Visions of sliding rice paper screens, tatami mats and creative use of limited space pops into mind when I think of a Japanese home. Obviously Japanese accommodation offers a huge variety of choices ranging from traditional homes to ultra modern hotels. Sticking within our price range we tried to combine clean comfortable hostels with occasional special treats of nights in a traditional Japanese home which costs more but was worth every yen.
After traveling for a couple of months and sleeping in basic accommodation with varying levels of comfort and hygiene, Japan was a lovely change in standard. Even the cheaper hostel chains which we stayed in were clean, comfortable and felt luxurious compared to the places we have stayed at before Japan.
In hostels, we stayed in dorms which ranged from 4 beds to a whopping 14 bed room. Each of these hostels which belonged to popular Japanese hostel chains had dorms and private rooms may you wish to have more privacy. Dorms all have access to well equipped bathrooms with complimentary toiletries, hair dryers and water that heats up in seconds – a luxury when travelling on a budget. Toilets are clean and modern with all sorts of buttons on a side panels offering extra hygienic services. A fully equipped kitchen with free coffee and tea makes it possible to store food or cook. To cut costs, lots of travelers cook at their hostels and cooking oil, condiments (western and Japanese) are often provided free of charge. Self service laundry (coin operated machines) and all sorts of vending machines are usually available, all in all, everything to fulfill all travelers’ needs.
When we felt like it was time for a treat, we chose for Japanese homes or guesthouses which provided traditional style rooms completed with tatami mats and paper screens which are more expensive but provides a nice insight into Japanese culture. During the day, the room was minimally furnished with low tables, small shrine and a large closet where bedding is kept. Every night you make up your own bed with the provided futon, pillows and blankets.
Booking in advance is appreciated as walk-ins are not common and you may face fully booked accommodations especially in the weekends. We booked up front through the hostel’s own website or booking sites and for family owned guesthouses, we had someone from our current place call for us.
On average, a dorm bed in a hostel costs us 1,700 yen ($17) per person whilst a night in a Japanese guesthouse costs us 3,500 yen ($35) per person per night. More info can be found in this earlier post.
In addition to the usual accommodation choices, Japan provides quirky alternatives which may be fun to try out and are gentle for your wallet:
- Love Hotels (hotels where lovers pay per ‘short rests’) All love hotels also provide a long ‘stay’ option with quite competitive prices.
- Manga Kissas (private rooms in manga shops where you can rent/read manga books) We saw offerings for around 1,500 yen ($15) for an overnight stay and unlimited usage of their manga books. Rooms looks very small but adequate. Shared showers are available.
- Capsule Hotels (note that some only accept men) Famous capsule size ‘room’ where you slide in and sleep. Originally for businessmen who have missed their last train home. Capsule has screen or curtain for privacy, personal lights and sometimes even a TV. Fun for the experience and offers more privacy than a dorm bed but may be a bit claustrophobic for some.
Here are the places we called home in Japan:
Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel Tokyo
International House Khaosan Fukuoka
Spa Hostel Khaosan Beppu (with small in-house onsen)
K’s House Hiroshima
Kurashiki Guesthouse Yurinan
Hattoji International Villa
Yume Nomad Kobe
Khaosan Kyoto Theater (capsule dorm)
Khaosan Kyoto Theater (capsule kimono beds dorm)