One of my greatest hopes with Amayori is that it will pique your interest and inspire travel to Japan. Should you ever make the journey, I highly suggest spending at least part of your trip at a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn).
The hospitality at these establishments is unlike anything else. From the second you arrive, it’s as if your every desire is anticipated and cared for before it even crosses your mind. Below are a few of the subtle, small touches that all contribute to a harmonious stay. I love to incorporate these into my home, especially during the holiday season.
Seasonal Flowers and/or Art: Most ryokan rooms, and Japanese homes for that matter, have a special outlet called a tokonoma. Seasonal flowers are placed within these outlets, and/or a seasonal hanging scroll that may feature art or poetry. Viewing the contents of a tokonoma celebrates the current season, and is relaxing and perhaps even thought-provoking. This same effect can be achieved in your home by creating a special area that is simple and relaxing. Try seasonal fresh flowers. Keeping it simple allows room for thought and imagination.
Slippers, Seasonal Fans, etc.: When entering your room at a ryokan, shoes are removed just as if you were entering a Japanese home. Most will have a few pairs of “indoor slippers” for guests to put on if they'd like. If there is outdoor space such as a veranda, outdoor slippers are positioned by the entrance. Also, in summer, you may find a basket of uchiwa - a type of fan used for cooling yourself at home.
These small details can differ due to seasons and social customs, but again, this is all about anticipating your guests’ needs. Perhaps have a few beautiful warm shawls or wraps available during fall and winter. Fans in summer are perfect, as is a bottle of rose water or other face mist to refresh during a warm day.
Tea or Another Seasonal Beverage: Years ago I had stumbled into a Japanese antique store in Connecticut. It had just begun snowing and was a cold, bleak day. I had no intention of buying anything and made it clear that I was just browsing upon being greeted by the owner. Eventually she asked me if I would like some tea. I was freezing and happily accepted her offer. She had a beautiful cast iron tea set and brewed my tea from scratch. I felt so guilty that she had to go through this lengthy process, but she seemed to enjoy every second of it. In fact, she even taught me how to brew green tea correctly. It has been almost ten years, but I have not forgotten the warmth I felt that day. Nor have I forgotten the valuable lesson that a cup of tea will warm the soul, especially when it is prepared and presented beautifully.
When staying at a ryokan, green tea or matcha are always offered, often with local sweets. I suggest investing in a beautiful tea set. It doesn't have to be elaborate, just something that will take your guests out of their day-to-day and make them feel special
Fragrance: One of my most distinct scent memories of Japan is the smell of tatami. Tatami mats are used as floor coverings in traditional Japanese rooms. They are usually made of rice straw and have a beautiful, subtle smell that is deep-rooted in Japan. Whenever I happen to come across a tatami room, I breathe in deeply and take a moment to savor the memories the scent brings about.
People love being greeted by beautiful, uplifting fragrance. Try diffusing The Home Essence near your entranceway or living room. This is a special treat that will help your guests feel more relaxed. When combined with all of the above, their time in your home will go from a friendly visit to an experience that soothes their soul.