Where to stay

Where to stay: Check out the new “hotspot” for cheep accommodations in the newly renovated flophouse district

Tokyo's Sanya area has long been known for its flophouses for day laborers.When Tokyoites think of Sanya, they traditionally think of poverty. The district in the eastern part of the Japanese capital, was long known for its clusters of cheap rooming houses for day laborers. These days, the area is attracting a different crowd: budget-conscious foreign tourists.

Juyoh Hotel last summer set up a common room where guests can gaze at a Japanese-style garden.

Juyoh Hotel last summer set up a common room where guests can gaze at a Japanese-style garden.

Located right in the heart of the city, Sanya makes a convenient jumping-off point for sightseeing. Hotels offering cheap yet modern accommodations are starting to cash in.

The Kangaroo Hotel is one such establishment. The hotel charges 3,300 yen ($31.2) per night for a single room. It counts Canadians, Germans, Thais and other nationalities among its guests. Visitors from Southeast Asia, in particular, have been increasing rapidly since Japan relaxed visa restrictions last year. In 2013, the Kangaroo Hotel’s occupancy rate rose about 10 percentage points to 90%.

To meet the demand, the hotel is investing around 100 million yen to build a new four-story building across the street. The annex, which is to have 18 guest rooms and English-speaking staff, is to open in December.

Fumio Kosuge, the Kangaroo Hotel’s owner, says many foreign tourists prefer to stay in an inexpensive room to free up more money for shopping and entertainment. With the more touristy Asakusa and Roppongi districts nearby, there are plenty of ways for Kangaroo guests to part with yen. Kosuge aims to build up his hotel’s capacity to be ready for a surge in visitors when the Summer Olympics come to town in 2020.

Flophouse district

Over at Juyoh Hotel , another Sanya spot catering to the budget-minded, foreign tourists now account for 80-90% of guests. During the year-end and New Year’s holiday season, the hotel’s 72 rooms were fully occupied. Dutch and Indonesian travelers were among the customers.

Mago Yoshihira, Juyoh Hotel’s manager, predicted day laborers in Sanya will continue to make way for foreign tourists. Last summer, the hotel set up a common space where guests can gaze at a small Japanese garden. Juyoh is also working on an English map of neighborhood restaurants. A single room costs as little as 2,900 yen a night.

Yet another no-frills hotel aiming to ride the tourism wave is Hoteiya. It takes reservations through foreign online booking portals; it is also working on a website in several languages, including English and Thai.

Hoteiya often has 30-40 tourists from abroad, some of whom stay for more than a week. There are repeat visitors who use Hoteiya as a place to crash after practicing Japanese martial arts. A single room goes for roughly 3,000 yen per night.

Meet the foreigners

Sanya is not the only flophouse district becoming a favorite with visitors from overseas. In the Kotobuki area of Yokohama, not far from Tokyo, a community building company called Koto Lab has made 40 rooms available in three buildings. The company says it welcomes some 10,000 foreign tourists per year; a night in a hostel-type room can be had for 2,300 yen.

One thing that makes Koto Lab’s lodgings unique is that Japanese who want to chat with travelers are welcome to partake in Sunday breakfasts. Tomohiko Okabe, a company representative, said he hopes to offer more opportunities for exchanges, such as by setting up lobby bars so people can mingle over drinks.

Under Japan’s law governing inns and hotels, a rooming house is defined as an establishment that offers lodgings for multiple guests, generally with shared toilets and bathing facilities. Youth hostels and mountain cabins fall under this category.

Some municipal authorities are trying to encourage renovation of rooming houses in hopes of attracting more travelers to their districts. In Taito, rooming house owners who renovate or rebuild their facilities can draw up to 14 million yen in support from the ward government.

 

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Some of Japan’s most exquisite ryokans

The Japanese have always celebrated the subtle minimalism present in their architecture for centuries. However, no type of Japanese building accentuates this more than the ryokan, or traditional inn. Ambassadors, celebrities, and tourists alike have flocked towards the ryokan in favor of a busy hotel for its seclusion, impeccable service, and zealous attention to detail. The revitalized notion of luxury inherent in all ryokan emphasizes experience and peace of mind over more traditional opulent proclivities like wealth, status and power. In essence, those who seek to maintain a peaceful mental equilibrium will undoubtedly appreciate the power of the ryokan.

 

Gion Hatanaka, Kyoto
Located in the heart of the Gion District in Kyoto, Gion Hatanaka is a secluded and peaceful ryokan that invites visitors to immerse themselves in the surrounding nature. An attentive staff on hand offers first class hospitality as you indulge in local hot springs, geisha tea ceremonies, and a luxurious kaiseki dinner.

 

 

Gorakadan, Kanagawa
This epitome of lavishness in the Kanagawa Prefecture accentuates the formal luxurious elements found in all ryokan, with the addition of a full service spa where visitors have the opportunity to pamper themselves with all the traditional extravagances that Japan has to offer. Travel outside of Gora Kadan to experience several other hot springs and see why Hakone has been nicknamed “The City of Seventeen Spas”.

 

Tawaraya, Kyoto
Renowned for its painstaking attention to detail in hospitality, design, food preparation, and service, Tawaraya is a three-centuries-old inn that is arguably the finest in Japan, if not the world. With only 18 rooms, Tawaraya requires booking long in advance to avoid capacity, although those who have experienced the ryokan have claimed that they are treated as if they are the only guests in the entire building. From the staff adorned in seasonally appropriate kimonos to the scrupulous slicing of sashimi, Tawaraya is one of those places everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime.

 

Ibusuki Hakusuikan, Kagoshima
The spa at Ibusuki City in the Kagoshima Prefecture is a favorite among many travelers. Aside from its rustic yet luxurious accommodations, Ibusuki’s sand bath is what keeps visitors coming back. While burying yourself in hot sand may seem peculiar to some, the Japanese believe that increasing blood circulation through the heat and weight of the hot sand increases health and vitality.

 

 

HOSHINOYA Kyoto
Hoshinoya is a picturesque ryokan hidden away in Arashiyama in Kyoto. Blending the ancient traditions of the ryokan with modern elegance and amenities, Hoshinoya offers first class hospitality, activities, and beyond, becoming a choice locale for anyone looking for the true meaning of Japanese luxury.

 

 

Myojinkan, Nagano
Located in the heart of the Japanese Alps, Myojinkan is a lovely ryokan with a friendly staff and a wide range of amenities. Rooms with private gardens and onsen are available, and many say that the food served is among the best out of many ryokan.

 

 

Kayotei, Ishikawa
Guest rooms at Kayotei, located in Ishikawa, are arranged in the traditional tea ceremony pavilion style. With two indoor communal baths, this hot spring ryokan offers visitors spectacular views of forest sceneries.

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Where to stay: 10 of the best budget hotels in Tokyo

10 of the best budget hotels in Tokyo

Tokyo has a good spread of hotels at great-value rates, from traditional ryokans to cheap and cheerful business hotels in the heart of Shinjuku.

Khaosan Tokyo Guest House Ninja

Khaosan Tokyo Guest House Ninja

One of the cheapest places to stay in the city, the Khaosan Tokyo Guest House Ninja is a popular spot for backpackers. The communal space in the hotel features free Wi-Fi and a large TV with cable, and the dormitory-style rooms (no doubles – not ideal for couples) accommodate both short- and long-term guests. The hotel encourages a community spirit among guests, which is rare for Tokyo, and often holds parties for residents.
• 2-5-1 Nihombashi Bakurocho, Chuo-ku, +81 3 6905 9205, khaosan-tokyo.com, twin rooms from £40, dormitory cabin beds from £21

YMCA Asia Youth Center

YMCA Asia Youth Center

This YMCA is not as cheap as many of its counterparts in other cities, but that’s because there is little difference between this hostel and a hotel. Rooms are a little small, but most feature an en suite bathroom and wireless internet. The hostel is run by the Japan branch of the South Korean YMCA, and as such attracts a lot of tourists from that part of the world. The hostel also has numerous large rooms for functions and conferences, and so can often be quite busy during the day.
• 2-5-5 Sarugakucho, Chiyoda-ku, +81 3 3233 0611,ymcajapan.org/ayc/hotel/jp, doubles from £96

Ryokan Sansuiso

Ryokan Sansuiso - Shibuya
 Shibuya junction. Photograph: Patrick Batchelder/Alamy

Offering very simple rooms for very low prices this hotel is located in the somewhat unfashionable Gotanda district, but its major appeal is its close proximity to many other places, such as Shibuya, Ebisu and Roppongi. It’s quiet, the rooms all have futon beds, and there is a shared bath. The ryokan closes its doors at midnight, however, so may not be the best option for party animals. Rooms are available for up to three people, and come with TV, wireless internet and aircon.
• 2-9-5 Higashi Gotanda, Shinagawa-ku, Gotanda, +81 3 3441 7475,sansuiso.net, doubles from ¥8,600 (£71)

Sunroute Plaza

Sunroute Plaza

This is one of Tokyo’s most popular hotels for tourists on package holidays. It’s essentially a cheap and cheerful business hotel – the furnishing is basic, but its location and prices take some beating. It’s in the heart of Shinjuku, the perfect place for travellers looking to experience city life. As may be expected, food in the hotel’s restaurants is worth skipping in favour of heading out into the streets and experiencing the local izakayas. All rooms have internet access, and Wi-Fi is available in the lobby.
• 2-3-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Shinjuku, +81 3 3375 3211,hotelsunrouteplazashinjuku.jp, doubles from £110

Kimi Ryokan

Kimi Ryokan

Unusually for Tokyo, this smart-looking ryokan caters almost exclusively for foreigners, and so the staff are well-informed on what the city has to offer and are often willing to help organise tours or cultural events. The communal living room is often lively, and in summer there is also a rooftop balcony. Kimi Ryokan has seen many long-term residents of Japan pass through its doors as they start on their way to making a life in the country, and the advice the staff give newcomers can be invaluable. Bathrooms in the ryokan are all shared, but are very clean. The smallest room sleeps four, the largest eight, and rates drop according to how many people are sharing the room.
• 36-8-2 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, +81 3 3971 3766, kimiryokan.jp, beds from £24

Tokyu Stay Shibuya

Tokyu Stay Shibuya

Located in a quiet corner of the bustling city, and offering guests simple amenities, the Tokyu Stay Shibuya is more of a business hotel than a place for tourists, but rates are reasonable and as well as having internet access, rooms also come with kitchenettes including sink, fridge and microwave, and washer/dryers. For visitors staying at the hotel for more than six days, rooms are cleaned once a week. Often this Shibuya branch of the chain will be fully booked, but Tokyu has hotels at many other locations across the city, almost always close to railway stations.
• 8-14 Shinsencho, Shibuya-ku, +81 3 3477 1091,tokyustay.co.jp/e/hotel/SIB, doubles from £141

Hotel Hoteiya

Hotel Hoteiya, Shitamachi district
 Shitamachi district, Tokyo. Photograph: Judy Bellah / Alamy

This is one of the cheapest places in town (you could stay here for a week for less than a night at a mid-range hotel) and the decor inside the rooms admittedly minimal. But it has satellite TV and Wi-Fi on all floors, and there’s a kitchen and coin laundry between 7am and 10pm. Bathrooms are shared. Located in Taito ward, Hoteiya is a good place to stay for visitors wanting to see Tokyo’s Shitamachi (downtown) areas. The hotel expects visitors to bring their own towels and toothbrushes, and while there is not a curfew, guests partying until late into the night will be frowned upon. While the surroundings are not luxurious, this is a popular hotel for people travelling on a shoestring.
• 1-23-9 Nihonzutsumi, Taito-ku, +81 3 3875 5912,spocom.net/pc/hoteiya_e.shtml, doubles from £31

Ryokan Katsutaro

Ryokan Katsutaro

Located in the Yanaka area of north-east Tokyo, close to the Ginza shopping street and in the centre of one of Tokyo’s friendliest neighbourhoods, Ryokan Katsutaro has simple rooms that can sleep up to four, and Wi-Fi is available throughout. It also has bicycles available for rent for visitors wishing to explore the surrounding area (£1.70 a day). This area of Tokyo has in recent years seen the opening of several galleries and museums, and is perfect for tourists looking to explore the city’s art scene.
• 4-16-8 Ikenohata, Taito-ku, +81 3 3828 2500, katsutaro.com, doubles from £70

Shinjuku Washington Hotel

Shinjuku Washington Hotel
 Shinjuku skyscraper district. Photograph: Alamy

Here you can find reasonable rates right in the centre of the Shinjuku skyscraper district. Room facilities include high-speed internet, air-conditioning and fridges. The hotel’s restaurants and bars are perhaps better avoided: steep prices make eating out nearby much better value. Rooms are simply decorated, and large enough to be comfortable, and there are decent views from the upper floors. Be sure to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices across the road, where it is free to get to the top of the skyscrapers and see spectacular views of the city.
• 3-2-9 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, +81 3 3343 3111, shinjyuku-wh.com/english, doubles from £124

Sakura Hotel Jimbocho

The Sakura Hotel<br />
 The Imperial Palace gardens. Photograph: Stuart Freedman/In Pictures/Corbis

This place is close to the centre of the city in the Jimbocho district, with the Imperial Palace a short walk away. The rooms are a little on the small side, but the hotel is clean, convenient and comfortable. A 24-hour cafe in the lobby serves as a communal space for those looking to socialise while in the city, and there are dormitory beds for backpackers and group rooms at reasonable rates. In busy periods, the hotel gets full very quickly, so be sure to book well in advance.
• 2-21-4 Kanda-Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 3261 3939, sakura-hotel.co.jp, doubles from £68

For more information go to the Japan National Tourism Organisation’s website: jnto.go.jp/eng

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Where to stay: 20+ cheap accomodations in Japan

Japan can be a quite expensive country to visit. Still lately it has become a lot cheaper due to the weak yen so you can get a lot more yens for your euro’s and dollars than you did a few years ago. Admittedly, land prices are one of the most expensive in the world, which is why hotel rooms tend to be small and a lot more expensive than other countries around the world. If you have trouble finding an affordable accommodation, then please consider these alternatives.

1. Internet Cafes/Comic Book Cafes/Manga Kissaten

Price:  varies; around 800 yen to 1,500 yen per night (5 to 8 hours)

manga café (漫画喫茶, マンガ喫茶 mangakissa, “kissa” being short for “kissaten” which means café or cafeteria) is a kind of café in Japan where people can read manga. People pay for the time they stay in the café. Most manga cafés also offer internet access like internet cafés (ネットカフェ netto kafe) and vice versa, making the two terms mostly interchangeable in Japan. (One large chain, Popeye, uses the term “media cafe”). Additional services include video gamestelevisionsnack/beverage vending machine, and more. Like Japanese cafés in general, smoking is usually permitted.

For an hour’s stay, the cost is generally about 400 yen, with most places requiring customers to pay this as a minimum even if leaving earlier. Some manga cafés offer a service where one can stay for the night.

2. Hostels

Price: from free to about 6,000 yen per night

Hostels are known throughout the world as the place to stay if you are a  backpackers or a student. Still like with the hotel rooms in Japan, hostels tend to be more expensive here than in other parts of the world. Also accommodations, although clean, do not attract the same kind of people you might meet in other parts of the world so the atmosphere is not what you would expect from a hostel. Then again it is still usually a bargain and good value for money so definitely one to consider when you are in Japan. Here  and here are some links to hostel websites for Tokyo, Japan.

If you have ever stayed in a hostel you know that  in a few smaller ones they might just offer you bed and boarding if you don’t mind doing some odd jobs, man the reception or clean the rooms. Tokyo is, fortunately, not exeption. Here are some hostels that will offer you room and board for the same deal KhaosanAsakusaSmile, and Yayoda Guesthouse.

If you come to Japan on a tourist visa you really ought to check the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan first. You are not allowed to work and receive payment for what you do, but you are allowed to do volunteer work. So as long as you do not receive payment you are generally okay. Still it is smart to check with the Japanese embassy in your country to see what is allowed with your visa and what is not. I know from stories that the police often checks places that are notorious for hiring foreigners and who are not too hung up on the right credentials or having the right visa. If caught the company will get a small fine, whereas the people working there will be arrested and can be sent to jail.

3. WWOOF Japan

Price: 5,500 yen for a one year membership

If you are not afraid to work and want to experience truly what it means to stay in Japan, then WOOFF might be the thing for you.

WWOOF is a means to make friends, and to share and exchange with those friends

Hosts give WWOOFers accommodation and all meals in return for the WWOOFer assisting the Host. Hosts also give WWOOFers various knowledge and skills as result living and working with them, Japanese culture & Japanese language, and other resources most often outlined in the Hosts’ Preview. There is no payment of money between Host and WWOOFer. WWOOFers need to pay just the yearly WWOOF membership fee, 5,500 yen (It is about 55 US dollars). WWOOFing starts by sending an online application form.

Hosts include organic farmers, usually not using much machinery and instead using their hands to grow safe and fresh vegetables, fruits, and tend to animals.

“Friends just like family”

When visiting hosts, you are neither a guest nor a worker, but a part of the host’s place – like friends and family members are. Based on the rhythms you see at the host’s place you’ll be thinking about what you can do to help-out, and what you can learn and experience in doing so. The host will give the same back to you. Living chores are often a part of the day: ie., preparing meals and cleaning up.  Open your heart.  Listen to your friends’ instructions.

Here and here are some other websites that are similar to WOOFF.

4. Camping

Price: from free to about 1,500 yen per night

As its image does not necessarily match with the traditional-ultra modern facets of Japan, camping is a choice of accommodation, which is often forgotten by visitors to the archipelago.

However, you can find more than 2 000 campsites throughout Japan with prices ranging from500 to 1500 yen per night.

The main problem remains their location. Indeed, they are sometimes difficult to access.That is why it is best to check their location and the transport available in the area beforehand. Some campsites are connected with a bus network but many of them can only be accessed by car.
However, they are often located right next to hot springs, in a calm and preserved natural environment. Just visit the city’s tourist office where you are staying to get information about local camp sites.

Finding your camp site

The Japan National Tourism Organization offers a list ofJapan’s main camp sites.

This list covers all regions in Japan. It is a good place start if you want to create your “nature-oriented” trip to Japan.

The list not only provides the address of the campsite, but it also gives information on local attractions, prices and access to the site.
You will find the list hereTake a look at the last page: it is the best way to easily localize the campsites.

If you cannot find what you are looking for on the JNTO list, the Mapple website lists more than 2000 campsite addresses in Japan.
Each campsite can easily be localized through its description page. A star rating system allows you to distinguish between all the different references.

Camping in the Tokyo area

Camping in Tokyo area will definitely allow for a wide variety of experiences, from the urban experience of the electric city to the more nature orientated visits possible in the region.

Opt for a campsite close to a JR station to avoid having to rent a car. Most Japanese campsites rent and sell all the necessary camping supplies except for food and clothing.

The Hikarigaoka Park is a great place to camp just outside of Tokyo. It is just a 5-minute walk from the Hikarigaoka metro stop on the Toei Oedo line.
This campsite is really a breath of fresh air in a very urban neighborhood. The site is equipped with a football pitch, basketball and tennis courts and even an aviary.

The Jonanjima Seaside Park located on the south side of Tokyo city-center, is an essential spot for camping.
It offers more than 1000 pitches for campers! But keep in mind that the pitches are taken up very quickly especially between late July and early August.

A bit further away, is the Ina Camping Village, located 10 minutes from the Musashimasuko station on the Itsukaichi line. It offers a wide range of accomodation from tents to cottages. You can rent all necessary camping equipment as well as a barbecue kit.

Hikawa Campsite also offers camping pitches, chalets and camping supplies. It is a 5-minute walk from Okutama station (2 hours by train from Tokyo city center). Perfect to recharge your batteries for a few days.

Finding free campsites

The Hatinosu website is specialized in free campsites. The red label is for campsites which charge a fee and the blue for the free ones.
The website is in Japanese but thanks to the automatic google translation system, you will easily be able to make your choice.

For a unique experience, head for Niijima: a volcanic island, which is part of the Izu archipelago, off the coast of Tokyo.

With its extraordinary white sand beach, its remarkable onsen and its peaceful atmosphere, it is often compared to Okinawa.
The icing on the cake, you can camp for free just a few steps away from the beach for example atHabushi-ura Camp Jo!

Bear in mind that there are many free municipal campsites. They offer free access to both bathroom and kitchen. Moreover, many are located next to beaches.

5. Couchsurfing

Price: free

Couchsurfing is a good way to meet new friends, get information by locals and see the world while receiving free accommodation.

You have friends all over the world, you just haven’t met them yet.

Couchsurfing is a service that connects members to a global community of travelers. Use Couchsurfing to find a place to stay or share your home and hometown with travellers.Couchsurfers organize regular events in 100,000 cities around the world. There’s always something to do and new friends to meet. Just bear in mind that you are a guest at someone’s home. You are not staying in a hotel. So you should try to minimize the daily life of the person you are staying with as little as possible. Another drawback is that people generally are not too fond of you if you overstay your welcome so couchsurfing is only ideal if you plan to stay somewhere a few nights only. Some people who have gardens often times will allow you to pitch a tent in there if you bring one. That way you are less of a nuisance and have more privacy.

From people who have done couchsurfing in Japan I have heard that it is much more challenging to find a place than it is in other countries in the world. Many Japanese live in small apartments and simply do not have the room to accommodate you. Also many do not speak English or very little so they are not too keen to accept people in their home with whom they cannot communicate.

6. Overnight Buses

Price: about 2,500 yen to 11,000 yen one way (one night)

Japan has a reputation of being an astronomically expensive country. To be sure, it’s not a budget destination, but one of the biggest expenses travelers face — intra-country travel — doesn’t have to leave you with an empty wallet.

Many people purchase the JR rail pass which provides unlimited travel within the country’s train system for a specified period of time. This can be one of the most convenient and fastest methods of traversing the country, but the price tag is a little hefty and, for our itinerary, would be as expensive as buying individual train tickets. Instead, take the Willer Express company’s overnight buses. Overnight buses can be one of the slowest and most uncomfortable methods of transport, but bus tickets in Japan are a fraction of the price of train tickets. Plus, they save you the cost of two nights spent in hotels.

7. Homestays


Price: free to about 50,000 yen per month

If you want to study Japanese and see first hand what the Japanese lifestyle  is all about, then homestays are the thing for you.  You get to sleep with a Japanese family who will explain all about life in Japan, the traditions and the customs. You will eat and sleep with the family and often times they will take you on interesting outings. Again, just like with the couchsurfing option, remember this is not a hotel. You are a guest in someones house so abide by the rules and try not to get into anyones way or step on anyones toes. Here are some websites that will help you if you are looking for a homestay address in Japan.Homestay WebHomestay in JapanHomestay Booking

8. Capsule Hotels

Trapped

Price: 2,000 yen to 5,000 yen per night (also available around 300 yen to 600 yen per hour for naps)

capsule hotel (カプセルホテル kapuseru hoteru) is a type of hotel developed in Japan that features a large number of extremely small “rooms” (capsules) intended to provide cheap and basic overnight accommodation for guests not requiring the services offered by more conventional hotels.

The guest space is reduced in size to a modular plastic or fiberglass block roughly 2 by 1 by 1.25 m (6 ft 7 in by 3 ft 3 in by 4 ft 1 in), providing room to sleep. Facilities range in entertainment offerings (most include a television, an electronic console, and wireless internet connection). These capsules are stacked side by side and two units top to bottom, with steps providing access to the second level rooms. Luggage is stored in a locker. Privacy is ensured by a curtain or a fibreglass door at the open end of the capsule. Washrooms are communal and some hotels include restaurants (or at least vending machines), pools, and other entertainment facilities. Guests are asked not to smoke or eat in the capsules.

Capsule hotels vary widely in size, some having only fifty or so capsules and others over 700. Many are used primarily by men. There are also capsule hotels with separate male and female sleeping quarters. Clothes and shoes are sometimes exchanged for ayukata and slippers on entry. A towel may also be provided. The benefit of these hotels is convenience and price, usually around ¥2000-4000 a night.

Certain visitors (especially on weekdays) may be too drunk to safely return home, or too embarrassed to face their spouses. With continued recession in Japan, as of early 2010 more and more guests – roughly 30% at the Capsule Hotel Shinjuku 510 in Tokyo – were either unemployed or underemployed and were renting capsules by the month.

This style of hotel accommodation was developed in Japan and has not gained popularity outside of the country, although Western variants known as “pod hotels”[6] with larger accommodations and often private baths are being developed.

Most capsule hotels are  found around railway stations, since they are often used by people who’ve missed the last train. Here is a comprehensive list of capsule hotels in Tokyo if you prefer not to stumble in the dark trying to find one that will cater to your needs.

9. Economy Hotels

Price: 2,500 yen to 6,000 yen per night

Japan offers a wide range of accommodation types in both Japanese and Western styles, including some unconventional forms such as capsule hotels and temple lodgings. Rates range from less than 2,000 yen per person in a dormitory to over 25,000 yen per person in a first class hotel or ryokan. If you do not like to stay with a bunch of rowdy youngsters but you are not willing to break the bank and book a ryokan, then perhaps the budget hotel is more the thing for you. Here are some websites listed that will help you on your way: Economy Backpacker’s Hotel New KoyoEconomy Hotel Azuma

10. Fast food restaurants

Price: the price of food (ex: about 700 yen for one value meal)

There are quite a few places in Japan (especially Tokyo) that are open 24/7. Mc Donald’s is probably the most well known but there are other places such as Royal host and Wendy’s. Here is a link to some other places that serve somewhat better food and are also open 24/7. At some places they will not appreciate it if you nod off, but places like McD you can go full out and rest you head on the table for a good snore.

11. Love Hotels

Price: 6,000-10,000 yen per room per night

Love hotels can be found all over Japan and, as their name suggests, exist primarily to allow couples to have some private time together. While the concept of hotel rooms intended more for love-making than for sleeping may seem distasteful to Westerners, in Japan they’re just matter-of-fact practicalities. Young people often live with their parents well into their twenties, and grandparents sometimes move in with their children once they’re retired, so couples have good reason for wanting a bit of extra privacy now and again. While it’s not generally possible to reserve rooms, love hotels are so numerous (there are more than 30,000 nationwide), that you’re almost certain to find a free room somewhere without too much trouble. Prices for an overnight stay vary greatly depending on the location of the hotel, and on what special features the rooms have, but are typically around ¥6,000 to ¥10,000. Two of the best (though certainly not the cheapest) are the P&A Plaza in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, where you can choose between a swimming pool and a cave bath, and Snow Man’s in Kobe, which has an open-air room on the roof. In Tokyo you can always go to Shibuya’s Dogenzaka, which is a well known area for love hotels. Just find the Shibuya 109 building, take either the left or right street and go into the side streets behind Shibuya 109. For more information on  Japan’s Love Hotels just click on the link.

12. Rental Offices

Price: around 500 yen per hour

When you think of where to spend the night, a rental office might not be the first thing that pops in you head. Usually rental offices are used for business men who need some quiet time to work on their important proposal for instance. However if you go to the website of Tsukasa Rental Office and Tsukasa Netroom for example, you will find that it is also the perfect place to dose off for an hour or two if you are on a budget.

13. Guest house

Price: between 5,000 and 9,000 yen per night.

A guesthouse (or “gaijin house”, meaning “foreigner house”) is an inexpensive type of accommodation for foreigners, who stay in Japan for one month or longer, and who want to avoid the hassle and the expense of renting and furnishing a conventional apartment. Some guesthouses also offer weekly contracts.

There are many guesthouses in Tokyo, but they can also be found in other major Japanese cities. While some are single, independently managed houses, others are owned by realty companies, which may operate multiple houses across the city. Some companies maintain a “foreigners only” policy.

Guesthouses come as shared or private apartments and with Japanese or Western style rooms. Naturally, private apartments are more expensive than rooms in shared apartments, where kitchen and bathrooms are typically shared.

Depending on the room and company, the monthly rent for a shared apartment in Tokyo is typically between 40,000 and 100,000 yen per person per month, while a private apartment usually costs at least 100,000 yen per month. Whether cost for utilities is included depends on the company.

Guesthouses do not tend to be the newest or most modern buildings, although the apartments are usually equipped with basic kitchen utensils, a futon, a pay phone, and possibly a television.

By living in a guesthouse, a foreigner has the opportunity to closely experience Japanese everyday life, buy food and household goods in Japanese supermarketsdispose of garbage in the correct way, etc.

14. Ryokan

Price: about 4,000 yen per night and up

Ryokans are Japanese style inns found throughout the country, especially in hot spring resorts. More than just a place to sleep, ryokan are an opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine, making them popular with both Japanese and foreign tourists alike.

There are many different kinds of ryokan, varying greatly in terms of size, cost and style. Some ryokan are small, family run establishments with just a few rooms, while others are large, hotel-like facilities with hundreds of rooms. Ryokan also range from no-frills, budget varieties to costly establishments catering to the very wealthy.

While extremes exist, the average cost of a ryokan stay is between 15,000 and 25,000 yen per person, per night. While this may be too expensive to stay at everyday, it is well worth indulging on one special night during your travels. Also keep in mind that ryokan stays usually include an elaborate dinner in the evening, followed by breakfast the next morning. Meals are typically kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine) that feature local and seasonal specialties.

Because of their emphasis on traditional style and atmosphere, ryokan may appear rigid and intimidating for the first timer unfamiliar with the procedures and etiquette. In reality they are a special and relaxing experience that everyone should take the opportunity to try. In order to help set your mind at ease, the following pages offer an explanation of what to expect during a ryokan visit.

15. Minshuku

Price: about 3,000 yen per night and up

A

Minshuku are Japanese style bed and breakfasts, which are usually family operated. They offer visitors a good opportunity to meet a a local family and experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle.

Like in a ryokan, guests stay in Japanese style rooms, sleep on a futon and have the opportunity to take a Japanese bath. Dinner and breakfast are sometimes included.

Typical rates for minshuku range between 5,000 and 9,000 yen per night and person, but some no-frills places ask for less than 4,000 yen per night.

Go to the Minshuku Network website to find a minshuku that suits your personal needs.

16. Temple Lodging


Price: 3,000 yen per nigh

It is possible for tourists to spend the night at some Buddhist temple lodgings (shukubo). A stay often includes two vegetarian meals and the opportunity to join the morning prayers. One of the best places to experience a night at a temple is Mount Koya. Go to the Temple Lodging website to find other temples that offer shukubo.

17. Business Hotels

Price: 5,000 yen per night and up

Business hotels can be found readily across Japan, providing economical and no-frills accommodation to travelers. The charge is typically between 5,000 and 10,000 yen per night for a single room, and many hotels also have a few twin or double rooms for typically 7,000 to 12,000 yen. Although rooms are relatively small, they are usually clean and well kept, with an attached bathroom.

Basic amenities such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, cotton buds, shower caps and towels are normally provided. Most rooms also come with a television, an air conditioner, a telephone, a hairdryer, an empty refrigerator and a water boiler with complimentary green tea bags.

Internet access is almost always available in the rooms via a LAN cable or wireless, while some hotels also provide some computers in the lobby or business center. Internet access is often free, but some hotels may charge a fee of usually less then 1500 yen for a day’s usage. Pay-TV is frequently available; typically the guest can purchase a prepaid card at a machine placed along the corridor, and then slot it into a card reader in his room to gain access to the channels.

In most business hotels, there is a common room located every two or three floors where vending machines and coin-operated washing machines are placed. Coin-operated drying machines are also often available. Should an iron be needed, it is sometimes placed in this room. Otherwise, make the request to the service counter, and if available, it would usually be brought to your room.

Some business hotels adopt a self check-in and check-out system through machines placed in the lobby. Upon checking in, the guest makes payment for the room and receives his room key in the form of a card. Upon checking out, the guest inserts the room key into the machine, which consequently informs the guest should there be any additional charges. Upon making payment (if any), the guest receives a receipt and the checkout process is complete.

Some business hotel chains, such as Route Inn, APA Hotel, Super Hotel, Daiwa Roynet Hotel, Dormy Inn and Toyoko Inn, operate dozens of hotels across Japan, often in convenient locations near railway stations orexpressway exits.

18. Karaoke Box


Price: Around 500 yen per hour per person

A karaoke boxes is a small private room to enjoy Karaoke. Most karaoke places have different sized of rooms depending on the number of guest
As well as internet cafes, Karaoke boxes can be seen almost every city and many of them have a overnight fixed fee plan, too. The price range is also similar to that of internet cafes. The fee is usually a little higher on weekends. The room is relatively quiet cause each room is made of soundproof construction. You can have a nap or you can shout and shout through the night according to its intended use.

19. Weekly/Monthly Apartment Rentals

Price: 25,000 per month and up

Weekly or monthly apartments are places where you can get a furnished room for an extended period of time. You usually pay by week or month. These are often called “mansions” although in Japanese that is just another word for an apartment. When I first went looking for houses I was impressed by the name, but apparently the world mansion means something totally different here. It is usually not a very roomy places, but generally adequate enough to fulfil your needs.

Here are a few places which do or do not include utilities:

Including Utilities (all)

1. Sakura House: ( _ ) –Many bed types (1R-3LDK). Please note mixed reviews about housing conditions and customer service. NO Japanese citizens. Have huge range of housing in a varied area.

2. J-Accomodation: http://www.j-accommodation.com/ — 1 bed types (1R, 1K, etc.) and also some guest houses

3. Family Monthly (2+ beds, no single beds) http://www.family-monthly.com/

4. Oakhouse — http://www.oakhouse.jp/eng Many bed types but difficult to search/discover room type. No Japanese citizens allowed to stay.

5. Ichii Corporation — http://tokyoeasyrent.com/en/ — Various apartments here for good price. They also have a good reputation.

6. Fujimoto Real Estate Sales — http://www.fujitomo-fh.com/

7. Fujimihouse — allows Japanese citizens. Does everything from guest houses to apartments. If you have children, please contact them in advance. Apartment sizes mostly under 25M.

More expensive apartments and/or houses:

6. SIHM Tokyo Real Estate http://www.sihm.co.jp/ — “hotel” like apartments — in the 500K a month range

7. Furnished Apartment Tokyo — http://www.furnished-apartment-tokyo.com/apartments.html Another “hotel like” business apartment website, in the 230-400K range

8. Overseas Corporation — http://www.overseas.co.jp/ — apartments from 200K up

9. Monthly Apartment Tokyo — http://www.monthly-apartment-tokyo.com/search/ — from 1 – 3 Bed, on the expensive side but high quality

10 http://www.space-d.co.jp/en/

Some apartments at these websites include utilities

1. Tokyo Rent — http://www.tokyorent.com/ — 1R to 2DK houses.

2. Oakridge Apartments — http://www.oakridge-housing.com/ — cheap, very basic apartments. Short term apartments include utilities. Long term apartments do not. 1DK – 2DK apartments.

3. Home Search LTD — http://www.homesearch.co.jp/index.php — hard to tell but I think some of the properties come with utilities, depending on the lease term.

None or very few of these include utilities

1. Tokyo City Apartments — http://www.tokyocityapartments.net/searchresult/ — Includes many room types (1R – 3LDK), bright, clean looking. ANY nationality welcome — thus if you are Non-Japanese with a Japanese spouse or significant other, you can choose these. No charge for utility set up, I think they help.

2. Housing Japan (not sure if it includes utilities or not, doesn’t say on website) — http://www.housingjapan.com/ — Rent house or apartment. Downside is lack of photos for apartments.

3. Hikari Homes — Non direct link:http://www.tokyoapartment81.com Direct link http://apartments.gaijinpot.com/hikari — please note you need a J-guarantor or a guarantor company

4. http://best-estate.jp/en/

Not stated on website whether they include utilities or not: 

Tokyo Living – http://www.tokyoliving.net/www.tokyoliving.net/Menu.html — reasonably priced apartments listed by size as opposed to type.

http://www.t-hal.com/indexEE.html

 UNSORTED

http://www.jafnet.co.jp/plus/month_top/indexe.html

http://www.bridgelife.jp/

http://www.hoyotokyo.jp/english/apartment/apa_area.html#sinjuku

20. Riders’ Houses

Price: 500 yen to 8,000 yen per night

Extremely cheap places mainly for motorcyclists. You may need your own sleeping bag. The price range is 0-1500 yen per night. Many of them are underperforming (it is almost volunteerism). As well as Toho-yados, many riders houses are in Hokkaido. It would be ideal for budget cyclists travelling in Hokkaido or throughout Japan. Check the Gaijin Bikers in Japan website for where to stay. There are some more useful websites Aso Rider House in Kumamoto Prefecture and Rider House Joyful in Nagano Prefecture.

21. A night train

Despite Japan’s expansive network of Bullet trains, and some of the world’s busiest domestic air routes, a few sleeper trains still survive, carrying passengers directly from the heart of the great metropolises to small destinations at the far reaches of the country. Despite a reputation to the contrary, Japan is actually a medium sized country, and more to the point it is long and thin, and spread over several islands, so domestic journeys are often much longer than we’re used to in the UK. Imagine getting on a train amidst the hustle and bustle of Tokyo or Osaka, and then spending a leisurely day watching a whole country speeding past outside. Mountain ranges roamed by bears and wild boar are interspersed with tiny villages surrounded by rice paddies, giant forests, and big industrial cities. You can retire to bed as the sun sets over the sea, and wake up the next morning in the snowy wilds of Hokkaido, or crossing the Great Seto Bridge to the island of Shikoku.

The most popular night train in Japan is the Cassiopeia, which is also the most luxurious – all accommodation being in private rooms. It leaves Tokyo every second day in the late afternoon, and travels up the pacific coast, through the world’s longest undersea tunnel to Hokkaido, finally arriving in the far northern city of Sapporo at about nine-thirty the next morning. While not quite as luxurious, the Twilight Express from Osaka is the king of night trains. It begins its journey just before noon, passing through Kyoto, then around the shore of Lake Biwa, Japan’s biggest lake, and up the sparsely populated Sea of Japan coast, before it also passes through the tunnel to Hokkaido, arriving in Sapporo shortly after the Cassiopeia. The epic journey takes around 22 hours and covers 929 miles – making it by far the longest train route in Japan. The biggest draw on both these trains are the private suitesat the back. You can lie in bed facing the big picture window that spans the rear of the train, watching the scenery fade away behind as you journey north. You need to book early to obtain these premium suites, but even if you can’t get one, the Cassiopeia offers a consolation – a lounge car at the other end of the train which, on the return journey, makes a similar view available to everyone.

If boats are more your thing than trains, a parallel experience is available on overnight ferries to the islands south of Tokyo, or to tropical Okinawa in Japan’s far south-west, as well as on host of coastal ferries connecting Japan’s four main islands. Most routes offer a similar range of accommodation options to night trains, and the chance to reach parts of Japan rarely experienced by foreign visitors. Whether you choose to make the journey in luxury or sleeping on the floor, travelling overnight by train or boat can be an unforgettable experience, and not only do you avoid wasting a day of your holiday travelling, you also save on cost of one night’s hotel accommodation. Train bookings can be made at JR ticket offices nationwide. Cassiopeia has a special webpage in English, but for the Twilight Express details are only available in Japanese.

Update: In May 2012, JR Kyushu announced plans for a new ‘cruise train’ that will take sightseers on two-day or four-day cruises around the Kyushu railway network. All trips will start and end at Hakata station in Fukuoka. The longer trips will head down the east coast of Kyushu passing through Miyazaki and Kagoshima, and returning via Aso volcano and the hot-spring resort Yufuin. The two-day cruises will first head to Nagasaki, and then return to Fukuoka via Aso and Yufuin. Each cabin will have an en suite shower and toilet, and even the smallest will be ten square metres – as big as a small appartment in Tokyo. There will be an observation room at the front of the train, a bar and a dining car. Operations are scheduled to begin in late 2013, and tickets prices will range from ¥150,000 to ¥550,000. See the official website for more information.

22. Toho-yado

Toho-yado is a generic name of accommodations that belong to Toho Network http://www.toho.net/english.html.

The style is something like between backpackers hostels and Minshuku.
Most Toho-yados are family-owned accommodation and they serve breakfast (some serve dinner, too). Most of their guest rooms are dormitories. The average rate is around 5000-7000 yen with two meals, which is quite cheap. Many Toho-yados concentrate in Hokkaido. If you plan to travel Hokkaido, please consider this as an option. You might have some difficulties to communicate in English with some Toho-yados, so please ask some help to a native Japanese when you make a booking.

23. Sleep at a bath house or onsen

Sauna

In big cities, there are usually bath houses or onens. The facility is some kinds of sauna, Japanese style bath with shower and one or more rest rooms. Usually some temporary sleeping gears are installed in those rest rooms and you can take a nap as if you were in a dormitory room of a hostel, though your roommates would be exhausted office workers instead of backpackers. Normally the overnight price is around 3000 to 4000 yen per person.

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Where to go: Lake Biwa

Lake Biwa (琵琶湖 Biwa-ko;  is Japan‘s largest freshwater lake and the defining feature of Shiga prefecture. The lake is most likely named after the Japanese stringed instrument biwa, whose shape resembles the lake. The entire lake is now designated as a protected Quasi-National Park.

Places of interest

  • Hikone – an old castle town on the route between Kyoto and Nagoya
  • Nagahama – A small city with a number of historical attractions.
  • Otsu – the capital of Shiga prefecture
  • Sakamoto – gateway to Mount Hiei
  • Mount Hiei – temple complex home to the esoteric Tendai sect of Buddhism
  • The islands of Chikubu and Takeshima are popular spots of pilgrimage
  • The Okishima island in the lake is the only inhabited lake island in Japan.

How to get there

The JR Tokaido Main Line and the Tokaido Shinkansen lines run more or less along the southern and eastern coasts of the lake, connecting Otsu and Hikone to Kyotoand Osaka in the west and Nagoya in the east. The private Keihan Keishin Line (京阪京津線) provides the cheapest way of getting from Kyoto to Otsu and onward with a change of train to Sakamoto.

What to see

Lake Biwa attracts many birds and along with them birdwatchers. There are a large number of historical towns surrounding the lake, including Hikone, with one of Japan’s 12 remaining original castles, Omihachiman, with an attractive restored canal area and a number of museums, Sakamoto, with the World Heritage Site temple Enryaku-ji, the famous temple of Ishiyama-dera, where Lady Murasaki wrote The Tale of Genji, and Nagahama, with Japan’s oldest remaining train station building, an attractive historical district, and some significant temples and shrines, as well as a reconstructed castle. The lake is also known for beautiful sunsets, especially when viewed from the east side of the lake as the sun sets over the mountains to the west.

Visit Omimaiko Beach. The water is very clean and the beach is very relaxing. Many people flock there on weekends and you can also camp there. It is better than going to most seaside beaches in Kansai as it is so clean. From Osaka it takes 1 hour by train (JR) to Omimaiko Station and only 30 minutes from Kyoto.

What to do

Lake Biwa’s tourism industry subsists on fishingboat rentals and an assortment ofwatersports, including even scuba diving for those who want to plumb the depths of this rather murky lake. There are a number of hot springs in the towns and mountains that surrounded the lake. There are also good hikes in the Hira-san mountain range on the west side of the lake.

A bicycle rental for ¥500 per day for a “mama-chari” type bicycle (a single speed 26 inch bike with a highly adjustable and comfortable seat and a basket in front) from right next to the train station from Osaka. Bicycling around the Lake Biwa area is great fun, with wide paved paths in many places, and approximately a 220km bike ride to go around the lake. Bicycle friendliness is evident everywhere and you should be able to find places to stay at various points around the lake if you bike tour. Witness four man or woman rowing teams in action on the Satagawa River during your tour. Ride a functioning sternwheeler, the “Michigan”. Many parks, public restrooms and places to get water or drinks are near the southwestern part of the bike path. A volleyball court is on the beach northwest of of the southernmost bridge and many joggers also share the bike paths. Fishing from a boat or the shore, kayaking and sailing are popular here. A successful cicada hunt by a young boy with a butterfly net was witnessed, but giving off a loud buzzing sound, the cicada got away when the boy lifted his net. Kite flying during windy conditions could also be fun here, with no nearby wires to foul the kite line.

What to eat & drink

Bring a portable BBQ set out to Omi Maiko or Shiga Beach. Alternatively, at Omi Maiko, in summer you can find some local food vendors that offer tasty local grub.

Load up a cooler full of whatever you like. There is a reasonable, tropical-themed, outdoor beach bar on the eastern end of Omi Maiko. Part of a hotel, they offer BBQ dinners at brick tables.

Where to stay

Wanihama Seinen Kaikan (和邇浜青年会館). Tel. 077-594-4203. If you want to experience truly rural Japan, this is it. The hostel is a huge, rambling, decrepit complex of buildings maintained (in the loosest sense of the word) by an old couple, who add up your bill with an abacus! Located inconveniently 1.5km through rice paddies from JR Wani station, on the western shore of the lake. The upside is the price: one night costs just ¥2800 for Hostelling International members, and odds are you’ll get your own room complete with private bathroom and TV for this.

 

 

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Things to do: climbing mount Fuji

Mount Fuji (富士山 Fuji-san, located on Honshu Island, is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776.24 m (12,389 ft). An active stratovolcano that last erupted in 1707–08, Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres (60 mi) south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers. It is one of Japan’s “Three Holy Mountains” (三霊山 Sanreizan) along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku; it is a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, a Historic Site, and has been submitted for future inscription on the World Heritage List as a Cultural (rather than Natural) Site.

Since the mountain is so high above sea level, the temperature can drop quite a bit on top of the peak. See table below of the average temperatures.

Climate data for Mount Fuji Averages (1981–2010) Records (1932–2011)

Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Year

Record high °C (°F)

−1.7
(28.9)

0.0
(32)

1.0
(33.8)

4.7
(40.5)

12.2
(54)

12.3
(54.1)

17.4
(63.3)

17.8
(64)

16.3
(61.3)

10.4
(50.7)

6.9
(44.4)

3.6
(38.5)

17.8
(64)

Average high °C (°F)

−15.7
(3.7)

−14.7
(5.5)

−10.9
(12.4)

−5.7
(21.7)

−0.8
(30.6)

3.6
(38.5)

7.5
(45.5)

9.3
(48.7)

6.1
(43)

−0.1
(31.8)

−6.4
(20.5)

−12.2
(10)

−3.4
(25.9)

Daily mean °C (°F)

−18.4
(−1.1)

−17.8
(0)

−14.2
(6.4)

−8.7
(16.3)

−3.4
(25.9)

1.1
(34)

4.9
(40.8)

6.2
(43.2)

3.2
(37.8)

−2.8
(27)

−9.2
(15.4)

−15.1
(4.8)

−6.2
(20.8)

Average low °C (°F)

−21.7
(−7.1)

−21.5
(−6.7)

−17.8
(0)

−12.1
(10.2)

−6.5
(20.3)

−1.6
(29.1)

2.4
(36.3)

3.6
(38.5)

0.4
(32.7)

−5.8
(21.6)

−12.2
(10)

−18.3
(−0.9)

−9.3
(15.3)

Record low °C (°F)

−37.3
(−35.1)

−38
(−36)

−33.9
(−29)

−27.8
(−18)

−18.9
(−2)

−13.1
(8.4)

−6.9
(19.6)

−4.3
(24.3)

−10.8
(12.6)

−19.5
(−3.1)

−28.1
(−18.6)

−33
(−27)

−38
(−36)

 % humidity

58

60

61

70

79

73

68

53

50

47

Source: JMA

When to climb?

Official Climbing Season

July and August are the official climbing season. During these two months the mountain is usually free of snow, the weather is relatively mild, access by public transportation is easy and the mountain huts are open. Everybody without much hiking experience is advised to tackle the mountain during the official climbing season.

The Crowds

Climbing Mount Fuji is very popular not only among Japanese but also foreign tourists, who seem to make up more than a third of all hikers. The peak season for climbing Mount Fuji is during the school vacations which last from around July 20 to the end of August. The peak of the peak is reached during the Obon Week in mid August, when climbers literally have to stand in queues at some passages.

While you may want to avoid the Obon Week, we believe that by avoiding the crowds in general, you would miss out one of the most interesting aspects of climbing Mount Fuji, which is the camaraderie and unique experience of ascending the mountain among hundreds of equally minded people from across the world.

In order to encounter neither too large nor too small crowds, we recommend to climb Mount Fuji on a weekday in the first half of July before the start of the school vacations. The downside of a climb in early July is the weather, which tends to be somewhat more unstable than later in the season.

Off Season

Some mountain huts open a few days before the start of the official climbing season and/or remain open until around mid September. Public transportation, is considerably less frequent or non-existent outside of the official climbing season, although off-season service has improved in recent years, especially during September.

While there is usually no snow on Mount Fuji from late June until October, temperatures at the summit can drop to far below zero in the shoulder seasons. Only experienced hikers should consider the ascent in late June or September. If there is snow on the mountain, appropriate mountaineering equipment and experience is required.

From October to around mid June, climbing to the summit is highly perilous due to extreme wind and weather conditions, snow, ice and a risk of avalanches.

The Trails

Mount Fuji is divided into ten stations with the first station at the foot of the mountain and the tenth station being the summit. Paved roads go as far as the fifth station halfway up the mountain. There are four 5th stations on different sides of the mountain, from where most people start their ascent:

Kawaguchiko 5th Station (Yamanashi Prefecture)

Altitude: about 2300 meters
Ascent: 5-7 hours
Descent: 3-5 hours
Trail Name: Yoshida Trail
This is the most popular base for the climb to the summit, and the most easily accessible 5th Station from the Fuji Five Lake region and central Tokyo. Lots of mountain huts line the trail around the 7th and 8th stations, and there are separate trails for the ascent and descent. The sunrise takes place on this side of the mountain.

Subashiri 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Altitude: about 2000 meters
Ascent: 5-8 hours
Descent: 3-5 hours
Trail Name: Subashiri Trail
This 5th Station is located only at 2000 meters above sea level and is the base of the Subashiri Trail. The Subashiri Trail meets the Yoshida Trail around the 8th station.

Gotemba 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Altitude: about 1400 meters
Ascent: 7-10 hours
Descent: 3-6 hours
Trail Name: Gotemba Trail
This is by far the lowest 5th Station, and the ascent to the summit is accordingly much longer than from the other 5th stations. The Gotemba Trail leads from the Gotemba 5th Station to the summit. There are about four huts around the 7th and 8th station.

Fujinomiya 5th Station (Shizuoka Prefecture)

Altitude: about 2400 meters
Ascent: 4-7 hours
Descent: 2-4 hours
Trail Name: Fujinomiya Trail
The closest 5th Station to the summit, the Fujinomiya 5th Station is the base for the southern approach via the Fujinomiya Trail. It is easily accessible from stations along the Tokaido Shinkansen. There are about half a dozen mountain huts along this trail.

How to climb?

Is it difficult?

The ascent to the summit does not pose any major difficulties regarding climbing skills. Only at some points, the terrain is rather steep and rocky. Abundant signs along the trail warn the hikers of other minor problems such as sudden wind gusts and falling rocks. However, the main challenge of the climb is the fact that it is very strenuous and the air gets notably thinner as you gain altitude.

Timing

Most people try to time their ascent in order to witness the sunrise from the summit. Also, the chances of the mountain being free of clouds are highest during the early morning hours.

The recommended way of doing this, is to climb to a mountain hut around the 7th or 8th station on the first day, spend some hours sleeping there, before continuing to the summit early on the second day. Note that the sunrise takes place as early as 4:30am to 5:00am in summer.

Another popular way is to start climbing the mountain around 10pm from the 5th Station and hike through the night to reach the summit around sunrise. Obviously, this is a more tiring way of climbing the mountain and brings an increased risk of suffering from altitude sickness (see below).

A walk around the crater of Mount Fuji takes about one hour. The mountain’s and Japan’s highest point is located immediately next to the weather station on the opposite side from where the Yoshida Trail reaches the peak.

Mountain Huts

The Yoshida Trail is lined by more than a dozen mountain huts between the 7th and 8th station. Other trails have fewer mountain huts. An overnight stay typically costs around 5000 yen per person without meals and around 7000 yen per person with two meals. Expect the huts to be extremely crowded during the peak. The Fujiyoshida City website (see below) lists phone numbers for reservations.

Dormitory in one of the  huts on Mount Fuji

Climbing Equipment

In order to enjoy a safe hike to the summit of Mount Fuji, it is crucial to bring the proper equipment. Some of the most important things to bring are listed below:

Proper Shoes
The rocky, steep terrain in some sections and the potential of sudden, strong wind gusts are reasons to bring proper hiking shoes which protect your ankles.
Proper Clothes
Bring proper protection against low temperatures and strong winds. It can be below zero at the summit, and strong winds often make it even colder. Bring rain gear, as weather conditions can change very quickly on the mountain. Gloves are recommended both against the coldness and for hiking the steep, rocky passages.
Flashlight
If you hike at night, a flash light is highly recommended in any season and essential outside of the peak season, when the trail is not illuminated by other hikers. Most people choose head lamps, as they leave both of your hands free.
Food
Particularly on the trails where there are few mountain huts, it is important to bring enough water and food. Mountain huts offer various meals and drinks. Note, however, that prices increase with the altitude. Also, be prepared to carry home all your garbage as there are no garbage bins.

Altitude Sickness

The human body requires some time to adjust to a sudden increase of altitude, otherwise there is a risk of headache, dizziness and nausea. Quite a few people, who climb Mount Fuji, suffer from altitude sickness.

To avoid altitude sickness, you are advised to tackle the mountain at a slow pace and make frequent breaks. An overnight stay at a hut around the 7th or 8th station is recommended as opposed to a straight climb to the top. Small bottles of oxygen, available at the 5th stations and mountain huts, can be an effective tool in preventing and fighting altitude sickness, however, the only reliable treatment of the sickness is to descend the mountain.

ACCESS:

How to get to mount Fuji:

Buses to Kawaguchiko 5th Station:

From Shinjuku Station (Tokyo):
2600 yen (one way), 140 minutes
6 round trips per day during the climbing season
2 round trips per day on weekends/holidays in the off-season (daily during most of September)

From Fujisan/Kawaguchiko Station:
1500 yen (one way), 2000 yen (round trip), 50 minutes
11-16 round trips per day during the climbing season (some depart from Fujisan Station)
5 round trips per day in the off-season

Buses to Subashiri 5th Station:

From Gotemba Station:
1500 yen (one way), 2000 yen (round trip), 60 minutes
7-12 round trips per day during the climbing season and September
3 round trips per day on off-season weekends

From Shin-Matsuda Station:
2000 yen (one way), 3000 yen (round trip), 90 minutes
2-5 round trips per day during the climbing season and in early September

Buses to Gotemba 5th Station:

From Gotemba Station:
1080 yen (one way), 1500 yen (round trip), 40 minutes
4-7 round trips per day during the climbing season and September
3 round trips per day on off-season weekends

Buses to Fujinomiya 5th Station:

From Shin-Fuji and Fujinomiya Stations:
2310 yen (one way), 120 minutes from Shin-Fuji Station
1970 yen (one way), 90 minutes from Fujinomiya Station
3-11 round trips per day during the climbing season and September
3 round trips per day on off-season weekends

From Mishima Station:
2390 yen (one way), 120 minutes
1-6 round trips per day during the climbing season only

USEFUL INFORMATION:

Visit this page for more information in regards to time tables for the bus and such.

Information on the Yoshida Trail, including a list of mountain huts and phone numbers.

Categories: Daytrips, history of Japan, Japanese customs, Stories about Japan, Things to do, Weekend trips, Where to stay | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Budget hotels and hostels in Tokyo; Cheap places to stay in Asakusa, Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Minami-Senju and beyond

Cheap places to stay in Asakusa, Ikebukuro, Shinagawa, Minami-Senju and beyond

 

Tokyo is home to literally dozens of world-class hotels, but a room at the Park Hyatt starts to look a lot less attractive when you’re trying to keep your budget down to a few thousand yen a day. Help is at hand, thankfully: the capital is home to a broad (and growing) range of budget hostels, guesthouses and hotels, many of which can give you a bed for under ¥3,000 per night. The old adage applies, of course: if you don’t fancy sharing a bunk in a dormitory, or spending the night in a thin-walled cell that has barely enough space for your luggage, you might want to take your business elsewhere. Be warned that many of the cheapest places are also found in traditional neighbourhoods like Asakusa and Minami-Senju – not without their charms, but a long way from pop-culture hotspots such as Shibuya and Harajuku. That said, there are some genuinely charming places out there, and they don’t all require a trip into the wilds of eastern Tokyo. Read on for our guide to some of the best Tokyo budget hotels and hostels, plus a few that could rival anything on the South-East Asian backpacker trail for sheer grottiness.

Backpacker hostels with style

Retrometro Backpackers

A converted family house provides the setting for this intimate Asakusa hostel, opened in March 2012 by a backpacking owner who dreamed of ‘travelling with her whole house’. With just two dorms, it’s one of Tokyo’s smallest hostels, and the décor – including a small lounge that looks more like a trendy Balinese café – make it one of the more agreeable, too.

Dorms from ¥2,700

Retrometro Backpackers, 2-19-1 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku (Tawaramachi Station)

Toco. Tokyo Heritage Hostel

Run by a bunch of East Tokyo hipsters, this converted 1920s townhouse north of Ueno offers the sense of staying in a traditional Japanese home at backpacker hostel prices. Then again, you might struggle to find a traditional Japanese home that comes equipped with its own bar and lounge, like Toco. does.

Dorms from ¥2,600, doubles ¥6,000, twins ¥6,500

Toco. Tokyo Heritage Hostel, 2-13-21 Shitaya, Taito-ku (Iriya Station)

Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory

If you were having trouble distinguishing between Khaosan’s multiple Asakusa hostels, they’ve made things easier with the latest addition to the family. Billed as an ‘experiment in high-end hostel style’, the brand-new Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory offers private and dorm rooms in a wide spectrum of punchy colours that are even rated by Munsell value.

Dorms ¥3,200, triples ¥3,400 per person

Kangaroo Hotel

Kangaroo Hotel’s rock-bottom prices attract a mixed bag of guests, from Japanese tourists to backpackers, businessmen and families. The interior is a blend of old and new – the lobby’s exposed concrete walls and white furniture give it the feel of a trendy showroom, but they also have some Japanese-style rooms, with tatami mats and futons.

Singles ¥3,300, doubles ¥5,000

Kangaroo Hotel, 1-21-11 Nihonzutsumi, Taito-ku (Minami-Senju Station)

Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory, 2-1-4 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku (Tawaramachi Station)

Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge

Run by the same group behind Iriya’s Toco. (see above), this friendly Kuramae hostel boasts some nifty interior design and a stylish ground-floor bar – with grand piano! – that’s as popular with local residents as it is with guests. Rooms are ultra-spartan, and while there’s no curfew, the common areas close at midnight, making it better suited to early sleepers.

Dorms from ¥2,700, doubles from ¥6,500, twins ¥6,500

Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge, 2-14-13 Kuramae, Taito-ku (Kuramae Station)

Japanese-style hostels

Anne Hostel Tokyo

Bed and breakfast’ is the name of the game at this Asakusabashi hostel, where you’ll get a place to sleep and a morning feed for your fistful of yen. Travellers in search of an authentically retro Japanese experience should appreciate thehorigotatsu-style recessed seating in the communal lounge, as well as the option of sleeping on a futon in a tatami-floored (washitsu) dorm.

Dorms from ¥2,600, twins ¥6,800

Anne Hostel Tokyo, 2-21-14 Yanagibashi, Taito-ku (Asakusabashi Station)

Andon Ryokan

It bills itself as ‘Tokyo’s first designer ryokan’, but you’d do better to think of Andon as a high-end backpacker hostel. Designed by architect Masayuki Irie, the chic-but-cramped interior incorporates traditional Japanese features while showcasing owner Toshiko Ishii’s collection of antiques (even the breakfasts are served on vintage tableware).

Singles from ¥6,300, twins/doubles from ¥7,450

Andon Ryokan, 2-34-10 Nihonzutsumi, Taito-ku (Minowa Station)

Guest House Shinagawa-Shuku

It’s only 10 minutes’ walk from one of Tokyo’s main transport hubs, but this Shinagawa guesthouse is set in an area with a distinctly old-school feel – including shrines, temples and a Showa-era shopping street. The traditional vibes continue past the front door, with mainly tatami-flooredwashitsu rooms on offer. Just watch out for all the extra fees.

Dorms ¥3,000, singles ¥3,500

Guest House Shinagawa-Shuku, 1-22-16 Kita-Shinagawa, Shingawa-ku (Kita-Shinagawa Station)

Sawanoya Ryokan

One of the few ryokan in Tokyo to cater almost exclusively to foreign visitors, the family-run Sawanoya has a small library of English-language guidebooks and provides its own map of the old-fashioned Yanaka area, plus cheap bicycle rentals. Rooms are small but comfortable, and there are signs in English reminding you how to behave and how to use the bath.

Singles ¥5,040, doubles from ¥9,450

Sawanoya Ryokan, 2-3-11 Yanaka, Taito-ku (Nezu Station)

Taito Ryokan

This Asakusa ryokan started life as a traditional house, and it’s kept the inner garden and ornate circular windows – as well as the tatami floors, rickety old staircase and indifferent insulation. Some guests complain that it’s shabby, noisy, and freezing cold in winter, but when you’re paying ¥3,000 for a single room it’s hard to complain too much.

¥3,000 per person

Sawanoya Ryokan, 2-1-4 Nishi-Asakusa, Taito-ku (Tawaramachi Station)

Cheap hotels (with real beds!)

Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro

Bilingual staff, a well-stocked beer fridge and easy access to Ikebukuro Station make this budget hotel a favourite among travellers looking for a warm bed for the night. The hotel has a shared kitchen, while you can grab a bite or sample a few of the 60 different world beers on offer at the Sakura Café, which stays open 24 hours a day.

Dorms ¥3,200, singles ¥6,800, doubles ¥9,000

Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro, 2-40-7 Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku (Ikebukuro Station)

Sakura Hotel Jimbocho

Of all the budget hotels and guesthouses in Tokyo, this is the most central, located just a mile or so north of the Imperial Palace. Rooms are tiny but scrupulously clean, and all are non-smoking. Staff are on duty 24 hours a day and speak good English, and guests can hang out at the on-site Sakura Cafe, also open 24 hours.

Dorms ¥3,150, singles ¥6,090

Sakura Hotel Jimbocho, 2-21-4 Kanda-Jimbocho, Chiyoda-ku (Jimbocho Station)

Palace Japan

Palace Japan opened in early 2011, and seems to be catering towards the backpacking community. It’s cheap and still in good nick, with all the necessary extras (read: free WiFi). Guests share a coin laundry, a small kitchen and shower rooms, and the whole place is designed to be barrier free – something that’s still rare in Tokyo.

Dorms ¥2,900, singles ¥3,500

Palace Japan, 2-31-6 Kiyokawa, Taito-ku (Minami-Senju Station)

Sakura Hotel Hatagaya

Hatagaya’s addition to the Sakura Hotel family is popular with businesspeople, presumably because it’s just a three-minute train ride from Shinjuku. As with its siblings, this budget hotel has bilingual staff and a 24-hour café where sociable types can mingle, though the lack of dorms or communal bathrooms means that it feels less like a backpackers hostel.

Singles ¥6,930, doubles from ¥9,000

Sakura Hotel Hatagaya, 1-32-3 Hatagaya, Shibuya-ku (Hatagaya Station)

Backpacker hostels in Asakusa

Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki

Other Tokyo hostels should probably start taking notes. Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki has a plum location, but it’s the attention to detail that sets it apart from many competitors. If you’re a sucker for Japanese-style touches, you’ll probably appreciate the red, green and black colour scheme (kabuki’s traditional colours), as well as the option to sleep in a tatami-floored room.

Dorms ¥3,000, twins/doubles ¥3,400 per person

Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki, 1-17-2 Asakusa, Taito-ku (Asakusa Station)

K’s House Tokyo

A laid-back atmosphere and predictably tiny rooms await at this hostel, just south of Asakusa. Facilities include a large living room (with free WiFi) and shared rooftop space, as well as a communal kitchen and coin laundry. Choose from dormitories, singles, doubles, twins and a family room that can squeeze up to four people, and has an ensuite bathroom.

Dorms from ¥2,800, singles ¥3,900, twins/doubles from ¥3,400 per person

K’s House Tokyo, 3-20-10 Kuramae, Taito-ku (Kuramae Station)

Khaosan Tokyo Samurai

One of a number of Asakusa hostels run by the Khaosan chain, Samurai sits on the opposite bank of the Sumida River, though it’s just a short walk to the station. If you’re looking to unwind after a hard day’s traipsing, head to the nearby Khaosan Bar Hanabi, a prime spot for socialising with other travellers (or nursing a drink in solitude).

Dorms ¥2,500, singles ¥3,500

Khaosan Tokyo Samurai, 1-18-3 Higashi-Komagata, Sumida-ku (Asakusa Station)

K’s House Tokyo Oasis

This renovated hostel sits just around the corner from the creaky old Asakusa Hanayashiki, so once you’re done relaxing in its ‘Zen style’ surrounds, you can get your adrenaline up again with a roller coaster ride. If theme parks aren’t your thing, you could always just enjoy the free tea and coffee in the 24-hour lounge instead.

Dorms from ¥2,900, twins/doubles from ¥4,400 per person

K’s House Tokyo, 2-14-10 Asakusa, Taito-ku (Asakusa Station)

Sakura Hostel Asakusa

Tokyo’s largest backpacker hostel is as functional as you’d expect. Fluent English speakers dispense tourist information 24 hours a day, and the early check-in and late check-out times are a plus. The kitchen area and 24-hour bar/café bring a little sense of community to what’s otherwise a slightly impersonal (though scrupulously clean) facility.

Dorms from ¥2,940, twins ¥8,295

Sakura Hostel Asakusa, 2-24-2 Asakusa, Taito-ku (Asakusa Station)

Ultra-cheap backpacker hostels

Khaosan Tokyo Original

The oldest member in Khaosan’s mini-empire of Asakusa hostels has the best location – right on top of the subway station – and one of the lowest rates. It’s been overshadowed by some of its successors, mind you: while you can expect the same friendly service and free WiFi, the rooms are unusually cramped and the facilities are really starting to show their age.

Dorms from ¥2,200, twins ¥2,500 per person

Khaosan Tokyo Original, 2-1-5 Kanarimon, Taito-ku (Asakusa Station)

Khaosan Tokyo Guest House Ninja

While most of Khaosan’s hostels are clustered around the Asakusa area, this outlier lurks in the backstreets of Bakurocho, within easy walking distance of Akihabara. The design is a little fancier than you’d expect in an average hostel, with quirks including dormitory ‘cabin beds’ that do a passable imitation of what you’d find in a capsule hotel.

Dorms from ¥2,200, twins ¥3,000 per person

Khaosan Tokyo Guest House Ninja, 2-5-1 Nihombashi-Bakurocho, Chuo-ku (Asakusabashi Station)

Tokyo Backpackers

A night’s stay at this dormitory-style hostel will set you back just ¥2,100, making it one of the cheapest options in Tokyo. The rock-bottom price at Tokyo Backpackers doesn’t mean you’ll be slumming it, though – rooms are clean and modern and there’s free WiFi, a shared living room and kitchen, plus an entire floor that’s women-only.

Dorms ¥2,100

Tokyo Backpackers, 2-2-2 Nihonzutsumi, Taito-ku (Minami-Senju Station)

Yadoya Guesthouse

If you’re looking for a cheap hostel somewhere other than eastern Tokyo, your options get more limited. The DIY-till-I-die Yadoya Guesthouse in Nakano offers a welcome change of scenery, though it’s not without its caveats. Expect to find plenty of long-term residents amongst the backpackers, and be warned that the management is a lot less hands-on than at other hostels.

Dorms ¥2,200

Yadoya Guesthouse, 2-18-6 Nakano, Nakano-ku (Nakano Station)

Aizuya Inn

Aizuya Inn offers a laidback atmosphere, eclectic music and multilingual staff who can even give advice on opening a bank account or getting medical care. Guests sleep on futons in tatami-mat rooms, and the price includes free WiFi, a teeny kitchen and a lounge with complimentary soft drinks – though not the coin-operated showers.

Dorms ¥2,200, singles from ¥3,450, twins from ¥6,250

Aizuya Inn, 2-17-2 Kiyokawa, Taito-ku (Minami-Senju Station)

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