Where to Stay in Japan
Most budget travelers and newcomers to Japan spend their first few nights at youth hostels because they are inexpensive and full of other bewildered foreigners.
Hostels cost around $26-40 per night. Guests typically share a dorm-style room with five to seven other people of the same sex. Sleeping sheets (person-sized sacks made of a sheet) are usually required.
Despite the name, people of all ages are welcome at youth hostels. A few are open only to Hostelling International members, and almost all charge cheaper rates to members. Consider getting a membership before your trip because you might save money.
The best way to find hostels is to search online. Go to your favorite search engine and search for hostels in the cities you’ll be visiting.
Gaijin houses are another common destination of new arrivals. Informal, cheap, crowded, and often decrepit, these houses in suburban Tokyo offer a chance to meet other teachers while living inexpensively and getting established.
Rents range from ¥40,000 to ¥70,000 per month, with shared rooms costing significantly less than private rooms. There are generally no leases involved and some offer rooms on a weekly basis. Go online and search for gaijin houses in the area(s) where you need accommodations.
Here’s what one teacher who spent his first six months in a gaijin house had to say about the experience:
“Gaijin houses don’t have a very good reputation – people think they’re crowded and dirty. It is true that I didn’t have much privacy at mine, but it certainly wasn’t dirty. A lot depends on which one you get into; the people there make or break it. You should definitely look around a bit before choosing one. Having done both, I’d say living in an apartment is better, but I met my current roommates at my gaijin house, and I couldn’t have afforded an apartment right away, so it was worth it.”
Check newspapers and magazines, especially the Tokyo Journal, or ask around for gaijin houses outside of Tokyo.
Accommodations while Traveling
After you have been in Japan for a while you may decide to do some traveling. We recommend staying at minshukus (bed & breakfasts), ryokans (Japanese inns), temples, campgrounds, communes, and youth hostels during your tour of the country.
A ryokan is a Japanese-style inn. Each room comes complete with futon, tatami (straw mat) floor, and access to a Japanese-style toilet and bath. Depending on the area, a room can cost anywhere from ¥12,000 to ¥20,000 and up. If this sounds interesting, contact the Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) office nearest you for ryokans where English is spoken. Also, a simple search engine query will yield results!
Minshuku are inexpensive inns located in fishing and farming communities. In essence, minshuku are equivalent to the American bed and breakfast. A room and two traditional meals usually cost about ¥6,000 to ¥8,500. You can easily find recommended places online.
Many temples and shrines throughout Japan offer accommodations to foreigners who wish to learn about Japanese religious life. This is a great opportunity to learn about Buddhism and Shintoism.