Traveling in Japan doesn’t have to be expensive, even in regard to finding a place to sleep.
Last time, I introduced 7 Free Places to Stay in Japan. This time, I want to introduce 10 cheap places to stay in Japan.
Cheap Places to Stay in Japan
1. Capsule Hotels
Price: 2,000 yen to 5,000 yen per night (also available around 300 yen to 600 yen per hour for naps)
If you aren’t too claustrophobic (or too tall), then a capsule hotel, also known as a pod hotel, might be right for you. In your capsule, you’ll most likely have a TV, radio, alarm clock, reading light, and, of course, a bed. There are even curtains or little doors that you can close for some privacy. Just try not to think about how you are actually only a few inches from the person next to you, separated only by wall. Think of it as a “honey, I shrunk the room.”
The only down-side is that, because of safety and privacy issues, women often aren’t allowed at these hotels. It is a good idea to check, as there are exceptions.
The capsule hotels are most often found clustered around stations. They are most popular among drunk business men who’ve missed the last train. If you prefer to find one ahead of time, about.com has a nice list of capsule hotels in Tokyo at their site.
2. Rental Offices
Price: around 500 yen per hour
Rental offices typically charge for the hour (around 500 yen per hour). These offices are aimed at business men who need a quick, temporary place to set up office. However, some Japanese websites suggest that these are good places for sleeping on a budget. Check out Tsukasa Rental Office and Tsukasa Netroom for examples.
3. Guest houses
Price: 30,000 yen per month and up
Well known among foreign residents in Japan, guest houses accommodations offer a budget option. This is particularly for those staying a little more long term. Many guest houses are aimed at foreigners, which is why these accommodations are sometimes known as gaijin houses (“gaijin” means foreigner in Japanese). Some hostels also function as guest houses, and there are many similarities, such as shared kitchens and bathrooms, and sometimes shared rooms. See the Japan Guide website for some more information about guest houses. Alternatively, check out Gaijin House Japan or Guest House Bank for guest house listings. Sakura House is one of the more well-known guest houses.
Price: about 4,000 yen per night and up
Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns, which are sometimes compared to bed and breakfast inns. While are there many expensive ones, some of the cheaper ones can start around 4,000 yen per night. Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns. Minshuku, a type of “budget” ryokan which is family run hotel (sort of like a pension) are often mixed up with ryokan. This is especially true since the lines are blurring between them. If you are interested in the differences, see Japan Cheap Travel for a run-down of how ryokan and minshuku are different. To make things more confusing, ryokan are sometimes called “Japanese guest houses.” This can make them easy to mix up with the aforementioned gaijin houses. Some ryokan call themselves hostels on their English websites. Don’t let this confusion scare you away from ryokan. Take a look at Japanese Guest Houses for listings of ryokan around Japan.
Price: about 3,000 yen per night and up
As mentioned before, minshuku are like budget ryokan. They are run by families and often serve breakfast and dinner, much like bed and breakfasts or pensions. It’s a great way to meet a local Japanese family. The inn usually doubles as the family’s home. A minshuku is a great way to experience the Japanese lifestyle. See the Minshuku Network website for some listings of minshuku.
6. Temple Lodging
Price: 3,000 yen per night
Shukubo, the Japanese term for temple lodging, is a lovely, budget way to see another side of Japan. You’ll get to meet the temple monks, eat traditional vegetarian Buddhist monk fare, and you’ll sometimes have the option to participate in zazen, meditation, or other activities. Like ryokan, there are some more expensive temple lodgings, but a few start around 3000 yen a night, including breakfast. See this Temple Lodging website for a comprehensive listing of temples that offer shukubo. Temple lodging isn’t just one of the free places to stay in Japan. Rather, it is an experience.
7. Business Hotels
Price: 5,000 yen per night and up
Often western style, business hotels can be quite cheap, depending on the hotel or chain. The rooms are usually fairly small, but have many of the amenities, such as TVs, private restrooms, and even yukata (basically sleeping or bathrobes). They are a bit on the higher end of “budget,” starting around 5,000 yen per night. My favorite business hotel is Toyoko Inn, which has special prices and deals for foreign travelers. Check out the Business Hotel Guide or utilize your favorite search engine to find a place which suits you.
8. Karaoke Box
Price: Around 500 yen per hour per person
One of the more nontraditional places to sleep, but probably a place a large amount of Japanese have stayed at least one night, is a karaoke box. Karaoke in Japan is still very popular, and it is quite different from karaoke in the US. In Japan, karaoke is a friend’s and coworker’s-only affair where you rent a room in a karaoke building that is equipped with karaoke equipment. You can then sing your heart out, or, alternatively, sleep. You can rent a karaoke box for about 500 yen an hour or so per person. Of course, there are specials for weekdays and longer stays. So, if you are able to ignore the drunken “singing” coming from the rooms next to you, then a karaoke box might be the place for you.
9. Weekly/Monthly Apartment Rentals
Price: 25,000 per month and up
Short-term apartment rentals, sometimes called weekly mansions (“mansion” is the Japanese word for apartment), are a budget option for travelers staying two weeks or more in Japan, starting at 25,000 yen per month. Many short-term rental apartments probably won’t be near tourist areas, so they might be more suitable for business travelers, but if you find a good price and good rental company, it will probably be difficult to beat the value. See Tokyo Apartments or Housing Japan for a few of the many options.
10. Riders’ Houses
Price: 500 yen to 8,000 yen per night
Riders’ houses are extremely cheap lodgings aimed at motorcyclists and bicyclists looking for a place to stay on the road. The average price seems to be from 800 yen to 1500 yen per night, so this is one of the cheapest places to stay on the list. The majority tend to be open during the warmer seasons, from May to October. Unfortunately, they are rather difficult to access, though, since they are in remote areas traversed mainly by bikers. Also, there aren’t many advertisements for them in English. If you can read Japanese, the Bike Ryoko website is a great resource to find Riders’ Houses. For some information in English, see the Gaijin Bikers in Japan website. The two riders’ houses reservation websites I was able to find in English were the website for Aso Rider House in Kumamoto Prefecture and Rider House Joyful in Nagano Prefecture.
I hope this entry has given you some ideas about places to stay in Japan on a budget. Be sure to let me know in the comments if I missed anything!
A version of this article appeared on GaijinPot.