We spent the last week on a whirlwind tour of Japan staying in five places in six nights including cramped business hotels, noisy hostels, and atmospheric but not exactly comfortable tatami mat rooms in temples and ryokan (traditional inns), all in the midst of a typhoon. By the time we arrived in Tokyo we were ready to slow down for a while and were thankful for our decision to rent an apartment for our week in the city. It was time to enjoy some home comforts.
It felt so good to have a couch, comfortable bed, kitchen and washing machine again. Our apartment isn’t huge but room sizes are tiny in Japan and it’s about four times bigger than where we’d been staying in the past week. The space to spread out, relax, cook and work was just what we needed.
We have always liked renting apartments while we travel and I think it’s something we’ll be doing more of. When you travel permanently like us, and need to work on the road, it can be hard to do so from noisy or cramped hostels and budget hotels. Plus, as vegetarians finding places to eat gets exhausting and we save time and money by cooking for ourselves.
For our stay in Tokyo we arranged an apartment through HomeAway and were met by Makoto at the local train station Nishi-Ogikubo. As we made the short walk to the apartment Makoto pointed out the handy 24 hour supermarket and advised us on the best places to eat. Once we arrived at the apartment he not only showed us around and explained the complicated Tokyo recycling system, but also gave us loads of useful advice to make the most of our stay. He handed us train maps and schedules, leaflets and what’s on guides, and was happy to answer any questions. We have never stayed anywhere where we’ve received this level of advice in such a friendly and helpful way.
The apartment itself exceeded expectations. It is modern and very clean, with a separate cheerful yellow bedroom that can be separated by closing doors or left open to make the most of the light. There is plenty of storage in large cupboards along one side of the apartment, with lots of shelves and hangers. There’s a pull out dining table (Simon’s desk), two seater sofa, TV & DVD player, LAN internet (not WiFi but they provide the cable), A/C and a well equipped kitchen. There isn’t much of a work surface to cook on, but I managed OK, and there are plenty of pots, pans and cutlery, and even a rice cooker. The only thing I would have liked to see would be the provision of basic supplies like oil, spices and salt as it’s expensive to buy these things just for a few nights.
It has to be one of the best equipped apartments we’ve stayed in. There’s a fantastic attention to detail and you’ll even find a stationery box, umbrellas and slippers as well as all the necessities: towels, shampoo, conditioner and shower gel, hairdryer, toilet paper, washing up liquid and dish cloths. Even things that are often overlooked in budget accommodation like bedside lamps make such a difference. The bathroom is spacious for Japan (it makes a change to not bang your knees when on the toilet) and is in the Japanese style with a wet room shower and bath separate from the toilet and sink.
I initially thought the location would be a downside as it’s outside of the centre of Tokyo. It actually turned out to be a positive as it’s a relief to come back to our quiet residential neighbourhood after a day or night in the crazy centre. It’s only a few minutes walk from Nishi-Ogikubo station where there are frequent trains to Shinjuku, just 15 minutes away. You can connect there to everywhere in the city. Makoto advised us to get a Suica pass, and although it doesn’t save you any money it makes life a lot simpler on the complicated Tokyo rail and metro system as you can just swipe the card rather the figure out buying tickets.
We actually really like the Nishi-Ogikubo neighbourhood. There are no tourists around and the narrow streets feel cosy – you can even walk down the middle of the road as there’s so little traffic. It’s famous for its antique shops and you’ll find these alongside vintage clothes shops, trendy boutiques, Moroccan furnishers, bakeries and plenty of restaurants. There’s an atmospheric street nearby lined with tiny rickety food stalls seating a few people at the counter and serving up smoking yakitori and noodles.
The convenient location is also a bit of a downside though – the apartment overlooks the train tracks so it is quite noisy when a train passes. It didn’t bother us too much and at least they don’t run at night.
The biggest advantage of staying in an apartment in Tokyo has to be the value for money. We were shocked when we realised that a hostel with twin beds and a shared bathroom would cost us $110 a night! Instead our apartment with far more space and privacy and its own bathroom, living area, kitchen and washing machine cost 9167 yen ($120) a night including the cleaning fee. It’s not a difficult choice.
Our apartment stay was partially sponsored by HomeAway. We have used them in the past (we found bargains such as a three bedroom house by the sea in Puglia, Italy for 200 Euros a week) and highly recommend them as a great resource for finding holiday rentals around the world.
Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our guide to the 50 Best Gifts for Travelers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.