If you could save on lodging while in Japan, think of all the other things you could spend that money on!
And many other things, including non-edibles.
So I’d like to introduce some inexpensive places to stay in Japan. Enjoy!
5 Inexpensive Places to Stay in Japan
1. Internet Cafes/Comic Book Cafes/Manga Kissaten
Price: varies; around 800 yen to 1,500 yen per night (5 to 8 hours)
I stumbled upon this option one desperate night, having missed the last train back to my destination. The only hotel in sight was a Hilton, and I sure as hell couldn’t afford that. So, I took to the streets, wondering if I could find one of the fabled inexpensive places to stay in Japan.
As luck would have it, there was a comic book cafe/internet cafe, which are known as “manga kissa” or “manga kissaten” in Japanese, right down the street. I walked into the dark building and was greeted by a large room filled with computer cubicals, nerdy-looking guys, and shelves upon shelves of comic books. The receptionist told me it would be 1500 yen for a five hour stay with a private cubical. This also included unlimited access to the comic books, a shower, and all the soda I could drink. I was sold. I grabbed a Calpis, took a quick look at some comic books, and then headed to my cubical to check my e-mail. The cubical had a very comfy chair, so I was able to fall asleep quite easily.
Some internet cafes have a “long stay” option, where you can go in and out of the internet cafe freely if you pay a set amount per week or month. I’ve been told that some internet cafes even have beds. I did not take advantage of the shower, but I now feel like a much more worldly person for having had the experience of sleeping in an internet cafe. Next time you find yourself without a place to sleep, ask around for a manga kissa.
2. Onsen/Public Baths/Hot Springs
Price: 300 yen to 1500 yen
Onsen, public baths, and other sauna in are popular places in Japan to relax. Many of them have resting areas, which are often equipped with a couches, pillows, or thin sleeping mattresses. Admission to onsen are on average from 300 yen per person to 1500 yen per person. Check with the sauna staff about the resting area in the bath house. Also, you can see the TimeOut Tokyo website for the top Tokyo onsen.
3. Overnight Buses
Price: about 2,500 yen to 11,000 yen one way (one night)
The overnight bus, known as yako bus in Japanese, is probably going to be the most expensive suggestion on this list, by far. Still, just like with the trains, I feel justified in adding it because, in addition to having a place to sleep, you’ll wake up in a place far away, that could have easily cost you over 25,000 yen or more by bullet train. There are several overnight bus sites in English, like Willer Express, and since I’m someone who can sleep just about anywhere, the night buses suit me just fine. The major cautions I have are to double check the departure and arrive times and get to the pick-up area early, since sometimes it is difficult to find where the bus is parked. Japan-guide.com has a wonderfully detailed article about night buses in Japan.
In the same vein, Japan-guide.com also wrote a good article about sleeper trains in Japan, too. While the sleeper train network is not as extensive as the bus system, I still recommend taking a look.
4. Economy Hotels
Price: 2,500 yen to 6,000 yen per night
Often advertised in English as hostels, economy hotels, known as kanshuku (“simple accommodations”) in Japanese, are actually slightly different accommodations from hostels. While the bathrooms and dining areas are shared, all the rooms are private and typically are outfitted with tatami mats and futons. Hotel rooms are generally smaller in Tokyo than in the US, and economy hotel rooms doubly so (although not as tight a squeeze as capsule hotels, of course). At one economy hotel I stayed at, I could almost, but not quite, touch both walls while sitting in the middle of the room.
Still, they are a great deal for the price. The rooms often have TVs, a comfy futon, hangers, and sometimes a robe, and some will have free breakfast.
Again, since economy hotels, like many other cheap accommodations in Japan, are aimed at traveling (or drunk) business men, they can be found clustered around stations. Here are just a few economy hotels with websites in English:
5. Youth Centers
Price: Between about 800 yen and 5000 yen per night
Youth centers, which are sometimes called “shonen shizen no ie” or “shonen koryu no ie” in Japanese, provide facilities for programs and activities. These centers, though called “youth centers,” are available to both youth and non-youth groups alike. Most require the submission of a schedule, so you probably cannot stay at a youth center unless you have a specific purpose in mind for your visit. But if you’d be willing to put some effort into making a schedule for a program such as marathon training, business courses, or a language exchange camp for a group of two or more, then a youth center might be right for you. Personally, I’ve attended language camps, nature programs, and job training at youth centers. While there are a lot of rules, I’m sure the groups that put these activities together saved money by using the youth center.
Most youth centers also have the option of cooked meals and have sports facilities for rent.
The majority of the sites for youth centers appear to be in Japanese, but a few, such as the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Tokyo, have English versions of their site. One of the biggest youth center organizations is the National Institution for Youth Education.
Do you have any inexpensive Japanese accommodation recommendations? Let us know in the comments!