Where should I stay? What kinds of accommodation types are there? This post is all about where you will stay in Tokyo, Japan! This will depend on whether you are staying short term or long term, through school or work. If it’s longer than 3 weeks or if you are staying in the same city then I wouldn’t recommend hotels because it’s a much cheaper option to stay in some of these other accommodations. With that said, here’s a complete list of possible places to stay and some example prices!
Sleepy Louise likes a good hotel!
**Note that if you’re a TUJ student then it is required that you stay in student dorms for your first semester unless you’re married or have disabilities. I was married, so I had to find other means but I really would have enjoyed staying in the dorms until Andrew got to Tokyo. Community!!
If you’re in the Odaiba area and aren’t on a tight budget, I’d HIGHLY recommend Hotel Nikko next to the bay. I snagged it for $200 or so on Expedia with breakfast; options of American breakfast or traditional Japanese. Obviously we went with the Japanese and it was majestic. The whole stay was top on my list of those out of this world fantastical moments.
Hotel: Obviously hotels are the most common places to stay at, but as you can imagine they get pretty expensive in Tokyo, especially the further in you go. But they are one of the easiest options and have plenty of American chains if you have travel perks. Hotels in urban areas will have English speakers to accommodate you and to even get you a taxi! I stayed at the Prince hotel in Shinjuku and I got there extremely late at night due to not knowing how to use a map properly, or something. It was one of the most frustrating times in my life, lugging around one large suitcase, one small one and an overstuffed side bag that weighed at least 25 lbs. Some really nice British ladies helped me find a taxi as they were looking for their own hotel and finally I was able to rest (after I took the world’s fastest elevator to the 30th floor. I was already nauseous from my first ever flight and I couldn’t stomach eating for a whole 24 hours and didn’t have my appetite back for 3 days). The next morning I was greeted by genuine Japanese hospitality; a small, pretty Japanese lady who spoke decent English took my heavy suitcases and wheeled them up front where she called for a cab. Then, an extremely elderly taxi driver lifted said suitcase into the truck. I really felt so bad but he was so smiley and helpful even with the obvious language barrier! (My friend told me elderly men often get taxi driver jobs because it’s an easy job and it keeps them busy—generally Japanese people don’t carry around massive luggage some Americans do, heh heh)
Ryokan: If you’re looking for a more traditional Japanese experience, ryokan is the way to go. It’s a type of traditional Japanese hotel that’s generally more quaint (unless it’s also an onsen getaway type!) and is cheaper than a regular hotel. They can still be spendy in the middle of Tokyo, though, so watch out!
Sakura Hotel: A type of sharehouse suited more as a hotel, basically. It’s just a shorter stay friendly version of Sakura House that you’ll find below.
Airbnb: Be, sort of, warned that Japan says it’s illegal to rent out a private home for money. It’s always been a law but since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is coming up, they thought it’d be a good idea to remind us of the law and that they’ll enforce it even though hotel space is already maxing out. Having said that, there’s more listings than ever on Airbnb and other sites. I also doubt that the renter would get in trouble, it’d just be the landlord. But I also noticed that a lot of the listings on Airbnb were people looking for longer term roommates and apartment complexes, which I thought was a little annoying when I was trying to find a short term place to stay. But there’s a lot of female only rooms!!
Long term stay: Sharehouses & Apartments
Sharehouses: Sakura house, Leo Palace, etc. This will be your biggest money saver, probably. If you’re staying shorter than a year but longer than 3 weeks this is definitely the way to go! The overall cost of sharehouses are more than apartments because they factor in all the excess fees apartments charge (see below) and utilities, amenities, and whatnot. I stayed in a Sakura House just a 35 minute walking distance from my school and a Tokyoroomfinder place on the Keio Inokashira line, where Shimo-Kitazawa is a stop and it’s just a must. There are a lot of different sharehouse companies and I’d recommend looking around a lot to find what you’re looking for.
Apartments: Gaijinpot is going to be the obvious foreigner friendly apartment buildings. And yes, I said foreigner friendly because there’s more than plenty of apartment management companies that just straight up don’t rent to foreigners. We only shopped for an apartment for a brief time before finding roommates through my school (awesome way to make cool friends–hi Tom!) but it was kind of a funny experience hearing the phrase “This apartment matches what you wanted! Oh, but I don’t think they rent to foreigners…” But as I said previously, with apartments come heavy fees. And I mean HEAVY. There’s “key money” which is a tradition set in place after the war as a way of saying, “thank you for letting me stay here”. That can range to 2-5x the amount of rent, deposit fees, cleaning fees, key change fees, etc. Basically be prepared to pay at least 4x the rent upon contract signing. There is an option on Gaijinpot for “no key money” that try and bait foreigners, but a lot of them just have a bunch of other random fees listed sneakily. Don’t be afraid to live farther out. The rent gets cheaper, the grocery stores get cheaper, and you get to see even more parts of Tokyo! As a tip, choose a train line that goes directly to your school/work and just pick apartments around there. It saves you a lot of time and money!
Frugal, special occasion options: Manga cafes, McDonald’s…train stations!? Yes, if you are in a dire pinch and the last train just left (last trains go from around 12-1 or so depending on the location and line) you can go to the nearest manga cafe where they’ll have a little cubicle, chair, desk and manga! Some don’t have the cubicle but Japanese culture is a lot more used to seeing public sleeping than American culture! I’ve heard it’s not super comfortable but it’s a fraction of the price of a hotel and much more student budget friendly. McDonald’s technically don’t allow anyone to sleep there but a lot of times they have two stories and you could sneak in a nap, if you don’t mind sleeping in public. And with that note I’ll mention the infamous train stations, where if you ever miss the last train, you’ll also see all the business men…sleeping around the corners? It’s true! Business men in nice suits are at work all day, go out for drinks after work and will then miss the train home. I heard sleeping in train stations is another no-no, but like the kind of no-no biking on the sidewalk is, or biking with an umbrella. Everyone does it. There’s just too many people that do it, for obvious reasons. Biking on the road is really dangerous in busier areas because Japanese drivers just aren’t accustomed to watching out for bikers. Be warned though, skateboards aren’t allowed pretty much anywhere and can get you a ticket.
I hope this helps you on your travels and with that, I bid you ado!