Why do Japanese hotels give you pajamas?

Pajamas are a common amenity provided to overnight guests at traditional Japanese inns and hotels. The lightweight, comfortable sleepwear has become something of a cultural institution and a unique part of the Japanese lodging experience. But why do Japanese hotels give guests pajamas in the first place?

The custom dates back centuries and is rooted in Japanese traditions of hospitality, etiquette, and communal bathing. Over time, it has become standard practice for many accommodations in Japan to supply pajamas to provide guests with appropriate attire for wearing after bathing and during leisure time at the hotel. While the origins and reasons may be deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and customs, the pajamas also deliver functional benefits that travelers have come to appreciate.

In this article, we’ll explore the history and cultural background behind the pajama tradition at Japanese hotels. We’ll also look at some of the more practical motives and advantages of providing sleepwear to overnight visitors. Understanding the story behind the pajamas can help enrichment travelers’ experiences and appreciation of this iconic part of staying at traditional accommodations in Japan.

The History and Culture Behind Hotel Pajamas in Japan

The tradition of supplying pajamas at Japanese inns and hotels goes back to the early days of these lodgings in the 17th century. At that time, many travelers stayed at ryokan, which were traditional Japanese inns. Ryokan provided not only overnight accommodations but also served as community bathhouses.

It was standard practice for guests at a ryokan to be offered a yukata robe to wear. The lightweight garment served as a way to cover and protect the body while moving between guest rooms, dining areas, and the shared baths. Wearing the yukata allowed for proper modesty and etiquette.

Over time, the concept extended to offering separate sleepwear for nighttime as well. Since most ryokan guests were sharing bedrooms with only thin dividing screens, pajamas helped increase privacy and comfort overnight.

Providing sleepwear and loungewear for guests also falls in line with the Japanese value of omotenashi, or hospitality and attentive service. Omotenashi calls for anticipating visitors’ needs and providing various small concessions as a sign of respect and welcome.

As ryokan evolved into more modern hotels, the custom of giving pajamas remained ingrained. It was an expected part of the experience, helping create a sense of luxury, community, and cultural immersion.

Today, even Western-style hotels in Japan typically offer pajamas for overnight guests. Major international chains have adopted the practice to align with local custom. The pajamas represent a part of Japanese history and culture that both nationals and foreign tourists have come to enjoy.

The Practical Reasons and Benefits of Hotel Pajamas

While cultural background gives important context, there are also a number of practical motives and benefits to hotels providing pajamas in Japan:

Comfort and Relaxation

The lightweight, breathable pajamas allow guests to relax and unwind after a long day of travel or activities. Having comfortable sleep attire contributes to a pleasant stay.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Since pajamas are laundered after each guest, they are fresh and hygienic. Guests don’t have to worry about bringing their own sleepwear or using bedding that might be unclean.


Business travelers and tourists don’t need to pack pajamas in their luggage. The supplied sleepwear reduces what guests have to bring from home.

In-House Mobility

Pajamas allow guests to move about the hotel, such as to and from on-site hot spring baths or saunas, while remaining properly dressed.

Communal Experience

Seeing other guests also wearing pajamas creates a sense of community and inclusive atmosphere.

Branding and Promotion

The pajamas act like branded merchandise and help promote the hotel’s services and hospitality.

Climate Appropriate

The breathable cotton or linen fabric of the sleepwear keeps guests comfortable year-round in Japan’s variable climate of humid summers and dry winters.

Cultural Immersion

Wearing the pajamas allows foreign tourists to better experience a small part of Japanese culture and traditions.

So in addition to historical and cultural roots, providing pajamas offers guests many benefits that enhance both comfort and convenience during their stay. The amenities have become an expected part of hotel service quality in Japan.

Common Features and Designs

While pajamas come in many varieties, traditional Japanese hotel sleepwear does share some common characteristics:

– Lightweight fabric – Usually 100% cotton or linen that feels cool against the skin.

– Loose, simple cuts – Typically a basic button-up top and loose pants. Some have a simple robe style.

– Subdued colors – Often white, gray, or navy blue. Never bold patterns.

– Breathable and absorbent – Allows airflow and drying after bathing.

– Long sleeves and pants – For modest coverage.

– Branding accents – May feature a small logo or hotel name embroidered on the chest or sleeve.

The pajama designs focus on comfort and functionality rather than fashion. High quality, laundered fabric and a basic cut make them well-suited for resting and lounging.

The Pajama Ritual Process

One appealing factor of staying at a traditional ryokan or onsen resort is taking part in the full pajama experience:

Yukata robe – After checking in, guests change into this light cotton kimono-style robe when leaving their room to dine or bathe onsite.

Bathing – Guests put on a towel or a modest bathing suit when soaking in communal hot spring baths or using private hotel bathing facilities.

Pajamas – After bathing, guests change into fresh, clean sleepwear to pad back to their rooms and relax.

Bedtime – When settling in for bed, guests may opt to continue wearing the pajamas for sleep. The fresh pajamas help create a soothing bedtime routine.

For many travelers, being able to take part in this full cultural process is a major appeal of staying at a ryokan or onsen with traditional inclusion of pajamas. It allows an immersive, authentic experience.

Types of Accommodations That Offer Pajamas

While almost any hotel may offer pajamas, a few lodging types in Japan are especially known for providing sleepwear:

Ryokan – Traditional Japanese inns offer yukata robes and sleeping pajamas for all guests as part of their historic hospitality.

Onsen Hotels – Accommodations built around therapeutic hot springs always provide sleepwear to wear while bathing and relaxing.

Luxury Hotels – Upscale establishments, like 5-star Western brands, include pajamas as part of their amenities and services.

Capsule Hotels – Even these efficient budget hotels give guests pajamas to change into for sleeping in their pods.

Business Hotels – Road warriors can expect light pajamas instead of having to unpack their own sleepwear.

So pajamas can be expected regardless of hotel type or price point as part of Japanese standards.

Are Pajamas Offered at Every Hotel in Japan?

While incredibly common, not 100% of hotels in Japan offer pajamas. A few exceptions include:

– Western-style Budget Hotels – Some very inexpensive hotels catering to backpackers may not provide pajamas.

– City Center Business Hotels – Pajamas are sometimes not included at no-frills corporate hotels in urban areas.

– Short Stay Apartments – Apartment rentals with kitchens may only offer basic amenities and linens.

– Airbnbs and Vacation Rentals – Private home and condo rentals aren’t equipped like hotels.

– International Brand Budget Chains – Low-end Western hotels often don’t supply pajamas.

So it’s not an absolute guarantee, but the vast majority of hotel types do provide sleepwear. For traditional Japanese accommodations, travelers can count on receiving pajamas to experience this cultural signature.

What to Wear Under Hotel Pajamas

For guest etiquette, it’s recommended to wear undergarments beneath pajamas when lounging in public hotel areas. For sleeping, it varies by personal preference:

– Women – Can wear a camisole + underwear or light sleep bra + underwear.

– Men – Can wear underwear or boxer shorts + undershirt.

Proper underwear helps absorb sweat and keep the pajamas fresh for next use. Going commando is not recommended for hygienic reasons.

When bathing, guests bring their undergarments to change into beneath pajamas post-bath. It’s best to bathe fully nude and not in underwear.

Do You Have to Wear the Hotel Pajamas?

While encouraged, guests are not strictly required to wear the provided pajamas. However, there are good reasons to utilize them:

– Part of Experience – It allows full cultural immersion.

– Local Custom – Helps respect traditions and practices.

– Freshly Laundered – More hygienic than bringing own clothes.

– Relaxing – Designed for comfort and leisure.

But ultimately it’s up to each guest. Those who prefer may lounge or sleep in their own attire. But the amenities are there to enjoy an authentic Japanese inn stay.

Can You Take the Pajamas Home?

Policies differ by property, but often guests are welcomed to take home their sleeping pajamas as a souvenir after a 1-2 night stay. For longer stays, taking home pajamas is less common.

Some hotel practices include:

– Allowing guests to purchase a fresh set of unused pajamas.

– Offering a laundered set from longer stay guests’ used pajamas.

– Giving a new pair as a parting gift.

This keeps valuable keepsakes available for future guests. But many hotels are happy to send first-time visitors back with PJs as a unique memento.

The Future of Hotel Pajamas in Japan

While deeply ingrained in lodging culture, some modern establishments are starting to move away from pajamas, driven by factors like:

– Declining frequency of Japanese-style bathing among younger generations

– Preference for Western bedding in luxury hotels

– Lack of demand at urban business hotels

– Low supply chain and environmental sustainability

But even as amenities evolve, it’s likely the classic pajama will remain a cultural fixture. Their nostalgic charm continues appealing to both Japanese and foreign travelers seeking an authentic experience rooted in omotenashi hospitality.

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