Where to Stay in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Accommodation

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Japan has a huge variety of accommodation options that you won’t find anywhere else. It’s not cheap but the country is such a rewarding place to travel that it’s well worth the expense.

If you are on a budget then finding the cheapest Japan accommodation will be a priority, but I recommend spending a bit extra and staying in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) at least once. Sleeping on a futon in a tatami mat room is a quintessential Japanese experience and it’d be a shame to miss out.

We have travelled around the country twice with a Japan Rail Pass and tried out a range of accommodation. Prices may be high (although no higher than Western Europe or the US), but standards are too and we’ve never had a bad experience. Just be prepared for small rooms and pack light as luggage storage space is limited. 

It’s best to reserve accommodation in advance because you could end up paying a fortune if budget places are booked up when you arrive. On our latest trip, two weeks in Japan in 2017, we used Booking.com to find hotels everywhere except Tokyo where it’s cheaper to rent an Airbnb apartment

Japan Accommodation Contents

Here are the different types of Japan accommodation that we tried and a few quirky options that we’d like to next time.

Hostel

Living room at K's House Hiroshima hostel in Japan

Living room at K’s House Hiroshima hostel

You might assume that hostels are the cheapest places to stay in Japan, but actually, our least expensive accommodation was in business hotels (see below).

There are some benefits to staying in hostels, though. You usually get better facilities including a kitchen (which can save you money eating out), common area to relax and socialise in, WiFi, computers, bike hire, and laundry.

The staff is more likely to speak English (which isn’t commonly spoken elsewhere) and be able to help you with information on the local area.

If you are travelling alone, dorm beds are your cheapest option in Japan and hostels are the best places to meet other travellers. 

Kitchen at K's House Hiroshima hostel in Japan

Kitchen at K’s House Hiroshima

We stayed at K’s House Hostel Hiroshima and, although the room was small (most are in Japan), it was clean, comfortable, and had a private bathroom well equipped with towels, shampoo, and soap. The kitchen was immaculate and well-stocked, and the staff were welcoming. We loved the map they provided with details of restaurants in the area—we found a great little okonomiyaki place this way.

You can’t go wrong with K’s House hostels in Japan—you can stay with them in Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, Hakone (complete with onsen!), and many other places around the country. We’ve also heard good things about the J-Hoppers hostel chain.

You can find more hostels on Booking.com and Agoda

Cost: Beds in dorm rooms range from 2000 – 3000 yen (US$18-26). A private double room with shared bathroom is 5600-8000 yen ($50-70) per room and a private double ensuite around 8000 – 11,000 yen ($70-100).

Recommended For: Budget travellers, especially if you are travelling alone or want to self-cater.

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Business Hotel

Chisun Inn business hotel in Nagoya

Chisun Inn business hotel in Nagoya

We’ve found the cheapest ensuite double rooms in cities by booking business hotels online on Booking.com or Agoda.

Rooms are small but clean, usually have WiFi, and as they are aimed at businessmen who might have missed the last train home, come equipped with everything you might need: towels, soap, shampoo, toothbrush, comb, robe. They always have a private bathroom, desk, fridge, and kettle.

Some business hotels we’ve stayed in have laundry facilities, free breakfast, and even an onsen bath. 

They are often in convenient locations close to train stations, which makes things much easier when you are travelling around the country at a fast pace with a rail pass

Business hotels don’t have charm or character and the staff may not speak much English, but they are a good budget option for a few nights.

Some business hotels we’ve stayed in:

  • Smile Hotel Kanazawa – Comfortable room a little larger than average (with access to the bed on both sides!) in walking distance of the main sights. 
  • Super Hotel Hida Takayama – Tiny room but there’s a free breakfast and onsen, and it’s close to the train station.
  • Chisun Inn Nagoya – Standard rooms, free breakfast, and close to the station. 
Hotel Shinsaibashi Lions Rock Osaka

Hotel Shinsaibashi Lions Rock in Osaka

Cost: Prices vary but we’ve paid from 5600 – 12,000 yen ($50-106) per room by booking online on Booking.com or Agoda.

Recommended For: Couples on a budget.

Travel tip: Don’t forget to buy your Japan Rail Pass before you get to Japan. It will save you money and is the easiest way to travel the country. 

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Ryokan

Our favourite Japan accommodation - Hotel Mushashiya ryokan in Hakone

Our room at Hotel Mushashiya ryokan overlooking Lake Ashi in Hakone

A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn. When you are planning where to stay in Japan I highly recommend adding a ryokan to your itinerary. They are more expensive than standard hotel rooms but are worth trying at least once for a real Japanese experience.

You’ll sleep in a tatami mat room on a futon – a stack of thin mattresses that are put away during the day leaving a minimalist space. Usually the only furniture is a low table where you sit on cushions to drink green tea (served on arrival) and sometimes eat your meals. 

The most traditional inns are made from wood with sliding paper doors and views of elegant gardens. A modern ryokan is more affordable and looks like a normal hotel from the outside but with tatami mat rooms. Modern ryokans are more likely to have ensuite bathrooms, air conditioning, and other modern conveniences. 

A yukata (cotton kimono) is provided and you can change into this as soon as you arrive for maximum comfort and wear it around the inn. In onsen towns you can even wear them around town as you tour the different baths. 

Simon wearing a yukata and enjoying our vegetarian feast in our ryokan room in Hakone

Simon wearing a yukata and enjoying dinner in our ryokan room in Hakone

We stayed at the modern ryokan Hotel Musashiya in Hakone and highly recommend it—it was the highlight of our two week Japan itinerary. Our room and the indoor and outdoor onsens have fabulous views over Lake Ashi and it’s just a few minutes walk from the pirate ship dock and viewpoint to see Mount Fuji.

Our room had an ensuite and was comfortable and tranquil. The food was outstanding. WiFi is only available in the cosy lounge, but this was a blessing as ryokans are ideal for disconnecting. 

Baths

Many ryokan rooms don’t have private bathrooms, and even if they do, Japanese style communal bathing is part of the experience, especially in towns famous for its onsens (hot spring baths). 

There are separate male and female bathrooms, sometimes with set bathing times. You leave your clothes in a basket in the changing room and walk naked into the shower area with just a tiny face towel. Here you sit on one of the low stools in front of a shower and wash (very important) before getting into the large hot bath to relax.

The idea of taking a bath naked with strangers freaked me out, and I may have hidden in the toilet while I worked up the nerve to take my clothes off! But honestly, once I did it felt totally normal and I’m glad I got over my fears. Soaking in the hot bath was so relaxing and I felt blissed out during our whole ryokan stay. 

If you really don’t want to do the communal thing, look for ryokans that allow you to reserve a time slot for a private bath. Some expensive ryokans have private baths in the rooms.  

Food

Vegetarian ryokan dinner at Hotel Musashiya, Hakone

Our vegetarian feast at Hotel Musashiya in Hakone.

Ryokan meals are a highlight. Dinner and breakfast are usually provided and this is part of the reason the room price is high. In your room or a public dining area you’ll be served multi-course kaiseki, a traditional Japanese gourmet feast. Even breakfast is an adventure featuring rice, miso soup, fish, pickles, and seaweed.

Many ryokans allow you to request special meals for dietary requirements in advance and are a fantastic option for vegetarians in Japan. Hotel Musashiya made us a superb feast.

Booking a Ryokan 

Booking in advance is essential. The easiest way to find a ryokan is on Booking.com —just choose “ryokan” as a property type in the filters list. You can also select “breakfast & dinner included”, “hot spring bath” or “open-air bath”. 

On our last trip we used Japanese Guest Houses which has a comprehensive list of ryokans in Japan. They will book them for you, but you must make an enquiry first and can’t see current availability. For this reason we found Booking.com easier this time. 

Cost: We paid 31,500 yen ($277) for one night at Hotel Musashiya in Hakone including dinner and breakfast, which is about average. You can find ryokans from 14,000 yen ($123) per couple all the way up to an astonishing 220,000 yen ($1935). 

Recommended For: Everyone who would like to experience traditional Japan and can afford it. 

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Minshuku

Minshuku Shimosagaya in Tsumago, an affordable alternative to a ryokan in Japan

Minshuku Shimosagaya in Tsumago

A minshuku is a more basic, family-run version of a ryokan. They are smaller with a homely atmosphere.

In 2011 we stayed at Minshuku Shimosagaya in the small traditional village of Tsumago in the Kiso Valley. Our room was smaller and simpler than at our ryokan, there was no ensuite or hot spring bath, and meals weren’t served in our room. It’s a good option if you can’t afford a ryokan, but the experience didn’t feel as relaxing and special. 

Tatami room in a minshuku, which are great places to stay in Japan if you can't afford a ryokan (traditional inn)

Our tatami room in a minshuku

If you can’t afford a ryokan or minshuku, many hostels offer tatami mat rooms for the same price as Western-style rooms so you can get a taste of the traditional experience on a budget.

Cost: Our minshuku in Tsumago cost 17,430 yen ($153) for us both with meals. 

Recommended For: People who’d like to experience traditional Japan but don’t have the budget for a ryokan. 

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Temple

Haryoin Temple in Koya-san - temples are fascinating places to stay in Japan

Haryoin Temple in Koya-san

For a unique Japan accommodation experience, you can stay in a Japanese Buddhist temple.

The room style is similar to a ryokan—you’ll sleep on futons in tatami mat rooms, share communal baths, and eat multi-course feasts for dinner and breakfast. The difference is you’ll be served shojin ryori vegan meals and you’ll be encouraged to participate in the early morning chanting and meditation ceremony with the monks.

Haryoin Temple room, Koya-san

Simon drinking green tea in his yukata after a bath at Haryoin temple

The most popular places for temple lodgings are Kyoto and Koya-san, a pretty temple village up in the mountains a few hours outside of Osaka.

We stayed in the cheapest temple in Koya-san, Haryo-in, but I’m not sure it’s available any longer. It was quite basic and the temple more modern than attractive, so I recommend splurging on one of the other temples like 1000-year-old Eko-in. 

You can book temple stays on Booking.com or Japanese Guest Houses.

Cost: Haryo-in in Koya-san cost 13,650 yen ($120) for us both with meals. Eko-in costs 24,000 yen ($211) per couple. 

Recommended For: Anyone looking for an interesting Japanese experience (especially vegetarians). 

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Apartment

Tokyo apartment bedroom

The bedroom of our Tokyo apartment in Nishi-Ogikubo

Apartments are a great option in Tokyo as they can be cheaper than a hotel room but more spacious, well-equipped, and with a kitchen to save money on eating out. 

On our recent visit we stayed in two small but well-equipped Airbnb studio apartments with fantastic locations within walking distance of the major train stations in Shinjuku and Shibuya. Both had helpful hosts, self check-in, fast WiFi, washing machine, small kitchen, couch, and double bed. 

There are many apartments to rent on Airbnb with some fantastic deals if you stay a little further from the popular areas. It’s especially good if you want to stay in areas like Shibuya that don’t have budget hotels. Sign up here to get $39 off your first stay. 

You can also find apartments on Booking.com by ticking the “Apartment” box in the filter list. Another site to consider is HomeAway—we used them on our first stay to book a one bedroom apartment in Tokyo in the neighbourhood Nishi-Ogikubo, a 15-minute train ride from Shinjuku. 

Cost: Our apartments in Tokyo cost about 10,000 yen ($88) per night. 

Recommended For: Families and couples.

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Love Hotel

Rose Lips Love Hotel, Osaka

Rose Lips Love Hotel, Osaka. Photo by jdcb42.

Yep, you’ve guessed it from the name – Love Hotels are aimed at Japanese couples looking for some privacy. They are common in big cities and aren’t as sleazy as you’d expect. Often the quality of the rooms is great for the price and you can enjoy the fun room themes!

You can recognise Love Hotels by their garish décor and signs outside giving prices for Rest (a few hours) or Stay (overnight, usually from 9 or 10 pm). Most aren’t available to book online. 

We didn’t have the chance to stay in one ourselves, but I’ve heard they are a good option, especially if you are arriving late in a city and don’t have pre-booked accommodation.

Cost: An overnight stay costs around 8000 yen ($70).

Recommended For: Couples on a budget, especially if arriving late at night.

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Capsule Hotel

Capsule Hotel, Japan

Capsule Hotel, Japan. Photo by beatplusmelody.

Capsule hotels are aimed at businessmen who missed the last train home. Rooms or sleeping pods are tiny, not much bigger than a coffin, and come with a TV, light, and alarm.

Bathrooms are shared and luggage is stored in lockers. Most capsule hotels only allow men so we didn’t try one, but it would be a quirky place to spend a night and meet some Japanese salarymen.

Cost: 3000 to 4500 yen ($26-40) per night.

Recommended For: Single guys on a budget.

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Manga Kissa Internet Cafes

A manga kissa is a manga café where young Japanese hang out to read comics and use the internet. There are usually video games, cheap food, lockers, and showers.

Private cubicles can be rented with a computer and comfortable, reclinable chair, so many people stay in them overnight, especially if they missed the train home. Tokyo Cheapo has a guide to manga kissa.

Cost: 1500 – 3000 yen ($13-26) for an overnight stay.

Recommended For: Solo travellers who need a cheap place to stay late at night.

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House Sitting

Housesits don’t come up in Japan very often, but we got lucky on our first visit. Being able to stay in a house in Kyoto for free for over three weeks in exchange for looking after two cats enabled us to save a lot of money. Free accommodation is just one of the benefits of house sitting though and we also loved living in a quiet residential area and having a kitchen.

Our favourite housesitting site is Trusted Housesitters—sign up and they’ll send you daily emails with a huge range of housesits worldwide.

Cost: Free!

Recommended For: Anyone with flexible travel dates.

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Couchsurfing

If you can’t secure a housesit in Japan, another way of finding free accommodation is couchsurfing.com. Not only do you get a free place to stay on someone’s couch or in their spare room, but you can meet local people and get tips about their city.

We’ve had wonderful experiences with couchsurfing in the past, but we found it difficult to find places in the Japanese cities we were visiting that had space for a couple. The couchsurfing community isn’t as huge in Japan as in other countries which may be because of language issues and a lack of space. If you are travelling alone you might have more luck, especially in the bigger cities.

Cost: Free!

Recommended For: Solo travellers on a budget.

Japan has some fascinating accommodation options and I recommend trying a few of them for a varied trip. 

Where are your favourite places to stay in Japan? Leave a comment and tell us!

For more travel tips see our guide to planning a trip to Japan and our two week Japan itinerary

If you enjoyed this post, pin it!

Wondering where to stay in Japan? Check out this massive accommodation guide!

Photo credit: Top photo by Chris Robinson

This post was originally published in November 2011 and was updated significantly in October 2017 after our second visit to Japan.

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49 thoughts on Where to Stay in Japan: The Ultimate Guide to Accommodation

  1. Toyoko Inn (https://www.toyoko-inn.com/eng/index.html) is a rapidly expanding chain of business hotels (40 of them in Tokyo alone!) that offer very good value. They all have free breakfast, laundry facilities, water/ice dispenser, microwave (usually located in the breakfast area so you can eat a table), vending machines, and a kettle and fridge in the rooms. We stayed in one in Osaka and saved quite a bit of money by self-catering some days. But my advice for couples booking one of these is to opt for an economy twin room rather than an economy double – the ‘double’ bed is very small and always pushed up against a wall! They get booked up early though.

  2. Nice article ! ?

    I agree with you about how Japan is expensive, especially accomodation in Tokyo.

    But if you looking good, I think you can find good deal in different areas. For example, I live in a guesthouse in Asakusa (I am a student) and for me is the best area to stay in Tokyo ! My guesthouse is not very expensive, the neighborhood is really nice, cheap restaurants, and we feel a different culture, more traditional ^_^

    • We loved visiting Asakusa on our latest visit to Japan. It feels much quieter and more traditional than the rest of Tokyo and there are some great accommodation deals. It’s a little far out for short stays in the city though.

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  4. Can u tell if it is cheap to stay in airbnb than all the other places mentioned above I am asking because I want to visit japan and would like which would be a cheaper option hotel /hostel or an airbnb

  5. This is such a good website. Very very well done. I love how thorough you are. This is helping me so much. I wasn’t too excited about planning this trip, but now that I know what I can be looking for and how much it all may cost, I am getting really, really excited! Thank you SO much!!!

  6. I am taking my 15 yr old daughter to Japan in July. She is half Japanese. She traveled to Tokyo last year with her school and loved it. We have about 10 days, and would like to stay in Tokyo, and Kyoto. Where else should we go, and can you give us a some ideas of sights to see? We are both foodies, too. And, I want her to see experience her Japanese heritage. Ideas???

  7. thanks a lot for this great page i am adel i am from yemen i plan to travel to study Japanese language to study reiki i would like to live with Japanese family are they accept this like western people also where is the cheapest stat in japan ?

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  9. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and thorough run down of options! Japan is a fascinating country and it is so helpful to understand the types of accommodation that are available, their typical price ranges as well as your opinions on your own experiences. Congratulations on sourcing a house-sit!

  10. Thank you for your very useful guide to accommodation in Japan. I will stick it in my favourites. I am a single, middle-aged, nature-loving, intellect-orientated man.I am thinking of a two week stay in Japan but I have no idea where to go. I don’t know the language and the culture or the geography. It is just a place on a map to me. Can you disabuse me of any stereotypes and give me any essential dos and donts regarding behaviour? I am a Yorkshireman after all.
    Sean
    E Yorks
    UK

  11. I think the info on prices may be a little outdated. The accommodation is quite high on here as I went late last year with prices from $7 a night to $40 a night and we stayed in private double rooms with bathroom. I think this calls for another trip for you both to Japan 🙂

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  13. I lucked out when spending 3 weeks in Japan since my (now) sister-in-law lived in Kanagawa we were able to stay with her for free. We did make a fun trip down to Kyoto and stayed in a hotel that was a package deal with the Shinkansen fare. Plus once in a cabin in Karuizawa. So we never really go to try out any of these options.

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  15. I found some ridiculously good deals when booking hotels online for our trip in January – a lot of places were offering up to 40% off if we booked either a month in advance or stayed for 4+ nights…the catch being you had to pay in full when you made your reservation.

    I’m also terribly nervous about the communal baths in the ryokans…haha…we’re staying in a few, though I did find one that had attached Western baths (for a nice treat!).

    • I’m glad to hear you found some deals Ashley. That will be the advantage is travelling outside of the peak seasons. We generally prefer not to book places in advance (especially paying up front) but in Japan is was often necessary to get the best deals. The standard is high so we never regretted anywhere we had booked. Have an amazing trip and good luck with the communal baths!

    • The communal baths are the best part of a stay in a ryokan. You choose the ryokan depending on the bath (and food). Staying in your room for a western bath is a real pity!

  16. How weird are the communal showers/baths in Ryokans? I was not expecting that in my trip to Nagano. I would have felt quite uncomfortable, but I was the only one staying at the two Ryokans I stayed at.

    If anyone is looking to stay medium – long term there are a variety of housing companies that can place you in a mixed Japanese/foreigner house. Im staying in one in the middle of Tokyo, and its an awesome environment for a solo 25 year old backpacker.

    • We felt like such prudes but it was really hard to get used to! We were luckily the only ones staying in our place too.

      It would definitely be cheaper if you found a longer term rental – an advantage of travelling slowly.

  17. I’ve found salaryman hotels in Tokyo to be reasonably priced, well compared to London they are!

    If you book in advance on a site like Expedia you can normally get a good discount.

    Oh, and if you eat inside the train station then you can eat salaryman meals that are reasonably priced. Well that’s if you can figure out the vending machines for food ordering!

    • We found some great deals by booking online as well. And yes, train stations are a great source for cheap eats (and the food is much better than train station food in the UK!).

  18. I had no idea Japan was so expensive. It’s cool to see all the options, though, and I think if (when?) we travel in Japan we’d probably try one of the ryokans/minshukus…. in addition to other budget options, of course!

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  20. Wow. Looks like we won’t be headed to Japan any time soon. All those places are definitely not budget options. 70 dollars and up? For 223 dollars a night we can have a private villa in Bali for 2 days. With a private pool. It looks like an interesting experience culturally but I am surprised to hear that its so expensive. Mike says it is very expensive as well, but the housesitting option sounds like the best bet. You got lucky with that one! Housesitting is such a great idea. I can’t wait to experience one. I guess for Japan 70 dollars is considered budget but we would have to save up a lot of money for that kind of trip!

    • Yep, it’s expensive. Unfortunately it’s not possible to find anything as a couple for less than that. Well, maybe camping! I was quite shocked at the prices when I wrote the post as when we were in Japan we were used to it. Comparing it to SE Asia prices is not a good idea! We wouldn’t have gone if we hadn’t got the house sit but I’m so glad we did. It’s an amazing country, like nowhere else we have visited and it was worth the expense.

      • I’m sure the experience alone was worth it…but the prices made me cringe! And we do love camping, so as long as the weather was ideal then camping sounds like a great idea. I think any place now compared to SE Asia is expensive. You’re right…can’t compare Thailand to anything! It’s forever ruined me!

        • It’s definitely hot in the summer months. I think the problem with camping is that it’s only really an option in rural areas and sometimes transport to campsites can be an issue.

  21. This is so resourceful, and I love the photos! Thank you for all the work you put into this post. I didn’t know capsule hotels were predominantly men only; it’s been a silly impulse of mine to spend a night in one. 🙂

  22. I’m dying to try a capsule hotel just to say I’ve done it in Japan. It’s so unique for I probably won’t stay long. Just the night. Traditional Japanese Inn sounds fabulous. Thanks for the great tips! We’re heading there next May. Yay!

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