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 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 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 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.
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.
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
Hotels.com 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 hotels.com 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.
I’ve used them twice and one of the things I like about rakuten travel is they will often list different properties than hotels.com. 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 hotels.com 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 hotels.com 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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tripping.com 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
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.
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.
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.
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.