a more quiet impression. They are best for those who want to learn more about Japanese customs. For small, family-owned "minshuku" and a little bigger Japanese style "ryokan," the basic user guides are as follows.
"Minshuku" and "Ryokan"
The Minshuku is the smallest scale lodging in Japan. Most of them are family operated and has only few staffs. Since fishermen and farmers began to run it as a side job, many of minshukus are in areas surrounded by nature. Simple, economical,kindhearted services attracts many foreign tourists to repeatedly to stay.
There is also Western style looking minshukus that are usually built near ski resort. This kind of lodging is called "pension", whose target is the skiboard playing guests.
Ryokan indicates Japanese style accommodations as a whole. Therefore, there are various scales of ryokan, from small ones to big ones that looks like grand hotels. Please keep in mind that the price can vary depending on the scale and services of each ryokan.
Ryokan provides various kind of services like hotels. You can enjoy fully hospitality unique to ryokan, including rooms, hot spring, yukata (informal cotton kimono) and futon all in Japanese style, as well as meals in a private room.
During a walk on the Nakasendo Trail, Kumano Kodo Trail or some other Japanese rural pilgrimage trails you will stay overnight in either Minshuku or Ryokan. Both types of accommodation are similar in that the emphasis is on a very personalised service and delicious food. The rooms will be simply furnished with Tatami (straw mat) floors and you will sleep on a futon on the floor which is surprisingly extremely comfortable! The main differences between a Minshuku and a Ryokan are as follows;
Ryokan can be in modern or old buildings whereas Minshuku tend to be in older buildings
Minshuku tend to be slightly smaller and run by a local family
The rooms in a Minshuku are slightly more basic and the service is less formal. The service in a Ryokan tends to be closer to that of a small hotel
In a Minshuku you will lay out your own futon for sleeping on and in Ryokan the staff tend to lay it out for you