To visit the Land of the Rising Sun is to step into the awesome, fantastic, and unusual. And that does not exclude one of the most basic traveler needs, accommodation.
Apart from the garden-variety selection of luxury to budget hotels, Japan offers choices that veer away from the conventional. These reflect the very distinctive taste of the Japanese borne, perhaps, from the merging of its very cultural society and its futuristic technologies.
Here are some places you might want to stay in while in the country to experience the extraordinary.
Nothing fancy here, just your basic bed, television, and shared bathroom accommodation. Only, it’s a room that is as long and as wide as a single-size mattress and only tall enough to give you room to sit upright. If that’s not unusual enough, these capsule rooms are stacked in rows within a room. Stay here and you also get your own TV, but you would have to listen with an earphone and share a bathroom with everyone else in that room. The plus? It’s cheap, it’s clean, and it has everything you need to get a good night’s rest.
Generally not meant to serve the globetrotter, love hotels are accommodations for couples on a romantic rendezvous. If you are adventurous enough to stay for a night or rest for a few hours, you’ll find that the rooms are clean and well-maintained. Themed rooms are normal and ranges from the most bizarre and kinky to fun and tame. Discretion, of course, is king here. Most won’t have front desks and you would have to pay via a machine that dispenses the room key.
Providing both a place to read manga, or Japanese comics, and a place to stay, Manga Cafes are more like Internet cafes that offer cheap accommodations as an aside. Perhaps because the original intent of being just library of manga has really evolved into something else entirely. It’s a good thing if you are otaku and looking for a comfortable place to stay. After all, who can say no to a cozy place to stay with shower and free drinks for just 1,500 yen a night?
Tourists may not know this, but they can actually crash at a sauna, or onsen, in Japan for the night. It’s actually cheaper than the capsule hotel costing about 3,000 yen a night. You would have access to a variety of bathing option being that it’s a sauna. Some of the larger saunas will have rooms with dimmed lights and rows of armchairs you can sleep on. It’s actually safe to stay in an onsen, if you dare, because you’ll find many of your “roomies” are office workers. At a women’s sauna you’ll also find off-duty bar hostesses resting before their next shift.
Before hotels came to be in Japan, the ryokan is where people stay when traveling around the country. If you want to experience what it is like to live in a Japanese home, these traditional inns are perfect. And it’s a good thing they are still around today.
Most are family run, and will feature futons on tatami mat floors, shared baths, towels, and yukata. If you are lucky, you’ll find some that will serve dinner and breakfast.