5 Inexpensive Places to Stay in Japan

If you could save on lodging while in Japan, think of all the other things you could spend that money on!

Food!

Candy!

Milk tea!

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

manga kissa; inexpensive places to stay in Japan
Photo by Ian Kasley

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

Onsenpublic 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

Ghibli bus
Photo by Gonmi

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:

Economy Backpacker’s Hotel New Koyo

Economy Hotel Azuma

 

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!

Also be sure to check out 7 Free Places to Stay in Japan and 10 Cheap Places to Stay in Japan.

4 thoughts on “5 Inexpensive Places to Stay in Japan

  1. Astrid Merkt says:

    Hello

    I was wondering if you know of any shinto shrines or buddhist or taoist temples that one can stay at for free to be able to be fully immersed in meditation and learning their practices. I am not looking for a tour or toursit style stay, rather an experience of enrichment for the soul and surrendering to their lifestyle. Happy to help with work required to be done. I will be there end of November for a couple of weeks.

    Thank you so much! =)

    Reply
    1. L. says:

      Well, I have a few ideas.

      1. WWOOF
      The closest thing I could think of that was close to what you are describing is WWOOF, which is a volunteer-exchange organization. There appear to be a few WWOOF hosts that maintain temples, with this host standing out the most. WWOOF does charge a membership fee of 5,500 yen for one year, but other than that, it is free.

      2. Ask Buddhist groups and university Asian studies/religion departments locally and in Japan
      This would probably be the surest way. If there are any local Buddhist groups in your country, you may want to look them up, as they may have connections in Japan. Similarly, universities with an Asian studies and/or religion department might have programs or connections, although these might be reserved for students, recognized scholars and those otherwise with connections to the university.
      Also, you might want to get in touch with Buddhist organizations and temples in Japan. This method would probably be effective but would be difficult if you are unfamiliar with Buddhist organizations in Japan and if you do not know Japanese.

      3. Look into temple stays
      Temple stays (called shukubo) are a bit different from what you describe but do allow you to stay at the temple and possibly participate in rituals, etc. The price for a temple stay will range from 3,000 yen to over 9,000 yen per night and usually includes dinner and breakfast seishin ryori (vegetarian meals). Some shukubo are run more like ryokan (traditional Japanese accommodations) where you have your own room, a TV and where there’s not much as far as options for participating in what you might call “temple life.” However, some shukubo have more of what you’d think of with a temple stay, including shared accommodations and the option to participate in meditation, etc. The TempleLodging.com website is a good place to start. Also, while randomly searching, this website about Soto Zen temple stays and classes also came up.

      4. Look into classes at temples/shrines
      Many temples/shrines offer free or low-cost day courses, classes or programs for those interested in their teachings and traditional Buddhism. Just a few examples are sutra writing classes, meditation classes, waterfall meditation rituals and even advising sessions at Buddhist bars! If you know Japanese, the Japanese version of the above temple stay website is a great place to start. The above Soto Zen site also lists temples that have classes, zazen, lectures etc. in English. Many hostels will also have information about local temples with English-language courses.

      I hope this helps. Good luck.

      Reply
  2. Sirous says:

    Hi there
    Thanks for sharing the information about the place to stay!
    I’m planing to come to Japan (tokyo)for training for two months From 27 October 14 to 20 December 14
    So I’m looking a cheapest or even free to stay if you could have something please write to me
    Kind regards
    Sirous
    Australia

    Reply
    1. L. says:

      For a stay of two months, I have two suggestions:

      1. Rent a room in a guesthouse/share house. They typically don’t require deposits/key money/gift money, etc. A regular apartment would probably be cheaper for a longer stay, but guesthouses are probably cheaper for shorter stays. Check out the Guest House Bank website to search for one.

      2. If you’re looking for free housing and have a little bit of time, you might be able to work out a clean-for-a-room deal with a hostel. See the Free Places to Stay in Japan post for more details.

      Good luck!

      Reply

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