How to find a place to stay in Japan: Hotels & Apartments

If there’s anything I’ve gotten really good at it’s finding a good place to stay while I’m in Japan. I’m going peg this towards short-term to mid-term stay. Meaning one day to 3 months. Any longer than that and you should be hunting with a Japanese apartment agency to get you a better deal. All of the places I list are geared towards booking on-line before arrival and are mostly kind to foreigners with language offerings.

As always I’m usually a cheapskate so this is budget travel mostly. Personally I think there’s a sweet spot in between price, amenities and location that I try to aim for.

Of course, book a month in advance or longer for most places so you can get the best rate for hotels. After all the talk I’m going to link some places below I stayed at that I really liked and would recommend.



Types of Hotels in Japan

Most types of hotels you will deal with in Japan if you’re in a big city fall under two categories regular or business. Ryokans and Onsens are also an option but they are usually not a full trip experience (read below to find out why).



The Hotel Monterey in Osaka

Regular hotels:


Regular hotels in Japan tend to offer more amenities and are larger. They often have wedding event areas on the premises and a restaurant or two. Hotel Monterey and Hotel Okura are two chains I’ve stayed at and liked. Hotel Nikko in Osaka is one I’ve stayed at and thought was subpar, especially for the price.  These usually have larger rooms than business hotels but are usually pricier.



The layout of a typical business hotel (Chisun Inn here). It’s very small but serviceable.

Business hotels:


Business hotels are pretty spartan and small, but perfect for budget travelers. Business hotels tend to be near major train stations which also make them ideal for tourism. Despite the title of business sometimes there is no wifi (only LAN cable) and limited tv stations, but they’re always clean and are part of large chains.

Examples of business hotel chains are – APA, MyStays, Dormy, Toyoko, Chisun, Hearton. APA is the nicest and most expensive of the bunch. I do really like APA hotels.

Here’s a good post on Japan-Guide with good photos of a business hotel. If you’re on the budget (40-100 USD a night) I recommend these places. They’re usually my go to places.




The Three Sisters Annex Ryokan in Kyoto



You won’t find many ryokan usually if you’re looking to stay central to a city other than in Kyoto. The term ryokan and onsen are often used interchangeably because ryokan can be attached to an onsen. However there are also city ryokan around Asakusa in Tokyo or in Kyoto. Ryokan are older hotels with tatami mat flooring and futons. Whether they provide a kaiseki (full course meal) is not always common. I’ve stayed at one in Kyoto and found it just okay. A thin sheet and a futon only seem magical until you try to sleep on one.

Not many ryokan are around that aren’t attached to an onsen.




Inside a room of the Tsuruya Onsen Ryokan in Nagano


Onsen Ryokan:


Onsen are hot spring resorts located next to hot springs which means away from a city center. Onsen are usually known as a get-away-from-it-all experience. They’re not recommended for touristing in cities, but are lovely 1 to 2 day escapes from a big travel. Onsens are quite expensive. When I say expensive I mean expensive proper onsen start at 200$ a night and can go to $800 a night!! However, they do include a meal or two that you would probably pay $100+ for. And they also provide dramatic scenery, private onsen time and full course dinners. Onsens book up fast so reserving early is recommended. As stated they’re usually off the beaten path so do you research on how to access them and if they will provide transportation to get to the closest hub.

Onsens have a big range. Some are just 12 rooms and run like little boutique hotels. Others are giant complexes with tons of baths and options.

My previous post in 2009 about visiting an onsen.

Japinican which is a subsidiary of JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) is a good English resource to search for Ryokan and Onsen again most will be “Onsen Ryokan”. Their Ryokan 101 is good information to read before visiting an Onsen Ryokan.


Love Hotels

Which I do not recommend at all for touring Japan. It’s fun for a night, but the often no windows and seedy place isn’t so fun. Although a lady friend and I did it in Osaka. Prices still are not very kind. Back in 2009 I made a post on Love Hotels (sorry for the horrible blogspot layout). And lately they’re showing up on reputable sites, but definitely don’t recommend more than a night stay there.



Short Term Stays 1 day to a week is my go to for most every hotel I’ve booked in Japan. The stay 10 nights and your next one is free really makes booking at worthwhile. Their rewards system is nice and no hassle cancellations have saved me more than once. This should be your first click.

tips with this site: Always search via train station you’d prefer to be at, select by distance and click on the map.



rakuten travel

I’ve used them twice and one of the things I like about rakuten travel is they will often list different properties than Also all the totals are done in yen so no worries about a hotel booking company faking the yen to USD/Pound/CAD rate to their liking. You earn rakuten points when you book travel they are transferrable to all rakuten things like liz lisa’s rakuten site or dreamv’s rakuten place. The payback isn’t as good as but still, rewards!



A japanese-only website. This is my desperation website for hotels. If I can’t find anything the times I’m looking for I’ve found places on here.

note: All Japanese hotel sites (rakuten, ikyu) list prices of total booking price not per individual night.


other places to look:

All the silly named travel websites (travelocity, booking, expedia etc…). I didn’t list them because I feel their rewards programs– if any– isn’t as good as or rakuten.

Your preferred airline carrier. Sometimes there are good deals to be had or you can earn more flight miles if you book through them.


Shorter Mid range stays 1 week to a month | airbnb | roomarama

All of these are apartments rented out by users to stay in. Many of the properties listed are people renting out places just for this, so these are not people’s homes often. These come with portable wifi often. Saving you on the $100-$300 price of rental depending on your stay. Also a laundry machine which is always handy.

Tips with these sites:

:hearts3: If you’re staying 2-3 weeks still check full month rental prices. Often it’s cheaper to rent for the month rather than 3 weeks. Madness I know but it happens.

:hearts3: Type in the train stations you’d like to stay at rather than the cities. So instead of Tokyo type in Ikebukuro. You’ll find much better listings if you do this.

:hearts3: All of these have tougher cancellation policies than hotels. Usually it’s 7 days in advance to get a full refund, so be wary of that.

:hearts3: Hosts will often list their apartments on several of these sites. The way each site charges guests is different so maybe you’ll find one site cheaper even if its the same host providing the same apartment. has a good breakdown of these short-stay sites.



Mid-range stays 1 month to 3 months. Tokyo centric.


A typical short-term furnished apartment


sakura house
One of the only places offering full furnished apartments (along with guesthouses) for as short as a month’s stay. You can reserve on-line and pay in advance. Their prices tend to be cheaper than airbnb’s properties for a month in a similar area, but minimum is a month’s stay.


Offering guesthouse stay for 1 day to 3 months. Fontana is minimum of 3 months stay to rent an apartment. I’ve used them in the past. Their prices aren’t as good as Japanese rental companies, but they do not require a year’s lease. From 3 months to 6 months I’d recommend them.


Ichii Corporation
Minimum one month’s stay. It’s a bit harder to find open properties from them as they don’t keep their website updated. However, I’ve used them before and I feel their apartments are a bit nicer than Fontana’s. Although their prices may show that.


Tokyo Monthly

The one of the list I haven’t used. They’re a pricier option but if you like what you see maybe you should try them?


Hotels I’ve stayed at that I really liked for their price and service


APA Hotel Ikebukuro-Eki-Kitaguchi – Very new hotel and extremely close to the station although in the red light area of Ikebukuro. It’s about 5 minutes easy walk to the station. Prices can be as low as $55 a night. My favorite hotel to stay at for distance/price/location. I do like APA hotels the best for business hotel class. Chisun and Toyoko are serviceable and I don’t really have a complaint.


Hotel MyStays Highashi-Ikebukuro – A bit out of the way from the station but the hotel is quite cheap (as low as $42 a night) and has a tiny stove and extra sink in it. Rooms are okay sized and it’s meant for longer term stays. You can refill toiletries downstairs by yourself. They generously let us store our luggage for a small fee for 4 days while we were in Osaka. MyStays is a chain and also located in Osaka and other big cities.


Hotel Kyoto Okura – I don’t know how they had such a crazy deal but I was able to book this place for $70 a night. It’s absolutely wonderful, the rooms are huge, several weddings took place while I was there. If you can find it for cheap or want to splurge, do it. Lovely place with beautiful interior.


Hotel Monterey Sendai – Or other Hotel Monterey. If you’d like to spend a little over business hotels the Hotel Monterey group is quite lovely. I’ve stayed at their Sendai, Fukuoka and Osaka Namba hotels. They always seem to have a little style to them and all are well located towards central train stations


Chisun Inn Honmachi Osaka – I’ve stayed here multiple times. It always seems to be the cheapest and most available hotel near Shinsaibashi in Osaka. Prices are usually $50-70 a night depending on season.



New design

As you may have noticed if you’re not browsing on bloglovin I’m working on the Doll’s redesign. I’m experimenting with the layout and I’ll be tinkering around with it in the next day before I leave for Japan for a month.  Since the Doll is a lot of text I’m working on how to make it the most readable.


I’ll be working on a few more Japanese travel posts when I’m in Japan. The next coming up I think is how to eat cheap in Japan. I’ll also be working on a traveling fashionable post.


Previous good travel posts: Mistakes people make when traveling to Japan or how to smart pack for Japan | How to find any food in Japan to eat | Tips for eating healthy in Japan


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Minoo Park Waterfall near Osaka for Koyo season

Koyo season is approaching again and hopefully by now you realize how nuts I am for it. I went hiking last week around Cloudland Canyon in Georgia where it is in full fall colors. It was beautiful and it had several waterfalls and the hiking was good. But without the Japanese red maple of Japanese koyo I was left wanting. All the other fall colors are beautiful, but that bright blood red of Japanese maple is special especially against its ashy branches.

I hate myself a little for feeling this way. I love to visit Japan but I’ve seen many other beautiful places in the world. Norway nature is just breathtaking. What has been built in Austria is nothing short of spectacular. But there you have… damn you Japanese maples! And in this post I actually eat Japanese maple.

Minoo Park (alt spelled Minoh, Mino,  Minou | Japanese – 箕面公園) is a small valley a quick train ride away from Osaka and its considered Osaka’s outdoor area complete with waterfall. It’s a relatively easy paved hike that takes about 45 minutes from the station to reach the waterfall (where the trail stops). Minoo shines during koyo and everything is maple for that reason.

The easily paved hike. I was walking in heeled boots and it was no big deal.

Tiny cute souvenir shops dot the hike up.

This woodsy tea room was at the midway point. I love the natural decor of it.

The main goal was the waterfall, but the scenery up was always beautiful.

More beautiful colors up and down the hills

Walking up to the waterfall.

I was lucky to catch the light shining with all the perfect reds.


The lovely waterfall and autumn leaves.

Minoo is known for their Momiji tempura which is dipping a maple leaf into a sweetened batter and frying it. They were sweet and crunchy. I don’t think I can compare them to much maybe a sopapilla? Here’s a kotaku post all about them.

On the way up I noticed these temporary platforms. I think they’re part of Kawayuka/Kawadoko which is a Kyoto style of dining with kaiseki meals above rivers during the summer.


Food stall at the waterfall advertising fall specialities like hot sake, oden, and smoked fish.


My blonde head hiking up the hill


Food stalls were everywhere. I picked up a red bean taiyaki. I mean I was hiking I needed some sustenance.  :wink:


We stopped by this beautiful pottery studio near the train station of Minoo. The older woman who worked the shop said her grandmother invented the red glazing done by the studio and she’s been doing it ever since. Reflecting all the red maples of Minoo park. My man’s parents are really into pottery (have their own studio) so we picked them up one of the beautifully glazed cups.

More info on Minoo here: japan-guide

More koyo posts: here

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Japanese Brands doing fashion: Merry Jenny

It’s hard writing a fashion blog about Japanese subculture fashion when its being terribly restrained and uninventive. I feel like an old grandma railing against basics and normcore. I am a broken record of complaints. I spend a lot of time being negative about the state of most Japanese fashion.

It just all looks the same, how do you choose which pair of black pants to buy? How are these brands creating brand loyalty? How are these brands distancing themselves from each other? I don’t have a problem with black pants or any other basics I just find the sameness a bit boring.

And it’s really hitting fever pitch because many runway designers are getting back to prints and funky styles and inventive color palettes. That’s where these brands get some of their ideas from. Yet it’s not transferring to what is currently on the hangers.

So instead of my general crankiness I’m going to highlight a few brands doing fun looks for Fall that are relatively affordable. And this is my taste preferences so please note, but hey it’s my blog.

…and there are some brands still doing non-normcore that I didn’t shout out in this post. MA*RS, Datura, Rady and the like are still chugging along doing cute looks that represent their style without bowing down to over simplicity.

Instead I chose to feature some brands doing trend items, but with a twist. I’ve bolded trend talk for the lazy readers or just as a heads up.

Merry Jenny

I’ve spotlighted them in the past through seasonal styles or shop staff looks. I only own a few pieces from the brand but I find myself always wanting to wear them.

They’re an aomojikei brand but also they tend to be leaning towards Larme-kei this season. The Merry Jenny is quirky and youthful and probably wants to start a zine. Wes Anderson lite is how I’d categorize the look.

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This is their best selling piece and the third best seller on giant Runway-Channel. Chiffon layering is a trend of the season along with velvet. Instead of the multitude of felt fedoras peddled this season, Merry Jenny has decided on a loose faux-fur hat. Trendy patent chunky ankle boots round out the look. Simple, no prints, but definitely not normcore.

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A weird light knit, loose pants in faux suede and pearl lace-up shoes. Funky takes on lots of trends including suede, wide pants, lace-up shoes, and mock turtlenecks. This look especially could fit into a Wes Anderson movie.

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It’s an odd shoe and not for everyone, but definitely different!

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A more simple style but they took the tulle-skirt trend further with a shiny satin under skirt and a contrasting belt-line.

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A pretty typical aomojikei look, but the bag is really a point of interest. I’m trying to tell myself I do not need a shirt bag.

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Loose dresses are a big aomoji and Larme look for the season. The eyemask trend translated to a clutch bag.

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The print is really dainty and mixable into Larme looks (with a belt probably).

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They love to do quirky accessories and this was part of a group of earrings, necklace and iphone case that matched.

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Parade was their theme this season and they’ve taken that to the popular pin badges as shoe accents. The light navy really compliments the rest of the collection.

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Another big seller is this appliqué hangbag sweater with attached pearl handle.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.28.02 PMTheir biggest seller has been the Mickey and Minnie tight skirts. Although it doesn’t show up well the ears are 3-d and pop up above the skirt. You can see them well in this instagram post

If you’re into Merry Jenny’s look I really recommend their instagram there’s a lot of good styling with their pieces on the instagram beyond the shopping site.

Runway-Channel via Tenso or From Japan or White Rabbit is the easiest way to pick up these looks. They even have lately put up a how-to guide in English.


Do you like Merry Jenny? Want to see more brands outside of normcore and basics? I hope so but I’d love to hear your comments below  :star2:


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Mistakes people make when packing for Japan

Packing for Japan or anywhere really. Four international trips last year, three the year before and before that. I’ve gotten really used to big packing. So let me share some tips and learn from my mistakes. Hopefully I stick to these rules well since I’m leaving for a month in Japan in a few weeks!

This is a guideline for most airlines which means you can have two checked bags and two carry-ons. If you have different requirements always check and tailor to those.

Not theme packing or considering each piece

A lot of times people say to make a capsule collection of clothing when packing. Based on some theme or something. I like the idea, I do. If anything polyvore and pinterest are great at compiling them. But it doesn’t seem to work for me in real life and it’s mostly geared towards normcore or minimalist. Two things I have realized I am not. And even if I try to do with with my own closet, I do not feel like that capsule person 24/7.

So instead I stick with a few rules.

BIG RULE! Can everything you pack be worn with two other things or more you pack. Is that printed skirt good with more than one top? And as you do this you may find yourself relying on one item more and more. So just play around with it and see.

I’m a big fan of drawing out all the items I plan to pack and doing this check. See my silly drawings of this in the Getting back to Gal post.

Other rule: Bring one coat/sweater cardigan/trench during Spring/Summer/Fall make it go with everything else. Wear it/carry it on the plane. Coats are big suitcase killers. They’re both heavy AND take up space. If you need to bring 1 coat and 1 jacket. But really they’re chunky.

Other rule: Sometimes its better to bring separates than dresses because it’s easier to wear a separate two days in a row. Or just multiple times that week.

Other rule: Consider shoes. Shoes are heavy. Shoes need to be walked in miles everyday. Pick three including the ones you’re wearing to travel. If it’s only a week you get two. (more on this below)

Bringing too much clothing

Too much clothing? You regularly hear people complain they didn’t pack warmly or cooly enough (solve that at uniqlo or GU for cheap), but too much clothing? 

You’ve packed your coordinates and then immediately throw out most of the ideas when you arrive to Japan. You’ve bought new clothes and you probably want to wear them immediately. All your packed clothes seem dull when you see the new releases at stores. Or a good vintage find. You’ll despise most of what you’ve packed. I do this every damn trip.

I swear I’m packing the chicest looks every time. I feel top-level stylish. I arrive. Buy things. Ignore what I packed in my suitcase.

If you’re planning on clothes buying pack much less than you need!

I’m really trying to break my habit of this. And its important. You’ve got to stay a few pounds under your suitcase weight limit so you can bring all the cute stuff you’re buying back.

This is a trick I like to do. I get on the scale and weigh myself, and then weigh myself holding my (fully packed) suitcase. Subtract and you’ll get a better and more accurate weight number than just putting a suitcase on a scale. 7 lbs under is smart, 10 lbs under is genius.

Not considering the trip home

This brings me to sub mistake:  Pack less. You’ll have so much less to worry about on your way home. Packing to head home can be the most stressful part of your whole trip. 

Shoes are a big offender. Wear your heaviest pair of shoes to travel and pack only 3 or less. 

Bring an expandable bag. An eco bag or zip tote you can flatten. If it’s an eco-bag most long-haul flights accept that people coming home are bringing presents. If it looks shopping-like it’s most allowed WITH your carry-on and purse. Or you can shove your purse into the eco bag.


My recommendation is an adjustable shoulder strap duffle bag. Especially a collapse-able one like this with soft sides and light-weight nylon (so it wont take up weight in your luggage). You can find them for $15 or so on eBay or amazon.

If you’ve got a little extra even after that bring it along in a shopping bag. Yes you’re fudging airplane rules, but I’ve never been told no. Especially since a lot of people are carrying these because of duty-free shopping. You’d be amazed how much you can fit into a shopping bag.


Shopping bags are a great way to skirt weight rules.

Carry a large carry-on. Put your purse in it. It can work as a second luggage. You can fill it up at the end of the trip with excess items.

If you have preferred status on airlines usually you can get on first and secure your storage. Most long haul flights have ample storage so it’s not such a pickle.

I usually end up on the flight home with my large carryon and my duffle bag and a shopping bag. Never been told no.

Worrying too much about cute and not enough about comfortable

Long-haul flights cause your belly to store bad bacteria and lack of sleep can cause water retention.  New food to your system and you can have some digestive issues. All of these can lead to a lot of bloating. Also studies have shown the sleep deprivation can help you pack on the pounds even without the water issue.

Or you want to go to the all-you-can-eat Sweets Paradise or indulge at q-pot.  Or you had a really good time last night and drank too much at nomihodai.

While you’ve feeling like it’s time to put your body into the sea and let it be with the rest of the whales, wear something comfy and cute. 

A little bit uncomfortable is okay, but have some back-ups.

Also fitted clothes can be an opposite problem. Sometimes the extra walking and busyness can lead to lots of weight loss and you’re in baggy items. So let elastic be your friend.

Suggestions: A lower heel or platforms or sneakers, an elastic skirt, forgiving jeans. Babydoll and a-line dresses are making a comeback this season. Or just a big cosy sweater dress or sweater + skirt to hide in.


Low heel options are available for every style

Allergy & Stomach medicine

Allergy medicine is my big recommendation. The pollen, mold and other allergens are different in Japan. You may just find out you’re allergic to ginkgo pollen. Zrytec and Claritin and such are prescribed medicines in Japan or at much lower doses if over-the-counter. The flu-like symptoms of allergies can knock you out for days if you don’t prepare beforehand.

I shared earlier why your belly may be upset. And when you’re stomach is bad you don’t need to go hunting to a drug store, you need relief now. I usually pack pepto and a digestive tea. 

Not researching adapters

Universal adapters are cheap. But unnecessary and heavy if your MacBook or laptop or hairdryer is only two prongs US-style. Most of the time you can leave them at home if you’re US or Canada, but have to bring them maybe if you’re from certain European countries. Here’s a quick on travel adapters in Japan

Not packing food

Pack food in your carryon. Pack snacks: nuts etc… This goes in my eating healthy post I’m going to make, but maybe the first night you arrive in Japan you’ll wake up at 2:00am wanting to eat. You can easily snatch it out of your carryon. Your belly will thank me when it has something from home to eat. Again your belly may get messed up, best to have something from home to ease it into foreign food. If you buy bulk snacks from home and put them in snack bags you’re also saving money.

Make everything travel sized and don’t buy travel size

I just buy hairspray in Japan because it saves me from buying a travel one in the US. But switch to solid soap and just pack that. Get cheap travel bottles, don’t buy travel sized items. Travel sized items are usually more expensive and you can make your own of your favorite products instead of having to settle for what’s drugstore travel-size brand.

A while ago I invested in the “GoToob” brand and I really like them. They’re silicone, haven’t leaked for me, and are dishwasher safe. I usually bring 3-4 of them: shampoo, conditioner, lotion and face mask (for the plane). You can find cheaper options on eBay just search “silicone bottle”.


Bring plastic grocery bags or gallon sized bags

Plastic bags can help you store liquids in travel. You can also use plastic bags to store shoes in your luggage. Shoe soles get dirty and you don’t want that dirt on your clean clothes or just floating off in your luggage. I usually bring shoe dust bags but really plastic bags work just fine. They weigh nothing, take up very little space and can really help you manage the mix of your luggage. If you’re in a bind, hotel shower caps work great for covering shoe soles.


These sure-zip ones are perfect for packing lots of liquids.

I hope you’ve learned from my mistakes and have now become a smarter packer!  :wink:

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