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Tokyo Travel Guide

Lodging Planner

What to Expect

There are three things you can take for granted almost anywhere you set down your bags in Tokyo: cleanliness, safety, and good service. Unless otherwise specified, all rooms at the hotels listed in this book have private baths and are Western style.

Prices

Deluxe hotels charge a premium for good-size rooms, lots of perks, great service, and central locations. More-affordable hotels aren't always in the most convenient places, and have disproportionately small rooms as well as fewer amenities. That said, a less-than-ideal location should be the least of your concerns. Many moderately priced accommodations are still within the central hubs; some have an old-fashioned charm and a personal touch the upscale places can't offer. And, wherever you're staying, Tokyo's subway and train system—comfortable (except in rush hours), efficient, inexpensive, and safe—will get you back and forth.

Timing

We highly recommend making your Tokyo hotel reservation before you arrive, especially if you are traveling in Japan’s peak holiday periods—late April to early May, August, and the New Year period.

Western-Style Lodging Options

If culture shock has taken its toll or you're simply looking for the standard amenities you associate with a hotel stay, try booking one of these options.

International Hotels

Japan's international hotels resemble their counterparts the world over—expect Western-style quarters, English-speaking staff, and high room rates—they are among the most expensive, tending to fall into the higher price categories.

Most major Western hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt, and Sheraton, have built hotels across Japan. Virtually all these properties have Western and Japanese restaurants, room service, Wi-Fi, minibars, yukata (cotton robes), concierge services, porters, and business and fitness centers. A few also have swimming pools. And a handful offer Japanese-style rooms—with tatami mats and futons—but these rooms are more expensive.

Business Hotels

Business hotels are for travelers who need only a place to leave luggage, sleep, and change. Rooms are small; a lone traveler will often take a double as singles can feel claustrophobic. Each room has a phone, a desk, a TV (rarely with English-language channels), slippers, a yukata, and a bath with a prefabricated plastic tub, shower, and sink. These bathrooms are usually clean, but if you're basketball-player size, you might have trouble standing up in them. Other than those facilities, you'll probably find only a restaurant and maybe a 24-hour receptionist, who probably doesn't speak English. Business hotels are generally near railway stations. Most fall into the more moderate price categories.

Japanese-Style Lodging Options

Looking for someplace to rest your head that echoes the Japanese experience? There are numerous options: ryokan, minshuku, capsule hotels, home visits, or a stay in a traditional temple.

Ryokan

There are two kinds of ryokan. One is an expensive traditional inn, with lots of personal attention, where you're served dinner and breakfast in your room. Rates at such places can be exorbitant—more than ¥30,000 per person per night with two meals. The other type is an inexpensive hostelry whose rooms come with futon beds, tatami floor mats, a scroll or a flower arrangement in its rightful place, and, occasionally, meal service.

Tokyo ryokan fall in the latter category. They're often family run, and service is less a matter of professionalism than of good will. Many have rooms either with or without baths (where tubs are likely to be plastic rather than cedarwood) as well as street, rather than garden, views. Because they have few rooms and the owners are usually on hand to answer questions, these small ryokan are as hospitable as they are affordable (from ¥5,000 for a single room to ¥7,000 for a double). Younger travelers love them. Many modern hotels with Japanese-style rooms are now referring to themselves as ryokan, and though meals may be served in the guests' rooms, they are a far cry from the traditional ryokan.

Note that some ryokan do not like to have foreign guests because the owners worry that they might not be familiar with traditional-inn etiquette.

Contact

Japanese Inn Group (Tokyo. www.japaneseinngroup.com.)

Know Before You Go

Some useful words when checking into a hotel:

air-conditioning: eakon

double beds: daburu-beddo

king bed: kingu saizu-no-beddo

one night: ippaku

private baths: o-furo

queen bed: kuin saizu-no-beddo

reservation: yoyaku

room: heya

separate beds: betsu beddo

showers: shawa

television: terebi

twin beds: tsuin-beddo

Capsule Hotels

Capsule hotels consist of plastic cubicles stacked one atop another. "Rooms" are a mere 3½ feet wide, 3½ feet high, and 7¼ feet long, and they're usually occupied by junior business travelers, backpackers, late-night revelers, or commuters who have missed the last train home. Each capsule has a bed, an intercom, an alarm clock, and a TV. Washing and toilet facilities are shared. Although you may want to try sleeping in a capsule, you probably won't want to spend a week in one. Capsule hotels offer single accommodations only and most have no facilities for women.

Temples

Accommodations in Buddhist temples provide a taste of traditional Japan. Some offer instruction in meditation or allow you to observe their religious practices, while others simply offer a room. The Japanese-style rooms are very simple and range from beautiful, quiet havens to not-so-comfortable, basic cubicles. JNTO has lists of temples that accept guests. A stay generally costs ¥3,000–¥9,000 per night, which includes two meals.

Reservations

The Japanese Inn Group is a nationwide association of small ryokan and family-owned tourist hotels. Because they tend to be slightly out of the way and provide few amenities, these accommodations are priced to attract budget-minded travelers. The association has the active support of JNTO.

The JNTO Tourism Information Center publishes a listing of some 700 reasonably priced accommodations in Tokyo and throughout Japan. To be listed, properties must meet Japanese fire codes and charge less than ¥8,000 per person without meals. For the most part, the properties charge ¥5,000–¥6,000. These properties welcome foreigners. Properties include business hotels, ryokan of a very rudimentary nature, and minshuku. It's the luck of the draw whether you choose a good or less-than-good property. In most cases rooms are clean but very small. Except in business hotels, shared baths are the norm, and you are expected to have your room lights out by 10. The JNTO's downtown Tokyo office is open daily 9 to 5.

Contacts

Japanese Inn Group (Tokyo. www.japaneseinngroup.com.)

JNTO Tourist Information Center (Tokyo. www.jnto.go.jp.)

Know Before You Go

Some useful words when checking into a hotel:

air-conditioning: eakon

double beds: daburu-beddo

king bed: kingu saizu-no-beddo

one night: ippaku

private baths: o-furo

queen bed: kuin saizu-no-beddo

reservation: yoyaku

room: heya

separate beds: betsu beddo

showers: shawa

television: terebi

twin beds: tsuin-beddo

Japan Travel Agents

IACE Travel (Tokyo. 866/735–4223. www.iace-asia.com.)

JTB Global Marketing & Travel (Tokyo. 03/5796–5400. www.jtb-sunrisetours.jp.)

Nippon Travel Agency (Tokyo. 03/3572 Ext. 8744. www.ntainbound.com.)

Know Before You Go

Some useful words when checking into a hotel:

air-conditioning: eakon

double beds: daburu-beddo

king bed: kingu saizu-no-beddo

one night: ippaku

private baths: o-furo

queen bed: kuin saizu-no-beddo

reservation: yoyaku

room: heya

separate beds: betsu beddo

showers: shawa

television: terebi

twin beds: tsuin-beddo

Online Accommodations

Japan Hotel.net (Tokyo. www.japanhotel.net.)

Japan-Hotel-Reserve (Tokyo. www.japan-hotel-reserve.jp.)

Rakuten Travel (Tokyo. www.travel.rakuten.co.jp/en.)

Tokyo Lodging

Fodor's offers a selective listing of quality lodging in every price range, from Tokyo's best budget beds to its most sophisticated luxury hotels. Here, we've compiled our top picks by price and experience.

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