Tokyo is an exciting and beautiful city. It is a place of extreme contrast, with elegant temples, gardens and palaces, niche fashionable districts such as Harajuku and Shinjuku, and the towering modern skyscrapers of the Shiodome and Electric City. Yet, these distinct attributes complement each other beautifully to form Tokyo’s unique character. Therefore, it follows that, in addition to the hotels and youth hostels you might find in any city, Tokyo is home to a variety of more creative accommodation options. Spending the night in a quirky, quintessentially Japanese setting is a great way to enrich your trip to Tokyo. The following options are not only ideal for adventurous travellers, but they’re also typically cheaper than standard hotel rooms.
Minshuku are family-run guesthouses, usually built in a traditional style. They tend to have two or three guest rooms, although they can be bigger, and are the budget alternative to the luxurious Ryokan. A minshuku room has a tatami mat floor, and in place of a bed, you will find a futon. Amenities are often basic, although some have televisions and tea-making facilities. Some minshuku offer dinner and breakfast (although that’s not guaranteed), which they serve in a communal dining room. There is also a shared, traditional bathroom with a shower for rinsing, a bath for luxuriating in, and sometimes a sauna. Minshuku are a wonderful option for people who want to immerse themselves in traditional Japanese culture and experience a night in a tatami room.
Karaoke originates from Japan and remains exceedingly popular. Karaoke boxes are buildings containing several soundproofed rooms. Found all over Tokyo, they are a popular hangout for people of all ages. Karaoke is a private experience in Japan, rather than the public performance it has become in the West. A person, or group of people, will book a room by the hour, during which time they can enjoy unlimited karaoke and drinks. After 11 p.m., when the last trains have departed the city centre, karaoke boxes offer massively reduced rates for an overnight package and are a popular accommodation choice for those who have missed the train. Rooms contain sofas and can accommodate up to 20 people. The soundproofing ensures that everyone can get a quiet night’s sleep, even if other guests are partying all night. It is worth noting that the karaoke boxes tend to close around 6 a.m., when the trains start running, so be prepared for an early start.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking but hear me out first!
Love hotels are a great option for travellers seeking a quirky overnight experience with maximum comfort. Love hotels have a sleazy reputation, couples can rent a room by the hour if they wish, but they are run similarly to regular hotels and to a high standard. They range from conventional hotel rooms to elaborately themed buildings, including rooms with rotating beds and access to sex toys and costumes. Overnight prices drop significantly after 10 p.m. Although you can’t book in advance, there is always availability because of the large number of love hotels in Tokyo. Many rooms are equipped with televisions, DVDs, minibars and karaoke machines. You can distinguish a love hotel from a regular hotel by the sign outside the door, which will advertise both a “rest” price and a “stay” price. The former refers to a two- or three-hour booking whereas the latter covers an overnight booking.
Staying in a 24-hour manga café is the cheapest way to spend a night in Tokyo. Manga cafés are venues where people pay by the hour to read manga comics, surf the internet or sleep. You can pay for overnight packages, usually five, seven or 10 hours, depending on which chain you visit. The accommodation is a small cubicle with a padded floor, desk and computer. Cafés are unlikely to supply you with a pillow or blanket, but the floor itself forms a comfortable mattress. There is no need to book in advance as there is an abundance of manga cafés across the city, but if you wish to secure a place, you can visit earlier in the day to reserve your cubicle.
I think manga café’s are the cheapest way to spend the night in Japan, especially since so many of them have many extras thrown in. Some places will have a free soft drink bar along with all the manga and TV you will ever need!
Capsule hotels, formed of small, Perspex capsules stacked two or three rows high, provide enough space to lie down and sit up, but not much else; tall people may have to curl up or poke their toes out of the doorway. There are electric lights in the capsules, and most have televisions in the ceilings. Despite its local popularity, it never became a global sensation, so you will find this unique sleeping experience only in Japan. It is worth noting that the capsules can trigger claustrophobia. Most of the hotels only cater to men, so women may need to shop around to find a place to stay. The bathrooms and dining facilities are communal.
For a truly immersive experience, try staying in one of these quirky accommodation options. It’s a great way to save money whilst experiencing the wide variety of alternative lodgings that Tokyo has to offer. From the traditional minshuku experience and party-friendly karaoke boxes and love hotels to the ultra-modern Japanese manga cafés and capsule hotels, there is an overnight adventure for everybody in Tokyo.