Ian Sagabaen
Mar 18, 2012 · 4 min read
Looking out into Tokyo, with Mount Fuji in the background
Looking out into Tokyo, with Mount Fuji in the background

For the adventurous or the price-conscientious, Japan offers a wide range of hotel & housing types for you to sample! During our three-week stay last October, we had the opportunity to experience a wide range of housing that Japan has to offer.

In Tokyo (& other major metro areas)

If you’re planning your first trip to Japan (we’re really excited for you!), Tokyo is likely at the top of your list of cities to visit. We stayed in the tourist-friendly Roppongi area & had a blast out there, especially since it was a place where we could step out of our hotel & be in the middle of it all. If this is the case, consider also Shibuya & Shinjuku if you can swing it.

If you’re on a budget, staying in non-major districts is just as good, since all of Tokyo is conveniently connected by trains & subways. For example, we stayed at a place called Nihonbashi, a few stops away from Tokyo Station.

If you’re on a super budget, you should totally try the capsule hotels, even if just for one night!

Capsule hotel sign
Capsule hotel sign

(Note that some capsule hotels will only cater to men, so keep that in mind when hotel shopping.)

If you suffer from agoraphobia, know that in most of the major districts, it can get crowded. Despite the density of humanity, the people here make sure that they don’t run into you & will provide adequate space if they can (this is thrown out the window during commuting hours on the trains). Here’s a common sight of the Shibuya crossing in the middle of a weekday:

Shibuya crossing
Shibuya crossing

For the adventurous

In the first part of our trip, our Tokyo hotel was classified as Western style (huge space, queen-size bed), so when we traveled to the island of Naoshima, we opted to sample the opposite end of the spectrum & stayed in a Mongolian pao — essentially, an outdoor tent!

Mongolian ger, outdoor tent
Mongolian ger, outdoor tent

Although the tent was hooked up with a few outlets for electricity, we appreciated the luxuries of a proper hotel room after a night spent roughing it up outdoors. It was nice to be connected to nature, even though we were kept warm at night by some installed electric heater & lights.

For the traditional

Try a ryokan for the real taste of Japanese culture! It won’t come cheap, but honestly worth every yen.

Cindy in our ryokan
Cindy in our ryokan

You get the whole Japanese experience: eating multi-course Japanese cuisine on the tatami mat served by your own Japanese maid, who then converts that floor space into a bed with an extremely warm & fluffy futon, dress into the robe (yukata), then walk to the communal hot spring a few steps from our front door for a relaxing, post-dinner dip.

Room comforts

One thing’s for sure about Japan — it’s clean. You can expect the same for the hotel rooms as well. A big part of this is the cardinal rule for indoor private spaces:

Don't forget to remove your shoes before entering!
Don't forget to remove your shoes before entering!

Just remember that because space is at a premium, everything is condensed into a small area. If you live in a small studio apartment, you’ll never complain about the space you don’t have after staying at a few Japanese business hotels. Here’s how they consolidate a toilet, sink & shower into a small space:

At the same time, you can get some electronic comforts, too! Introducing, fancy bathroom technology provided at the comfort of your seat. The best part of the experience is guessing what each button does while sitting on the throne:

Japanese toilets with fancy buttons
Japanese toilets with fancy buttons

At most business hotels, you’ll be handed a room key with a huge piece of plastic attached. Right next to your hotel room’s front door is what looks like two light switches:

Energy-saving efforts
Energy-saving efforts

All the outlets & electricity (even the room lights) are inactive until you jam the piece of plastic into the square slot. Since you need your hotel key to return to your room, this is a clever effort for power conservation. Also, for many Japanese hotels, it’s quite common that they’ll request that you leave your hotel key at the front desk while you’re away.

What’s left to mention as a part of the Japanese housing experience is the short-stay love hotel, but I don’t have much experience with that.

See the rest of our Japan photos »

Juice & Snacks

A personal blog of a San Francisco Bay Area married couple. They discuss topics like: technology, health, traveling, photography, & Bay Area lifestyle!

Ian Sagabaen

Written by

User experience designer for major Bay Area tech companies. Greatest sign maker of the MLB. First name rhymes with ‘lion’.

Juice & Snacks

A personal blog of a San Francisco Bay Area married couple. They discuss topics like: technology, health, traveling, photography, & Bay Area lifestyle!

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