Sumary of Behind every good Japanese inn is an ‘okami-san’:
- TOKYO — Akemi Nishimura enters the library of Hiiragiya, one of Japan’s iconic ryokans, or traditional Japanese inns, with a reserved bow to her guest.
- She glides the translucent shoji door closed and sits smoothing an elegant kimono as an assistant serves us tea.
- The Guinness Book of Records lists ryokans as the oldest form of hotel in the world, with more than 43,000 currently operating in Japan.
- At a time when Japan is grappling with a lack of female executives, the okami-san — or “female boss” — at traditional ryokans is an enigma.
- “The first ryokans began as a way for Buddhist monks to communicate philosophy while offering hospitality to travelers,” says Nishimura, a sixth-generation okami-san and an “ambassador” for the Kyoto Tourist Board.
- When people began traveling for commerce, ryokans filled the need for lodging.
- “Nishimura smiles, adding, “Most ryokans were established by men, but they didn’t know how to take care of visitors.
- The female proprietor of the ryokan became known as the okami-san.