Japan offers a wide range of accommodations and the risk of feeling overwhelmed can be high.
From western hotels to traditional ryokan, you are able to choose among many types of accommodations with a wide range of prices. It’s better to be prepared and learn about all the accommodation types you can try in Japan.
If you are on a budget, finding the cheapest Japan accommodation will be a priority, but it’s highly recommended to spend a bit extra and try sleeping on a futon in a tatami mat room at least once.
Many famous hotel chains have branches all across Japan and the standard is more or less the same as everywhere else, including price increases during high season.
Western-style hotels can be found quite easily, but the most common type of accommodation with western-style rooms are business hotels. Rooms in business hotels are small, clean, usually equipped with WiFi and are well equipped with everything you might need: towels, soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, etc. They always have a private bathroom, desk, fridge, and an electric kettle since it is geared towards Japanese businessmen who travel frequently and usually don’t require more than one night’s accomodation. That’s also why this type of accommodation is usually located near train stations.
Similar to everywhere else in the world, you can also find hostels and guesthouses for a cheap price in Japan. Japanese hostels are on average less vibrant and travelers aren’t as social compared to other parts of the world. Elderly Japanese travelers use them sometimes. Overall, Japanese hostels are always clean, well-staffed, and quiet. Many guesthouses and hostels in Japan offer private rooms with shared bathrooms; if you are not comfortable sleeping in the same room with stangers, you can consider this type of accommodation.
Capsule hotels are aimed at businessmen who missed the last train home. The original capsule hotels feature rows of small capsules stacked on top of each other in twos. Think of the movie The 5th Element, each has a small opening that allows you to crawl into your bed that you can close by pulling a blind down. Inside TV or radio, light, alarm, air conditioning, and a plug-in point. Most also have a small lockable shelf where you can keep your phone and a small purse or wallet.
Bathrooms are shared and luggage is stored in lockers. Most capsule hotels are only men or only women; when they accept booths, floors are separate and is needed a code to unlock the door. There are also all the amenities you may need like pajamas, toothbrushes, razors and soap.
Sometimes called Manga Kissa, internet Cafes are full of entertainment and usually open 24 hours. They offer free use of internet, huge selection of mangas/computer games, Karaoke, ping-pong, free soft drinks, etc. Also, there are sofas/seats on which you can rest and sleep.
The price for overnight is usually super cheap, but basically you’ll sleep in the armchair, not in a bed. This type of accommodation is usually quiet, but generally, smoking is allowed so it could be troublesome if you don’t like the smell. A number of internet cafes have a “long stay” option, where you can go in and out of the internet cafe freely if you pay a set amount per week or month. Shower rooms and lockers are available.
As you can guess from the name – Love hotels are aimed at Japanese couples looking for some privacy. They are common in big cities and aren’t as sleazy as you’d expect. Often the quality of the rooms is excellent and a lot of amenities are included, other than bigger rooms. Often the price for overnight is even cheaper than standard hotels and you can enjoy the fun room themes!
You can recognize Love Hotels by their garish décor and signs outside giving prices for Rest (a few hours) or Stay (overnight, usually from 9 or 10 pm).
The unmissable type of accommodation in Japan. Ryokan are traditional Japanese style inn with tatami room and futon. Most ryokans have food (dinner and breakfast) included in the price. Both, or at least the dinner, are served in your room, are elaborate and should be considered a form of art. Local, seasonal produce shines on the menu.
Usually, onsen baths are available and some rooms have a smaller private onsen tub.
The service, which generally in Japan is of the highest standards, is also outstanding. The English speaking staff may be very limited in the more remote locations but google translate exists for occasions like this.
A minshuku is a more basic, family-run version of a ryokan. They are smaller with a homely atmosphere and meals are served in dining rooms.
It’s possible for tourists to spend the night at some Buddhist temple lodgings (shokubo). A stay often includes two vegetarian meals and the opportunity to join the morning prayers. The experience is quite expensive but absolutely worth it. This type of accommodation is not so common, but in nearby Tokyo, you can stay overnight in a shokubo on Mount Misen or in some temples in the countryside of Saitama.
Staff may only have limited English skills but their hospitality is on point regardless. Another thing to consider is that most temples only offer a stay in a shared dorm and only a few actually offer accommodation for families.
The night buses are an efficient way to combine a transfer with sleep, which allows you to save money too! Many types of night buses are available with comfortable seats or private compartments but you still need to consider the narrow sitting space and noise. It’s also strongly advised to double-check the departure and arrival times and get to the pick-up area early since sometimes it is difficult to find where the bus is parked. Often at arrival stations, there is a lounge with restrooms with beauty products and free coffee and snacks.