Overnight accommodations in Japan run from luxury hotels to ryokan (traditional inns) to youth hostels and even capsules. Western-style rooms with Western-style bathrooms are widely available in large cities, but in smaller, out-of-the-way towns it may be necessary to stay in a Japanese-style room—an experience that can only enhance your stay.
Large chain and business hotels usually quote prices based on rooms and occupancy. Traditional minshuku and ryokan prices are generally per person and include dinner and breakfast. If you do not want dinner at your hotel, it is usually possible to renegotiate the price. Stipulate, too, whether you wish to have Japanese or Western breakfasts, if any. Japanese-style rooms generally have tatami flooring and a futon instead of a bed. Rarely do they have a private bath or shower; guests bathe in communal baths, following a particular etiquette, and baths are frequently open only a few hours a day. When you make reservations at a hotel outside a city, you are usually expected to take breakfast and dinner at the hotel—this is the rate quoted to you unless you specify otherwise. In this guide, properties are assigned price categories based on the price of a double room at high season (excluding holidays).
A top-notch agent planning your trip to Japan will make sure you have all the necessary domestic travel arrangements reserved in advance and check ahead for reservations for sumo tournaments, geisha shows, or the one-day-a-month temple opening. And when things don't work out the way you'd hoped, it's nice to have an agent to put things right.
Japan Hotel.net, Japan-Hotel-Reserve, Rakuten Travel, and Tabiplaza, an offshoot of Nippon Travel Agency, offer a wide range of accommodations from big city luxury to out-of-the-way family guesthouses. Budget Japan Hotels offers big discounts on cheaper rooms at major hotels.
Japan Hotel.net (www.japanhotel.net.)
Rakuten Travel (www.travel.rakuten.co.jp/en.)
Japan Travel Agents
JTB Sunrise Tours (2-3-11 Higashi Shinagawa, Tokyo, 140-0002. 03/5796–5454. www.jtb-sunrisetours.jp.)
Apartment and House Rentals
In addition to the agents listed here, English-language newspapers, magazines, and online sites such as the Japan Times, Metropolis, The Japan News, orGaijinpot.com may be helpful in locating a rental property. Note that renting apartments or houses in Japan is not a common way to spend a vacation, and weekly studio-apartment rentals may be fully booked by local business travelers.
The range of online booking services for Japan is expanding, although most of the accommodation booked this way is large and impersonal and staff in the hotel may not speak any English. Also check the location carefully to avoid incurring unforeseen extra costs and hassles in trying to reach the sights from a suburban hotel.
Fontana (03/3382–0151. www.tokyocityapartments.net.)
Ichii (03/5437–5233. www.japt.co.jp.)
The Mansions (03/5414–7070 or 03/5575–3232.)
Sakura House (03/5330–5250. www.sakura-house.com.)
Weekly Mansion Tokyo (www.wmt-tokyo.com.)
Metropolis (03/3423–6932. www.metropolis.co.jp.)
Home For Exchange. $64.50 for a 1-year online listing. www.homeforexchange.com.
Make sure you allow adequate time for travel—being late for a business function is not appreciated. Wear conservative-color clothing and bring along meishi (business cards). Meishi are mandatory in Japan, and it is expected that when you bow upon meeting people you will also hand them a card, presented using both hands; presenting a card written in English is okay, but if you have one side in Japanese and one in English, your business associates will be very impressed. Remember to use last names with the honorific –san when addressing people. Also, hierarchy matters to the Japanese, so make sure your job title and/or rank is indicated on your card. You may see your associates putting the cards on the table in front of them, this is so they can remember your name easily. Follow suit; never shove the cards you have just received in your pocket or bag.
It's not customary for Japanese businesspeople to bring their spouses along to dinners, so never assume it's okay to bring yours. If you want to bring your spouse along, ask in a way that doesn’t require a direct refusal.
Through the home-visit system, travelers can get a sense of domestic life in Japan by visiting a local family in their home. The program is voluntary on the homeowner's part, and there's no charge for a visit. To make a reservation, apply in writing for a home visit at least a day in advance to the local tourist information office of the place you are visiting. Contact the Japan National Tourism Organization before leaving for Japan for more information on the program.
You can also arrange accommodations in Buddhist temples, known as shukubo. JNTO has lists of temples that accept guests and you can arrange for your stay here as well. A stay at a temple generally costs ¥3,000–¥9,000 per night, including two meals. Some temples offer instruction in meditation or allow you to observe their religious practices, while others simply offer rooms. The Japanese-style rooms are very simple, and range from beautiful, quiet havens to not-so-comfortable, basic cubicles. For specific information on temple lodging in the Kii Mountain range in southern Japan, try contacting the Shukubo Temple Lodging Association.
Shukubo Temple Lodging Association (www.shukubo.net.)
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