Booking a room at the ryokan
(CNN) -- Making lodging arrangements for a trip to Japan can be daunting since most international tourists can neither speak nor read Japanese.
Yet the Internet, e-mail and a fax machine can help skirt the language barrier.
Some ryokan have Web sites with electronic forms and e-mail addresses for reservation requests.
An e-mail message or fax that provides contact information for the guest and a clear list of requirements, including dates, the number of people and the type of room, is much easier to process than a phone call from abroad in the middle of the night. (Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast.)
The International Tourism Center of Japan operates Welcome Inn Reservation Assistance, a free service specializing in accommodations that are affordable and welcoming to foreign guests. Ryokan, family run inns, and Western-style pensions and business hotels are available.
Japanese Guest Houses offers a free reservation service conducted through e-mail and secure Internet forms. Listed ryokan prices range from 7,000 to more than 70,000 yen per guest, or from $65 to $655.
Ryokan rates often include dinner and breakfast, and are quoted per person, per night.
At Fukuzumiro, rates with food range from about 16,000 to 22,000 yen per person, per night, or about $150 to $205.
At Ryokan Hiiragiya in Kyoto, average room rates with food range from 30,000 to 60,000 yen per person, or $280 to $560.
It's possible to spend more than $1,000 per person, per night at some of the most luxurious inns.
Luxury Ryokan Collection, in conjunction with TravelOptions group, offers clients added services at some of Japan's most exclusive inns. Reservations are available through LRC's Web site.
For travelers with fewer yen in their wallets, budget options are available.
For about 4,000 yen per person, or $38, guests can enjoy a tatami room at Kyoto's Ryokan Yuhara with a view of the charming Takasegawa canal. Bathrooms are down the hall, and the innkeepers will gladly arrange for a private bath in the inn's communal tub.
Yuhara does not serve meals or provide the kind of elegance some of the more expensive inns offer, but it gives tourists a taste of traditional culture for a fraction of the price.
In Tokyo's Asakusa neighborhood, Ryokan Shigetsu provides a mix of modern and traditional elements for about $70 per person, per night. Meals are not included in the price, but they are available in the ryokan's restaurant. Western and traditional Japanese rooms are available, and communal baths with views of the famous Senso-ji Temple are a nice alternative to the capsule bathrooms in the rooms.
English-speakers are an exception in most ryokan, but the rooms usually contain reading material in English explaining the inn's history and general ryokan customs. Gracious service is the norm in Japan.