Japan offers a wide array of accommodation options, both in style and price. Whereas in other countries one can only find standard hotels or hostels, in Japan tourists can choose a more traditional option, such as a Ryokan, or even try the unique capsule hotels. Prices range from relatively cheap to extremely expensive depending on the type of hotel, location and room size. As a general rule rooms are quite small for western standards, but the service and cleaning is usually excellent.
The accommodation price also varies greatly depending on the city, neighborhood and even the distance to the nearest train or subway station. For Japan Rail Pass holders it might be a good idea to choose a place easily reached by train, in order to avoid spending extra money in subways or bus. It is highly recommended to book your accommodation in advance since, even if there are a lot of options to stay in every city, the most convenient places can get fully booked pretty easily.
This type of accommodation offers what everyone could expect from any world-class hotel: traditional beds, spacious rooms, breakfast, restaurants and top class service. Both national and international hotel chains are present in Japan and can be found all through the country, with larger representation in major cities. The hotel staff usually speaks fluent English and bookings should be made with anticipation, especially during local holidays. Expect steep rates.
Business hotels receive that name because their main costumers are travelling businessmen. They follow western standards and rooms are clean and fully equipped, but offer fewer amenities, no room service, include no restaurant and usually have very small rooms. These hotels are, however, conveniently located near train and subway stations and feature very reasonable prices, making them a very interesting option for travellers who aren’t planning on spending a lot of time at the hotel. Depending on the hotel, it’s possible that English is not spoken in the reception, though.
Ryokans are traditional Japanese hotels, while mishukus are a smaller family-run variant, roughly equivalent to a bread and breakfast. The main difference with western style hotels is that rooms are covered in tatami and guests sleep on a futon on the floor, as many Japanase still do at their homes. Many ryokans don’t offer private bathrooms, but feature traditional Japanese baths instead. As with regular hotels, prices vary from very economic, especially in minshukus, to very expensive, depending on the location, services and amenities offered. As traditional and local businesses, there are many ryokans in which English is not spoken.
There are plenty of hostels and youth hostels in Japan, especially in larger cities. These offer several types of accommodation, ranging from beds in dormitories with shared bathrooms, to fully equipped rooms, at a very reasonable price. Hostels are usually a good place to stay for people travelling alone or willing to socialize, since they usually feature shared areas and sometimes offer organized activities. Given that they are mainly focused to young people and foreigners, fluent English is frequently spoken.
Capsule hotels are a unique and Japanese exclusive type of lodging, which offers a number of extremely small rooms, or capsules, for a reduced price. Capsules measure around 2 meters long, 1 meter wide and one meter high and usually include a TV, air conditioning and Internet access. Bathrooms are shared and luggage is kept in lockers. These type of hotels are mainly aimed at businessmen (some even don’t accept women) who have lost the last train home, or only need basic accommodation for a night.