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A Guide to the Types of Accommodation in Japan

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For many destinations, accommodation types are pretty standard. From Western-style hotels and hostels, bed and breakfasts and the like, but if you’re choosing your accommodation in Japan, travellers will often find there’s a wider variety of types to choose from.

The types of accommodation in Japan vary, from luxury hotels to budget sleeping pods and everything in between so when you’re working out where to stay in Japan, organising the accommodation style can be part of the fun. 

Western-Style Hotels in Japan

You’ll find these in every major city and for those keen on travelling to Japan but not terribly keen on leaving your familiar creature comforts, you’ll find all the familiar brands as well as budget, boutique and luxury properties suited to all types of travellers. But if you really want to experience something a little more traditional or unique to Japan, consider a ryokan, capsule hotel or even a temple stay.

What is a Ryokan?

If you’re wondering where to stay in a ryokan in Japan, you’re in luck. You’ll find them in almost every area, particularly around the hot spring regions. A wonderful way to experience true Japanese style accommodation, these traditional inns are found all over the country. Ryokans can range anywhere from small and budget-friendly, to grand and luxurious.

These give travellers the opportunity to experience the traditional lifestyle in that ryokans offer futon-style beds, tatami floors and typically come with traditional Japanese meals (usually dinner and breakfast.) The best ryokan in Japan are typically found around the hot spring areas or onsens in cities such as Kanto, Kyushu and Hokkaido. Many ryokans in Okinawa in particular, offer private onsens for guests and include all the modern amenities you’d expect from a western hotel.

Depending on where you stay, rooms can vary in size but for the most part, what to expect from a Japanese ryokan is pretty standard. Think traditional sliding doors separating your living and dining areas and in most cases your bed (a futon) will not be laid out when you arrive as they’re typically stored away in a closet and brought out in the evenings. Inside, guests wear provided slippers or sandals and not shoes (which remain at the door.) Ryokans might not be everyone’s cup of tea for your entire stay, especially if you’re a first-time visitor to Japan and are a bit daunted by the etiquette. But if you’re keen to truly experience the traditional culture, book yourself into one, even if just for a night or two. You won’t be sorry.

Japan Accommodation on a Budget

Travelling to Japan on a budget? Don’t feel like your options are limited. Here you’ll find some of the most affordable stays certain to enhance your travel experience.  Japanese minshuku are a great way to save a bit of Yen and still enjoy a traditional stay. Similar to a Western-style bed and breakfast, these are usually family-operated and give guests the opportunity to interact with a local family and experience the local lifestyle.

Also like a bed and breakfast, minshuku typically tend to be smaller and only house a few guests at a time. They offer basic in-room amenities and sometimes shared bathroom facilities. Like ryokans, they too have the tatami rooms with futon bedding. And meals, if included, are usually served in a shared or common dining area. Minshuku are an incredible way to enjoy a traditional experience while interacting with locals (and potentially meet fellow travellers!)

Pension Accommodation in Japan

Another way to save a bit of spending money is to book into a pension. These Western-style options can be found all over the country and are usually family-run. Like ryokan, pensions will often include meals but the menus are more often Westernised and served in shared areas. Rooms are basically furnished with limited amenities and include a bed rather than a futon. Bathroom facilities are also typically shared. While you might not always get WiFi in your room, it’s often provided for free in common areas. They’re a great way to save a bit of cash, especially if you plan on spending most of your time out exploring rather than relaxing in your room.

Unusual Hotels in Japan

Everywhere you go in Japan you’ll find a variety of hotels that are a little different form what you’d find anywhere else. From pod and capsule hotels to sleeping inside Buddhist temples, here, you’ll find it all.  So, what is a capsule hotel in Japan?  It’s the same as a Japanese pod hotel and they’re some of the country’s most quirky forms of lodging.

Perfect for those travelling solo, on a budget or just looking to try something completely different, you’ll find pod or capsule hotels all over in most major cities, particularly close to major train stations. These hotels offer a single night’s stay with plenty of privacy and just the basics at roughly 3000 to 4000 Yen per night, per person (about $40-$50 AUD). You can also find more ‘luxury’ or themed capsule hotels in cities like Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo priced slightly higher and offering a few added comforts.

For the most part, capsule hotels are used by businessmen looking for a few hours rest between flights or for an overnight repose before catching an early train.  However, more and more women have begun using them (particularly travellers) and you can now often find capsule or pod hotels with gender-specific areas.

Here’s what to expect from a pod or capsule hotel: for the most part these spaces are pretty small, at roughly just over a metre wide, two metres long and about a metre high.  Put simply, it’s just enough room to fit a futon mattress and sleep comfortably. Typically, the pods are stacked double-storey and come with all your linen provided. Usually you’ll find a light, power point, clock and a small television inside. Many ‘pod hotels’ also provide free WiFi inside the capsules as well.

You’ll share bathroom facilities with other podsters and sometimes, depending on where you stay, you can find food kiosks and vending machines, full cafes, lounges, gaming areas, laundry facilities and more.

When checking in to a pod hotel, keep in mind you’ll need to remove your shoes and place them in a locker (no shoes inside). You’ll be assigned a pod number and a key for your storage locker as most items won’t fit in your pod.  Eating is usually not allowed inside the capsules so grab a bite before bedtime and once you retire, just pull your privacy curtain over the window and snooze away. Pod hotels can be booked for more than one night; however, most will require you to vacate the pod completely during the day and return to check in again later.

So, now you know what accommodation options are available in Japan, it’s time to book your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun! Find cheap flights and places to stay with Webjet, or combine your airfare with your accommodation into a money-saving Webjet holiday package.

Hero image: Shinjuku, Tokyo. Credit: Albert Dera on Unsplash

Gwen Luscombe is a Melbourne-based travel, events and food writer who is always on the lookout for a new restaurant or wine bar, or an exciting new destination to discover. Having been bitten by the travel bug early in life, she’s lived in a variety of cities around the globe before making Australia home.

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