Probably Japan’s best-known and most unique form of accommodation, capsule hotels tend to be found predominantly in Japan's big cities (particularly near larger train stations), where they are usually one of the cheapest accommodation options available.
For a small price, you get your own small space to call home for the night. Capsules are equipped with bedding, a light, and a plug socket for charging your phone, plus a television, alarm clock and lockable box, depending on the hotel. All other facilities, such as shower and toilet facilities, are communal. Many capsule hotels also offer additional communal facilities such as you might expect at a youth hostel, such as communal baths, a lounge, restaurant, laundry machines, vending machines, or even a free book library. Since space inside the capsule is very limited, additional lockers or luggage storage elsewhere for large items such as suitcases.
Traditionally, capsule hotels’ main clientele was businessmen in need of a simple bed for the night, and even now the majority of capsule hotels offer accommodation exclusively for men. However, there are an increasing number of exceptions to this, with mixed gender capsule hotels (usually, male and female capsule areas on different floors) and a growing number of capsule hotels catering solely for women. One of these is Nadeshiko Hotel, which opened in Shibuya in 2016, and offers capsules costing 5500yen/£39 per night.
Pensions offer an accommodation experience akin to staying in a B&B in the UK, offering hotel amenities with a more homely atmosphere, with the difference that they typically offer dinner as well as breakfast in their lodging plans. They are usually family-run and based in western-style buildings, often the family home.
They are often found in outdoorsy areas and touristy areas in the countryside: near ski resorts, lakes and mountains, as well as by the sea and in smaller, rustic towns, which make them ideal for travellers wanting to get off the beaten path and explore rural Japan.
Rooms are western-style with beds and usually furnished in a simple but homely or quaint rural style and equipped with simple amenities such as a television, heating, and kettle of some kind. Most pensions have shared toilets and bathrooms rather than en suite.
Guests can usually choose full-board (breakfast and dinner) or half-board (just breakfast). Meals are usually served in the pension’s small communal dining room and use fresh seasonal local ingredients. There is often also a cosy lounge or common area for relaxing and socializing.
Prices start at around ¥5,000 (£36) per person, per night on a room-only basis, and ¥7,500 (£54) per person, per night with meals included.
Minshuku are Japanese-style bed and breakfasts which tend to be family-run and small, with just a handful of guest rooms. They are typically found in outdoors or resort areas such as hot spring and ski resorts and in the mountains, as well as smaller, rustic towns and by the sea. Minshuku do not offer the same level of service and facilities as hotels or ryokan, but allow guests to enjoy a cosy, family atmosphere and home-made Japanese cooking.
Similar to ryokan, and unlike pension, the guest bedrooms in minshuku are Japanese-style tatami mat rooms with futon bedding to sleep on. Futons may be already laid out, or guests may have to do it for themselves - look for them in the cupboard in the room. Other in-room amenities tend to be basic, typically including a floor-level table and large floor cushions or legless chairs, a small television, a towel rail, a heater, and a tea set.
Minshuku rooms are not usually en suite, rather bathroom and toilet facilities are shared with other guests. Bathing facilities vary; while most minshuku have large Japanese-style baths which may or may not be able to be privately booked for only your party, some may not have private showers, or may only have showers.
Dinner and breakfast, when included in the lodging plan, are usually served in a common dining room rather than in the guests’ rooms, as at a ryokan. While most minshuku offer plans including a home-cooked dinner and breakfast, some may serve only breakfast, or even no meals at all.
Minshuku are moderately priced, generally costing between ¥6,000 (£43) and ¥8,000 (£57) per person, per night (including two meals). A popular place to experience a minshuku is in Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, where guests can stay in historic traditional farmhouses.
Recently, premium and themed capsule hotels have been springing up, especially in the big cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. One stylish capsule hotel chain is 9h Nine Hours - with outlets in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Kyushu, including Tokyo Haneda and Osaka Kansai airports - which offers overnight stay plans for 4900yen/£35 or short stay plans by the hour. As a unique Japanese experience, capsule hotels are very popular with foreign travelers, and more and more companies are now offering English websites and booking systems.
Business hotels are clean and comfortable "no-frills" lodgings often conveniently located within easy reach of public transportation such as train stations and motorway exits. Despite the name, it is possible to book these rooms as an overseas visitor travelling for leisure.
Rooms are usually very compact, but are clean and well-kept and have a basic en suite bathroom with amenities. Most also usually have air conditioning, a television, an empty refrigerator and a kettle of some kind. Other facilities, such as vending machines for cold drinks, coin-operated laundry machines, and prepaid television cards for pay-TV, can usually be found in the communal areas.
Room service is not generally available, but most business hotels provide vending machines for snacks and drinks and many have their own restaurants serving breakfast and other meals. They may also occasionally have shared hot spring baths. Prices generally range between 5000JPY (£36) and 9000JPY (£65) per person, though this often depends on the location.
Toyoko Inn, Super Hotel and APA Hotels are some of the popular business hotel chains found all across Japan. These hotels can usually be booked via typical online booking websites such as Booking.com.
Japan is home to numerous internationally renowned luxury hotels, including properties owned by Ritz Carlton Hotels, Four Seasons Hotels and Hyatt Hotels & Resort, as well as domestically owned 5 star accommodation.With the 2020 Olympic Games just around the corner, the number of luxury accommodation options in Japan is on the rise. Japan's spirit of 'omotenashi' (hospitality), combined with the high quality amenities of these hotels means its deluxe accommodation is rated some of the best in the world.
To find a hotel, the Japan Hotel Association has an enormous list of luxury options, and allows you to search for hotels by proximity to major sight-seeing attractions and experiences.
Ryokan are authentic old-style Japanese hotels and inns where long-held traditions are still observed. Staying in a Ryokan offers foreign visitors a wonderful opportunity to taste the true flavour of traditional Japanese life, including Japanese-style bathing, traditional clothing, futon bedding and authentic cuisine. Ryokan are characterised by a high quality of service, including a personal maid in many establishments. Rates vary from budget to luxury options. Over 2,000 Ryokan across Japan are registered members of the Japan Ryokan Association.
Search for ryokans in Japan via Selected Onsen Ryokan and Japanican.com.