On June 1st, 2018, under the new law in Japan a lot of Airbnb hosts were forced to cancel their existing bookings that weren’t compliant with the restrictive details of the new law. Having been in Japan before the law was passed and being here after, I was rather disappointed as Airbnb homes were the most affordable and sometimes, the most appealing options for travelers. It isn’t that Airbnb homes are completely out of the picture, it’s just that the ones remaining are rather pricey, relatively similar to hotels and ryokans.
With that in mind, here’s a list of accommodation options available for travelers in Japan based on a real experience.
When travelling, most people lean toward booking a hotel room, and although that might be the most convenient and accessible option, I recommend exploring some of the other, more affordable options that are only available in Japan. The reason why I didn’t book a hotel room is because I wanted to explore a traditional and Eastern-style accommodation or anything that resembles it; and any hotels that had Eastern decor were unbelievably high-priced in contrast to hotels with a standard Western decor.
I looked into ryokans, traditional Japanese inns that cost me about US$60 a night, and although this price varies from place to place, it is rather standard for a typical ryokan. The decor is definitely more rustic than that of a hotel, and the mood of the place felt as though I was inside a traditional Japanese home. My friends and I slept on futons, wore yukatas at night, and drank matcha (which were all provided by the ryokan). The only downside of this was that most ryokans were booked even though we tried booking two months ahead of time, so I recommend that you really plan ahead if you want to stay in one.
Another affordable option can be hostels, though I definitely recommend doing some research prior to choosing one. The reason why I say this is due to a terrible hostel experience I once had. Though I won’t go into details, the place was simply terrible. It was dirty, the place reeked of those who didn’t shower, and it was so inconvenient for all of us who had a lot of luggage, as there was a single narrow flight of stairs and no escalators. However, some hostels have amazing reviews as they have provided incomparably comfortable experiences. For example, there are hostels with cats, or with bunk beds behind bookshelves. They may be pricier than some other hostels, but I definitely recommend spending a little more for a much better experience.
Manga cafes and capsule hotels
Some other options that are unique to Japan are manga cafes and capsule hotels, which are dirt cheap to stay for the night but might not be for everyone. I haven’t had the chance to experience these options myself, but a close friend of mine described it as a unique experience he would never indulge in again. He said it seemed really cool in the beginning, but eventually he became claustrophobic in the little space he was given. That being said, some capsule hotels seem to offer great comfort for an unbeatable price, so they can be well worth a try.
Lastly, Airbnb homes can truly be a hit or a miss just like hostels. I’ve been to some amazing Airbnb homes that I personally think were better than hotels and ryokans, and some Airbnb homes that had a cockroach infestation and unwashed sheets. So, my best advice for those hit-and-miss cases is to research thoroughly: the reviews, the pictures, and the descriptions. Although a place might seem appealing at the outset, you might have to consider why it’s so cheap or why everybody’s complimenting the host’s hospitality but fails to mention their homes. Even if you have to spend a little more, I think it’s for the best that the place you decide to stay at doesn’t ruin your entire experience in Japan.