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 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 hoped, it's nice to have an agent to put things right.
Japan Hotel.net. 877/477–7441; www.japanhotel.net.
Rakuten Travel. www.travel.rakuten.co.jp/en.
Japan Travel Agents
IACE Travel. Nihombashi, Tokyo, 103-0004. 03/5825–2030; 877/489–4223; www.iace-usa.com.
JTB (Japan Travel Bureau). Tokyo, 140-0002. 03/5796–5454; www.jtbcorp.jp/en.
Nippon Travel Agency. California, 07094. 310/768–3119; www.ntaamerica.com.
Apartment and House Rentals
In addition to the agents listed here, English-language newspapers, magazines, and online sites such as the Japan Times, Metropolis, 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 accommodations booked this way are 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. 03/3382–0289; www.tokyocityapartments.net.
Ichii. 03/5437–5233; www.japt.co.jp.
Sakura House. 03/5330–5250; www.sakura-house.com.
Metropolis. 03/3423–6932; metropolisjapan.com.
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.