Matsumoto Castle sakura viewing wasn’t something I expected to do last Spring. Actually I thought I had planned my two week Spring trip to sakura forecast perfection. HAHAHHAA I WAS WRONG!

Sakura are gorgeous super fickle flowers. Forecasts change quickly and even if you wait until a month before to book your travel plans, the predictions can STILL BE off. Six days before I was set to leave for Japan the sakura flood came scrolling across my instagram and twitter and all I could do was sit there and glare. DAMN YOU SAKURA! But that’s one of the big things about sakura planning. You just have to be flexible.

The full pink of sakura season. The pinkness happens at the end of the main variety of sakura blooming.

Matsumoto Castle is one of those great flexible locations. It’s in Nagano prefecture but a very easy day trip from Tokyo (2 1/2 hours by train). Since it’s further up to the north, Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jo) sakura bloom later than Tokyo. It’s a popular sakura location for Japanese and the castle appeared ready to with lots of volunteers for their “mankai” or full bloom season. Spring is the most popular time to visit and with good reason!

Matsumoto Castle is known as Crow Castle because of its black exterior. I think its dark look really sets off sakura well.

Matsumoto Castle in its full glory. Along with Matsumoto City’s mascot Alp-chan (アルプちゃん) dressed in samurai armor. For the sakura season there was also a roaming guy dressed in samurai armor that you could take photos with (top right).

Anything x sakura or red maple is my WA OTP so when I’m able to get blossoms x castle… so much bonus!


The castle peaking out from behind the sakura.

There were a few weeping sakura. Weeping sakura bloom later than regular sakura. They’re very plentiful in Kyoto but not so much around Matsumoto castle.


I usually don’t take many pictures inside of castles because they’re essentially darkened old buildings that house museum examples and mainly great for their exterior and for having wonderful views when you get to the top. I am so amused by old art though.

Climbing the castle was definitely worth it for this view. The moutains in the back are part of the Japanese Alps.

Inside the castle looking out to the grounds and city of Matsumoto.

Mankai or full bloom in all its glory. Matsumoto Castle sakura gave me hope I’d see more sakura that trip.


Reasons I’m not on this blog, top being –  I cannot pose, I am more like a bakery possum than a human, and I make stupid faces. But damn it’s the only photo I got of the full glory of the line of sakura trees leading up to the castle. Check out that lovely pink sakura rain.

All I did was resize this photo because I wanted to show how some of the sakura very beautifully pink that day.  :dotbow:


I love when sakura fall because they their whole blossom tends to fall.

We snuck in for the last full blossom day of Matsumoto’s sakura season. It was an overcast day and storms were brewing to rain the next day and take down the fragile blossoms.

How to get there: From Shinjuku take the Super Azuza (スーパーあずさ) limited express to Matsumoto station. There is reserved and unreserved seating which you can sort out at Shinjuku station. It’s free if you have JR Rail Pass or it’s 8,000 yen round-trip for unreserved. It’s a 15 minute walk to the castle from the station.

More information at: myoko-nagano


And to think this is just the sakura opener for the blog. So many more sakura posts to do. And many Nagano posts to do, too!

If you missed any previous sakura posts on the Doll check them out here I’ve got a fourth in a series of sakura foods posts coming up too.  :hearts3:

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Cha Kaiseki at Minoko is one of the rare cuisines to sample in Kyoto. Kyoto for being the center of cultural Japan lacks in a lot of traditional cuisine. Mainly Kyoto is known for sweets (post up coming), kaiseki and obanzai. Compared to neighbor Osaka which is known as the kitchen of Japan, Kyoto’s sickly. But the refinement of Kyoto cuisine is just lovely.

Minoko (website | english blog about it | Japanese: 美濃幸 | address:
605-0821 京都府京都市東山区 祇園下河原通清井町480) is a 100 year old teahouse which serves cha-kaiseki for lunch and full kaiseki for dinner.

Kaiseki is a multi-course meal that has origins in the tea ceremony but has developed into mini dishes change according to seasons and location of the kaiseki being held. It is an expensive and luxurious affair. Kaiseki is also known as the onsen (hot spring resort) meal and many onsens pride themselves on their kaiseki as much as their hot healing waters. Cha-kaiseki is more of a smaller relaxed meal and is usually a lunchtime event. If you’d like to learn more Kaiseki wiki english page is actually quite good.

Reservations thankfully were not required for lunch and we came early enough to be seated quickly.

I was a bit nervous so I didn’t take as many pictures as I should, I mean I was at an 100 year old teahouse that served what is thought be as high cuisine. This was not a camera moment, but I had to sneak a few. Since Minoko did lovely sakura themed items I thought I’d post it now for the upcoming flood of sakura travel posts.


We came early enough that inside their main tearoom we got the choice spot near the garden window. Birds and turtles played in the streams inside.


Cha-kaiseki is usually served in a black laquer bento box. Ours had two levels. First level was first meal (upper right box): a plate of vegetables and cooked fish. Second level (center) was a light fish and broccoli mix (left) along with a chawan mushi or fish custard (unopened center).


Looking at me you can se the first course laid out on the right.


A close-up of the delicately sauced fish and spring vegetables.


Of course right on the left in a wooden pot and right was this lovely sakura lacquerware that held miso soup.


Since it was a cha-kaiseki or tea-kaiseki hot green tea was kept fresh in a pot. The green jar (far right) held sweetener.


Absolute winner for me was this pot reveal. It’s actually a fish dish in a salted light sauce, but made to look like the traditional sakura mochi. Seasonal, clever and light on the palate.


Dessert came in the form of fresh fruit. This is typical for a lot of nicer traditional restaurants.


Finally bowl-like cups of freshly made matcha and sweet snacks.


Sakura!! And a peanut jelly. So sugary but worth it!

Our meal was 3,500 yen for lunch a peice ($32). Prices for dinner start at 12,000yen ($110). I highly recommend lunch. It was a great experience and the food was elegant yet filling. After the hustle and stress of traveling it was such a relaxing moment.

Update! Google Map of all of my Kyoto Food and Sweets recommendations

Other Kyoto cuisine: shojin ryori / obanzai which I sampled in Arashiyama, kaiseki courses in the heart of Gion there is Gion Endo and I ate there back in 2008 it was delicious and I still remember the food (english) and an upcoming post all about Kyoto traditional sweets.

I’m on a trend right now of food and travel | fashion | make-up/skincare and I think I’m going to follow that trend for a while in posting cycles so up next… fashion!

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Buying skincare and makeup in Tokyo sometimes is just stumbling to the right places, but it doesn’t have to be! I’d like to simplify shopping and give you two easy walking areas to get all your make-up and skincare needs handled. I actually ended up making a google map that you can save for easy directions and access.

I’ve recommended shops located near two train stations Shinjuku and Harajuku. But just in case you’re parked somewhere else for your visit in Tokyo I’ve added a few points of interest.

I’ve also listed if places are tax free or not from my experience.


Google has allowed me to make notes on each map point so you can click through and see points of interest, but below I’m going to explain them all as well.

Skincare and Make-up in Tokyo – Harajuku area

Harajuku is slowly becoming one of the better places to shop for skincare and make-up in tokyo. Tourism has really ramped that up and there are several good places to check out between crepes and style gawking.



Etude House


address: 東京都渋谷区神宮前1-16-5
jp site:

Newly built Etude House on Takashita street is one of the wonderful improvements to Takeshita. The pink castle outside and jewelbox inside hold lots of stock and it’s the best place to shop for Etude House in Tokyo. From my experience they seem to offer more novelties (freebies) and if you’re searching for a particular Etude House product you’re most likely to find it here.


Etude House Japan prices are cheaper than YesStyle and Jolse so stock up!! Since it’s on Takeshita getting there is a pain and it can get packed, but it’s still a lovely store.



Matsumoto Kiyoshis are immediately recognizable for their garish mustard and blue colorways.

Matsumoto Kiyoshi

Tax Free


japanese:マツモトキヨシ(マツキヨ sometimes shortened to)
site: here

Matsumoto Kiyoshi is a drugstore chain found most anywhere in Tokyo. It’s a great place to buy drugstore brands (Kate, Visee, Hada Labo, Shiseido, Canmake) of skincare and make-up in Tokyo or the rest of Japan. The two floor Takeshita shop is one of the larger ones, but can also be a bit packed. I also recommend the Ikebukuro location Sunshine-dori. But if your time is cramped maybe this is better saved for going to the one near your hotel?



Ainz & Tulpe


address:150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前1-13-14 原宿クエストビル
site: here

One of the hidden gems on Omotensando. Ainz & Tulpe is a two floor megastore of skincare and make-up in Tokyo. If you’re hunting for low or high priced Japanese brands it’s your best shot to find them here. Well lit and not as packed as Matsumoto Kiyoshi. They also have a location in Shinjuku and Shibuya’s Centa-gai but it’s not as well stocked.



Les Merveilleuses by Laduree

La Foret – 1.5 floor

japanese: レ・メルヴェイユーズ ラデュレ
address:150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前1-11-6
site: japanese | english

It’s like stepping into Versailles but with make-up. Located inside La Foret the shopping experience is always wonderful. Browse all their collection, I have yet to be told anything is out of stock unless it was seasonal. Recommend picking up a blush of your skin type (cream for dry, powder for normal to oily).

Mitsukoshi Ginza is the other store in Tokyo. Others in Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya.


The Shu Uemura pop-up in Shinjuku

Shu Uemura

Tax Free

Omotesando Hills Mall – 1st Floor

japanese:シュウ ウエムラ
address: 東京都渋谷区 神宮前4-12-10 表参道ヒルズ西館1F

Located in the ritzy Omotesando Hills mall, this Shu Uemura location is quite chic. But it’s also right on the ground floor and has a street entrance. The store is always packed with lots of staff and you can get in and out. Their oil cleanser is my Holy Grail item even if it’s pricey.



Skincare and Make-up in Tokyo – Shinjuku Area



Outside the east exit hip young mall Lumine EST should be your first stop for all types of make-up and then spread out walking to Tokyo’s Korea town, Shin-Okubo.

Etude House

Lumine EST – 2nd Floor

address:160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿3-38-1
jp site:

Not as big as the Takeshita location or as well stocked. This shop on the 2nd floor near Starbucks still has lots of options to see.


Inside a Plaza store. Lots of displays and well lit.


Lumine EST – 5th Floor

japanese: never used
address:160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿3-38-1
site: plazastyle

Plaza often has brands I have a hard time finding at other places. Excel drugstore make-up is one of them. Excel brow pencils are a savior if you are blonde or even a redhead and want the right color brow pencil. Lots of quirky gadgets, snacks and bath salts even roomwear and cups as well. The Shibuya 109 basement level two store is better stocked for make-up but this is second. Also the Plaza Ikebukuro Sunshine City store is nice.



photo source


Not Tax Free

Lumine EST – 4th Floor

japanese: スキンフード
address:160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿3-38-1
jp site:

A great place to sample and pick up tiny items, but sadly Skinfood Japan is very overpriced. A face cream may be marked 2x the original amount. Check your on-line prices before making any big purchases.


@Cosme Store

Tax free over 5,000 yen

Lumine EST – Basement 2

japanese: アットコスメ
address:160-0022 東京都新宿区新宿3-38-1

Located on basement level one next to the elevators this cosme store is not the best lit and can be a pickle getting to for a first timer. All that aside @cosme store is actually the manifestation of a ranking and review site used by thousands of women in Japan. It’s like Make-up Alley with a better interface. They also give out awards every year, kind of like “Allure’s Best of Beauty” winners. Make-up companies happily sticker on their products that they are #1 in the @Cosme rankings. Too bad the location and the lighting drive this down a little, but tons of good make-up brands high and drugstore and rankings clearly shown in front of make-up products.


Their big ranking system and horrible lighting. See all those stickers on their products, that goes in all stores not just the @cosme store

Loretta hair care line sells inside @cosme Shinjuku and smells amazing and has gotten me addicted thanks to the recs of Nicola, Alanna and Siobhan.

Marui Shibuya 5th floor also has an @cosme store, Ueno Marui and Lumine Ikebukuro are other locations. (Marked on the map)

If you are in Osaka. I 120% recommend going to the @cosme store inside the giant Tsutaya on popular Dotonbori in Shinsaibashi. It’s on the 4th floor and is everything that the @cosme store in Shinjuku isn’t. Well lit, wood paneled, lots of space.  Since it’s inside Tsutaya they even have lots of magazines related to beauty right on the same floor. And there’s bench seating to sit and read. And!!! It’s open until 12:00!! If you love make-up or skincare even a little and you’re in Osaka, do not miss it.


…also in Lumine EST a MAC store (b1), BodyShop (b1), Paul & Joe Beauty (b1)


photo source

Jill Stuart Beauty

Shinjuku – Lumine 2 2nd Floor

japanese: ジルスチュアート ビューティ
address: 東京都新宿区新宿3-38-2
site: japanese | english

Jill Stuart gets a lot of love for its packaging, bright girly colors but also for its aesthetic of using gel colors and shimmer. Its sister brands are Paul & Joe Beaute and Les Merveilleuses by Laduree. Nestled next to Lumine EST is Lumine 2 in Shinjuku.


photo source


Shinjuku East Exit Underground – Subnade 2nd floor

address:160-0021 東京都新宿区歌舞伎町1サブナード1号 新宿サブナード地下街2丁目
site: | english site: dhccare

DHC calls itself “direct skincare” selling out of tons of shops inside Japan. Its biggest love overseas is the DHC Deep Cleansing Oil for make-up removal. Inside Japan they’re know for peddling tons of diet pills and protein shakes. Imagine if Slimfast did make-up? Kind of DHC. The easiest one to get to in Shinjuku is inside Subnade an underground shopping complex reached by the JR East Exit or going down many of the staircases in Kabukicho noted with “Subnade”. But there are several located around the Tokyo area (Ikebukuro, Shibuya).

You might want to check if Matsumoto Kiyoshi has the DHC product you’re looking for first instead of going on this hunt. They do stock a small selection.


Shinjuku West Exit

address: 東京都新宿区新宿3-15-15

The famed simple shop has launched a line of make-up that’s made with basic ingredients and is praised by some. More sought after by skincare and make-up lovers are the jars and acrylic storage that make hoarding that much easier. A pass if you’re not deep into skincare or makeup or worth checking out. Muji is one of my favorite places to buy gifts for others.


photo source


Shinjuku New South Exit

japanese: タカシマヤ
address: 151-8580 東京都渋谷区千駄ヶ谷5-24-2

This big department store can be hassle to get to sometimes, but for that reason maybe it is also quiet. If you’d like to buy high end make-up and get pampered I really recommend this department store. When I was in college this was my horrible day at school escape.

Avoid: Shinjuku Isetan. Crowded with tourists definitely not the pampering experience one should expect with high end cosmetics.

Other department store reccomendations: Shibuya Station Tokyu, Ginza Takashimaya

donki-shinokubophoto source

Don Quijote (Donki)


japanese: ドン・キホーテ

Admittedly this is a walk from Shinjuku station but a pleasant one. However you can also get off at the Shin-Okubo JR Station via the Yamanote Line or the Okubo JR Station via the Chuo Line. This is my favorite Don Quijote inside Tokyo as I’ve said often. Lots of space, lots of things to buy and see.


Tourist warning: Donki loves to triple wrap their packaging to prevent shop lifters buying cosmetics often requires scissors and the tools from Q and James Bond to open it up.

Other recommended Donkis: Ikebukuro East exit, Nakano Broadway, Ueno, and Roppongi

Donkis to avoid for better Donkis: Shibuya, Shinjuku

Protip: Right next to the Okubo Donki is delicious Hotteok shop or ホットク in Japanese Hotoke  definitely must try!





japanese: スキンホリック
address:169-0072 東京都新宿区大久保1-12-15

The best Korean skincare and make-up store in Tokyo. ShinOkubo aka Korean town especially since the newest Korean wave has hit has put up so many tiny Korean skincare stores. Or its skincare mixed with Big Bang merch. They’re all fine and good but Skinholic stands out. Well lit, lots of tester bottles, new products. Mask super packs. This is my one stop shop for Korean skincare and make-up. One of my favorite things about Skinholic is they arrange most products by their type. So you can compare BB creams side by side without fluttering to one brand or another.


Inside Skinholic (source)

I look in other shops in Shin-Okubo but I usually only end up buying from Skinholic. Their selection and displays can’t be beat.


The Face Shop


japanese: ザ・フェイスショップ
address: 169-0072 東京都新宿区大久保1-12-1

Located right near Skinholic, Korean brand The Face Shop launched its own stand-alone store in Shin-Okubo. It’s a classy two storied affair that has tons of stock.



Whoa Mitsu you listed like 90 places… tl;dr

Sorry I love make-up and skincare and I want to give you ALL THE OPTIONS! If you’re not as skincare and make-up obsessed or just short on time my top catch-all types of cosmetics and skincare recommendations are: @cosme, ainz&tulipe, Matsumoto Kiyoshi or Donki, and skinholic. I can’t lower any more than that, you’re a devil for asking  :catno: .



Before you leave out the airport! Yojiya


The girl the mirror is their famous logo. Pictured: blotting papers, Yuzu lip cream and Sakura soap

Extra shout-out before you leave! Yojiya Kyoto skincare and make-up in all Tokyo airports

japanese: よーじや
site: yojiya

Yojiya, Kyoto’s long term brand famous for their blotting papers is located in all terminals of Narita and Haneda airports. Personal favorites are the yuzu lip cream and their selection of soaps in Japanese flavors like matcha, sakura and yuzu. They make great gifts and in airport they won’t count against your luggage weight! Yojiya is also located in the train station of Shin-Osaka and all throughout Kyoto.

Side notes:

I have left off all goods maker Loft just because their Shinjuku store is a little cumbersome and sometimes their beauty selection isn’t the best. Shibuya Loft is best if you’re in the area.

Although Korean brand Tony Moly once had a shop in Shinjuku it is since gone. Now they have a website ( that does on-line orders. Missha ( has some stores in odd places around Japan although not many convenient to tourism. Missha’s Ikebukuro store in Lumine on the 7th floor is the best bet (171-0021 東京都豊島区西池袋1-11-1 ルミネ池袋7階). Missha and Tony Moly are both found in Skinholic along with select goods in Plaza stores.


…a map and everything. Man I feel like today’s post is the most organized I’ve ever been. Gudetama me is so proud of this. Coming up the companion to this post. Where to go to find individual Japanese brands of make-up by store.


I like to blog and review about kawaii make-up from Japan and Korea. Check all the posts here.

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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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