Hall way in a typical capsule hotel
Japan is an amazing place to go on holiday, working holiday or expat. It has beautiful scenery, great food, unique architecture and a wealth of cultural tradition. The only question is, where do you stay when you go? Fortunately, Japan has a lot of different short-term holiday accommodation options, from compact but cheap capsule hotels to traditional ryokans for a taste of authentic Japanese culture. So whether you are heading to Japan for a holiday, working holiday or to become an expat you will need somewhere to stay when you first arrive. And this post covers holiday accommodation in Japan so you have somewhere to lay your head when you arrive and as you travel around the country.
Please note: All pricing is in Yen ￥.
Capsule Hotels Cover All Your Basic Needs
Have you ever thought having an entire hotel room to yourself is a waste? If you’re a solo traveler who spends all your time doing things out and about, you may feel that the typical accommodations offered by a hotel are excessive. For this, capsule pod hotels are perfect since they offer all the essentials: a bed, a place to charge your phone, and a (shared) toilet and shower.
With cheap prices ranging from as little as ￥2,430 per night and being located near popular tourist destinations, capsule hotels are ideal for a budget-minded traveler. A capsule hotel is for a traveller who wants to focus on travel experiences, not just where to sleep every night.
Some of the downsides include having very little private space and the lack of soundproofing. Light sleepers, beware! You also need to keep your luggage in a locker since there isn’t enough room in the capsule pod. This can be a pain if you forget something in the middle of the night.
Hostels are a Safe Bet for Backpackers and the Budget-Savvy Traveller
If you think you might get claustrophobic in a capsule pod, hostels are another budget-friendly option. There are hostels located all over Japan ranging from ￥2,500 to ￥4,500 per night. In most cases, you stay in a bunk bed with a shared bathroom. Though some might offer a full bed or a futon (布団, a Japanese-style quilted mattress) that rests on a tatami floor (tatami 畳 being thick straw mats in place of wooden floors).
The low cost of staying at a hostel is obviously its main appeal. Some even have a shared kitchen that you can use to keep costs even lower (though of course, you’ll have to purchase your own food!). In addition, if connecting with other people is an important part of the travel experience for you, there’s one other plus:. An opportunity to converse with fellow boarders and travellers you’d have never met otherwise.
The downside is that amenities are very few. You will need to be sure to have your own soap and shampoo and, often at times, towels as well. Something else to note is that many Japanese hostels have curfews and lock-out periods. For example, not being able to stay at or get into the hostel during the afternoon. So you may have to adjust your travel plans around that. If you want to book a bed in a hostel check out Hostel World for pricing and availability.
Some hotels will provide great views over Tokyo
Western-Style Hotel on your Japanese Holiday
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the standard option, and hotels offer both privacy and a little bit of luxury most people crave while on vacation. Most hotels in Japan are very westernised and offer a wealth of amenities. These include wi-fi, towels, a blow dryer, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, and sometimes even an electric kettle for boiling water. You might even get a view. I had a view of a Main Street from my hotel window in the Mitsui Garden Hotel. I watched the Japanese people scurry to and from wherever they were going. Also, across the road was an office block and I could see many Japanese sitting at their desks – some worked quite late into the night!
There is obviously a wide range of choices. From cheap 1- to 3-star business hotels to luxurious 5-star hotels that have it all and then some. Cheaper hotels sell rooms for as little as ￥5,000 per night, but most 3- and 4-star options are around the ￥7,000-￥10,000 range.
Mingle with the Locals at Pensions and Minshuku
Minshuku (民宿) are the Japanese version of bed & breakfasts. Small, family-run places that typically offer only a few Japanese-style guest rooms. They can be found mostly in rural areas and give boarders a chance to eat home-style Japanese cooking, something that’s not easy to find in most restaurants. It’s not super fancy or extravagant, but it can give you a chance to talk to locals and see, for a moment, what everyday Japanese life is like. Pensions are basically the same as minshuku, but with Western-style rooms.
Prices are usually around ￥7,000-￥10,000 per night. Just note, that in the countryside, having a little bit of Japanese-speaking ability goes a long way. Even if your Japanese isn’t very good, the locals are very appreciative of any effort you put in.
Stay in a Japanese-Style Inn for a Unique Cultural Experience
Discover a Ryokan
If you want to experience accommodations the Japanese way, look no further than a Japanese-style inn, called a ryokan (旅館). Like hotels, ryokans offer a variety of different amenities, but there are a few big differences. First, you’ll be expected to take off your shoes upon entering and store them in a shoe rack or locker. Second, in many ryokans, toilets and bathing areas are both shared, and there may even be a public bath called an onsen (温泉 in Japanese). Third, the only rooms available are traditional Japanese tatami rooms where you’ll sleep on a futon.
The best thing about ryokans is that they offer a unique experience you can’t find in any other country. And what is travel for if not to experience new things? Most also offer both breakfast and dinner and is a great way to sample the local cuisine without feeling rushed about your day.
However, ryokans can be a bit intimidating due to their strict requirements (no shoes indoors, no swimsuits in the bathing area, etc.). Pricing also ranges from ￥9,000-￥15,000 per night. If you have any back issues that won’t take well to sleeping on the ground, staying in a ryokan might not be the best option.
Temples and Rentals and Other Unique Japanese Holiday Accommodation
There are a few other types of short-term accommodations available in Japan. Such as vacation rentals (like Airbnb) and temple lodgings (or shukubō 宿坊). Temple lodgings can offer amazing cultural experiences like having vegetarian meals with the monks and attending morning prayer. But they are few and far between and tend to be very expensive. Suffice to say, you’ll be lucky if you can find one for less than ￥15,000 and they can run up to ￥50,000.
(Also, a quick note: “love hotels” are very different from a typical hotel and should be avoided if you’re looking for a place to sleep. They charge by the hour and are not meant for overnight stays.)
How to find holiday accommodation in Japan
There are a number of useful websites and apps to book your stay in holiday accommodation in Japan. These include Hostel World which has a great selection of hostels and Booking.com for hotels and other styles of accommodation available.
Final Words on Japanese Holiday Accommodation
There you have it. An overview of short-term Japanese accommodation. If you are coming to Japan for a holiday, working holiday or as an expat you will be pleased to know you have quite a few choices for your initial stay in Japan. For my stay, I chose to stay in a western hotel because I was travelling on my own and was writing so needed somewhere quiet to work. Where have you stayed in Japan, or plan on staying? I would love to hear in the comments following.