Tips and Tricks for Visiting Japan – Part One: Accommodations in Tokyo

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Some of us have been to Japan before, and there are still many out there who are planning to visit this amazing country known as the Land of the Rising Sun. While the first choices would be Osaka, Tokyo and Sapporo, this article will focus on some of the tips and tricks for accommodations in Tokyo.

If you are planning to make a visit to one of the most modern metropolitan cities in the world, then you should read this to gain some knowledge about accommodations when you are here. Trust me, you do not want to make a booking for the wrong location, which may affect your mobility around the city of Tokyo.

If you are a backpacker or a serious budget traveller, this article may not be suitable for you, but it would still provide you with some accommodation insights to Tokyo. Overall, this article will be perfect for the general traveller, namely those who travel as couples, in groups or even as a family trip.

Part of Tokyo at night, a neon city waiting to be discovered.


Before You Make Your Hotel Booking

First and foremost, if you are an individual traveller, then you belong to the free independent traveller category otherwise simply known as FIT. In this case, you are the type of traveller that waits for the airline companies to offer flight ticket promotions in order to grab the cheapest possible flights.

Back in the day, this was the work done by budget travellers or backpackers, who solely depended on the cheapest flights and accommodations. But since the turn of the millennium, more general travellers have adapted to this trend of booking flights and hotels. Not forgetting the rise of budget airline companies, and also online hotel booking platforms that are aplenty these days.

Let’s clarify one thing here which is the price of general hotels in Tokyo. They do not come cheap and Tokyo is known to offer one of the most expensive hotel rates in the world. Unless you are well-heeled and has a bottomless budget, then your trip will be a luxury. So, the reality here is that this article is focused more towards general medium range traveller who plans to visit Tokyo.

Tokyo is so huge, that there are 23 different wards or areas that make up Tokyo. And the closer you want to stay to the city centre, the more expensive the prices will be. Just to give you a heads up, the average 4-star hotel price around the centre of Tokyo can cost anywhere from USD200 to USD400 per night. Can you imagine if you planned to spend five nights in Tokyo?

Therefore most average travellers will be looking towards one, two or maybe three-star hotels, and for others, possibly even experiencing a Ryokan or traditional Japanese guest house that come with the Japanese Tatami mats and sliding paper doors. This article will not be highlighting the Ryokan, love hotels, capsule hotels or any dormitory accommodations and only the general hotels.

The G-Six building at Ginza in Tokyo, probably the most luxurious shopping malls in Japan.


What are the Expensive Areas of Tokyo?

Now, let me share with you a list of the expensive areas in Tokyo, which you should probably avoid staying at as they are generally very pricey. These are the core tourists, leisure and business districts which are world famous and attracts all kinds of travellers when in Tokyo.

Ginza – Known as the Champs Elysees of the far east and also one of the most expensive and luxurious streets in the world. To stay here along the main area would easily cost you an arm and a leg, but this place can be visited just to experience it.

Shibuya – A highly popular shopping and entertainment area which is world renown for the famous Shibuya Crossing. Anyone visiting Tokyo will surely spend at least half a day in this part of Tokyo.

The centre of Shibuya, which attracts thousands of visitors on an hourly basis.

Omotesando – Known as the fashion district of Tokyo, Omotesando is lined with luxury designer names on the main street. When you explore one street inside, you will come across the up and coming designer labels from local and abroad.

Harajuku and Yoyogi – Another highly popular area where you will find the trendy fashionistas of Tokyo hanging out. However, the lure of tourist has also brought in the uncle and aunty travellers who are curious enough to explore this fascinating area.

Shinjuku – Known as one of the major entertainment and shopping areas of Tokyo, thousands of restaurants, bars, Izakaya, cafes and karaoke dominate this densely populated part of Tokyo.

Marunouchi and Otemachi – Known as the financial and business districts of Tokyo, and all of Japan, this is like comparing the place to Wall Street in the USA.

Roppongi – Known as a popular area for Westerners, this place offers a lot of nightlife and entertainment where is uncommon to not see any ‘Gaijin’ or foreigners around here.

One of the chain hotels in Tokyo that offer a great deal for first-time visitors.


Booking the Right Hotel

The number one thing most people would do is to search for the cheapest possible room in Tokyo, and you will be surprised that you can actually get proper hotels rooms from as low as USD50 per night. These are usually the one or to star hotels that are located quite far from the main Tokyo area too.

It is such a human practice when booking a hotel in an expensive city, they automatically go for the cheapest possible choices. Well, the objective is to save as much as you can, especially when you plan to stay for around four, five or even six days in Tokyo.

There are many options where you can do this, and of course, online travel agents are the most common places which most people would visit to book their hotels. But then again, the old saying of ‘cheap does not equal good’ comes into play when booking rooms. Read on below to find out more.

Recommendation and Tip – I would say that chain hotels in Tokyo are always a good bet, as the more hotels owned by a group, they can offer much better deals for rooms. And some of them are one or two stars, but in Japan, a two-star hotel can equal to a three -star hotel in places like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and even Singapore.

Important sections highlighted in yellow colour when booking a hotel in Tokyo.


Things To Consider When Booking A Tokyo Hotel

Below are some of the important things that a traveller should consider when booking a hotel in Tokyo. It could be of much help to new travellers, and even for repeat travellers, this could be helpful on your next trip to Tokyo or some other part of Japan.

A cropped subway map showing the yellow highlighted areas in Tokyo to stay at.

1. Location of Hotel

This is the most important factor to consider. The further your hotel, the cheaper it may be, but the time you spend commuting around Tokyo will eat into your vacation time, where travelling on the Tokyo Metro will easily take up a few hours of your day.

An example would be to stay as Asakusa, which is no doubt a very popular place and near the Tokyo Skytree. But from Asakusa to Shibuya, it will easily take you a good 33 minutes one way. And when you are done walking the entire Shibuya and want to head back to Asakusa, it will take you an equal amount of travel time.

Recommendation and Tip – I would recommend looking for a hotel in the central areas, namely around places like Suidobashi, Jinbocho, Kasuga, Kudanshita, Lidabashi and Hongo-Sanchome. These places are all located along the main Tokyo Metro subway lines, which connect to all the important places around Tokyo.

A map showing the distance from one hotel to the Metro Station with two minutes walk.

2. The distance of Hotel from Subway Station

This is probably one of the very important factors to look into when you book a hotel in Tokyo. Most hotels will indicate how close the subway stations are, and when you see one, two or three-minute walk, those are the good ones. When you see them state it is “minutes walk”, be careful as it could be 10 or 15 minutes walk.

Recommendation and Tip – Make sure when you book your hotel, the main Tokyo Metro Line is a couple of minutes walk from your hotel. Some hotels are so convenient that the entrance to the subway station is just meters from the hotel entrance.

A Convenient Store and Subway Entrance in one area outside a hotel in Tokyo.

3. Convenient Stores Near The Hotel

This is probably very important for the Asian travellers as the 24-hour Japanese convenient stores like Lawson, 7-11 and Family Mart are crucial to these travellers. Why? Because it is known that these convenient stores provide affordable meals and snacks in Tokyo. Even when I visit Tokyo, I always make sure that the two most important things near the hotel are a convenient store and a subway station entrance.

Recommendation and Tip – The larger 20-hour convenient stores tend to offer better choices in terms of food and snacks. Often, you may even see an AEON quick mart in the area, and these are even cheaper than the usual 24-hour stores.

What it looks like inside one of the hotel rooms in Tokyo.

4. Hotel Amenities

No, I am not talking about the shower or flat-screen television in your room, but about the common amenities outside of your room. Most hotels offer various types of additional amenities such as ice machines, coffee and drink vending machines, and some even offering self-service laundry vending machines. And even the small hotels do that, all in the name of providing excellent customer service.

Recommendation and Tip – When booking a hotel, always look at what kind of other facilities the hotel offers. Some may offer very basic, while the multi-chained hotels will offer a little more than expected. Also, if the hotel offers a breakfast along with your booking, I would highly recommend you take that option. Because the Japanese simple breakfast is a hearty meal and you can even skip lunch at times.


Are There More?

There may be other tips available, but in this article, I only selected some of these main ones as they are probably the most crucial for the first time visitor to Tokyo. I hope you found some of the information here helpful and do keep a lookout for my next tips and tricks for visiting Japan.

 

David Hogan Jr
David Hogan Jr
A multiple award-winning travel writer, blogger and social media enthusiast. He has been traveling to Japan since 1990 and all over the world for his work. His work has been featured on CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Lonely Planet and many other publications. David writes at: http://malaysia-asia.my and is on social media platforms as @MalaysiaAsia

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