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Japan Travel Guide

Choosing the Right Hotel

Accommodations in Japan range from Japanese-style inns to large Western-style hotels, in all price categories. It's essential to book in advance if you're traveling during peak travel seasons and is recommended at other times.

The ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, provides the most unique experience. Japanese-style interiors include tatami flooring, paper (shoji) blinds, a low table for tea service, and pillows. Futons that are rolled out in the evening serve as beds. Stays usually include traditional Japanese morning and evening meals, often with small seafood dishes and regional specialties. Lodges usually offer the use of an onsen (hot-spring bath), though many also have in-room showers.

Similar to the ryokan, but less expensive, minshuku are Japanese-style bed-and-breakfasts. Usually family-run, these inns feature Japanese-style rooms and meals. Baths (there are usually no in-room bathing options) are part of the shared public areas, which also include toilets.

Business hotels feature Western-style digs in basic, small rooms; these are ideal for one night and are usually close to major transportation hubs. Most major cities have high-end Western-style hotels with ritzy spas, fully equipped gyms, and some of Japan's better restaurants. Many are situated in high-rise buildings and provide fantastic views of the city’s skyline.

The boutique hotel arrived late to Japan, but these quirky, trendy properties have taken hold. Earth tones, funky bathrooms, and curvy, chrome fixtures dominate at these hotels, which are priced just above business hotels. On the flip side, hostels are perfect for the budget conscious. Shared and solo rooms are usually available, as are affordable meals—usually less than ¥1,000.

Capsule hotels—generally men-only—are the most spartan accommodations around, providing a chamber that you slide your body into laterally, much like a coffin. There are no frills here, but the price is right. Common areas with televisions and lockers for valuables and luggage come standard.

The often garish love hotel is not really a lodging option but more of a place for couples to relax in private. Most patrons pay for a two-hour stopover (¥4,000), but it is possible to stay overnight (¥8,000). Most have an ostentatious theme, like "Christmas" or "Medieval Europe," reflected in the decor.

Resorts in hot-spring areas, such as Hakone or Tohoku, offer quiet luxury, focusing their services and amenities on the relaxation provided by onsen.

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