A little word on traveling accommodations in Japan: butt-freaking expensive.
A decent hotel, and I’m talking maybe three-to-four stars in Tokyo can go as high as $200-$300USD. This does not account for the fluctuations in the exchange rate from the USD to Japanese yen mind you. While many of my friends will refuse to stay in anything but a hotel, I will take the lesser, much cheaper, route of staying in a hostel.
That’s right. A hostel.
I backpacked quite a bit after finishing undergraduate university in Europe, and I have to say, the hostels back in 2002/2003 have come a long way since then. Even then, it was still possible to get a double room (full-size bed) for around $80USD. Of course, it depends on the country. I wouldn’t stay in a hostel to save my life in China, especially when the exchange rate will allow me to spend the same amount of money in USD and get me a nice 3-star hotel. In Japan however, where technology is at its peak, and the culture is focused on neatness, hospitality, and cleanliness, you can’t go wrong.
Truth be told, the first “hostel” or “budget hotel” we stayed at was in Tokyo, in the Ueno area. The Oak hotel is only a 10-15 minute walk from the large JR-Ueno train station, and a 5 minute walk from the Iracho subway station. I will have to write another post on transportation but the Japan Rail Pass makes all the difference in the world when it comes to getting around the country.
Hotels in Japan are fairly moderate-sized, but the rooms are small. If you do your research, you will understand why. There is too large of a population and too little city space to truly have large accommodations. However, everything is neatly “packaged” so that you still can maneuver around. Even the rooms with an ensuite bathroom are still decently sized for a “hostel”. The rooms are very very clean, and admittedly, the beds are comfortable.
They are not luxurious by any means, so if you are looking for a big, fat, fluffy bed to plop into, I would not recommend a budget hotel. Most rooms have a hot plate or a hot-water kettle you can plug in to make tea in the mornings.
The one true hostel we stayed at in Kyoto, The Piece Hostel, was the only one that had communal bathrooms (showers) on the first floor, and a large communal kitchen. We managed to get a double room, again, small, but neat and modern in decoration. I would definitely recommend The Piece Hostel because it is literally a 5-minute walk from the downtown Kyoto JR-train station. You can meet tons of people (not necessarily nice but again, another post on this later), as well as have access to tons of tourist information and pamphlets on which to plan your trip if you have not done so already.
For those of you who may be concerned with getting a fungal infection at a communal bathroom, The Piece Hostel has really clean showers. They are probably cleaner than your own bathrooms, and they seem to be fairly new as well. In addition, they have an area for which you can do your makeup and dry your hair. The only downside is that if you have a room up on the top floor (4th) and you have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, it’s a bit of a “trek” to take the elevator down, use the bathroom, and then take it back up.
I did “splurge” on the last hotel where we spent the last two days in Tokyo. It was still considered a budget hotel, but honestly, this place was better than a lot of the motels in the United States. Hotel Mystays Ueno is part of a chain of smaller hotels, but it was recently renovated a few years ago. For $80, I got a superior double room (two full beds) with huge fluffy comforters. In addition, there was a fully-equipped kitchen. There was no stove, but there was a hot plate that you can place furnished pots and pans to cook. Not that you needed to as Japan is full of convenience food items, and I mean this literally as you can find them in convenience stores all over the place.
Tip: I would recommend planning and making “hotel” reservations as soon as you can. There are a lot of festivals as well as local holiday periods that can fill up quickly. I booked my hotels about 4 months before we left, and within a few weeks after I made my reservations, the hostels/hotels were fully booked. We were also traveling on the week of the Kanda Matsuri (festival) and so I am sure not only are there international tourists in the area, but locals from other parts of Japan as well. Booking.com is a great way to make reservations after comparing prices on Tripadvisor. Tip: You can set an alert to make many bookings (provided you are an organized person) and then just cancel them once you find better ones.
Thank you for following this blog, and I hope you enjoy this new travel series. I’ll be updating the Japan series while here in Singapore and will continue on from then!