2 Weeks in Japan (Tokyo, Kyoto and More) -- Part IIAuthor: GregW (More Trip Reviews by GregW)
Date of Trip: June 2006
This is most likely the highest cost of travelling in Japan. In Tokyo, I mostly stayed at the Marriott Renaissance Ginza Tobu Hotel using my Marriott Rewards points for a "free stay." My free stay, however, included a ¥2500 a day "service charge", meaning that I was still spending $US 25 a night for the hotel. But that was a pretty good deal considering how much the hotel usually charges for a night (around $US 400 and more). For that price, however, I wouldn't stay there. But that's the average prices for international hotels in Tokyo.
Accommodation doesn't have to be so bad, however. You do need, though, to put some thought into it and think ahead. Just showing up in a place and walking up to a hotel isn't a great approach. Firstly, not all places accept foreigners. Secondly, it's hard to know what the rates for hotels will be judging by their looks. I just showed up at a hotel in Tokyo, and ended up spending ¥18000 (US$ 180) a night.
To avoid that, book ahead. You don't need to book to far in advance (even day before or day of), but it'll help. Use multiple sources to book ahead. The TIC can book places using the Welcome Inn Reservation Center, and got me a great deal on a place in Kyoto for ¥4000 (US$ 40) that usually charges ¥7000 a night. Also, I found a place on the travellerspoint site for ¥2100 ($US 21) a night. And, of course, there's always the fall back of the capsule hotel, which run around ¥2500 - ¥4000 depending on the location (not an option for the female backpackers, though, as women are not allowed).
In Kyoto, I stayed at a Ryokan called the Hotel Nishiyama (¥4000 (US$ 40)) that included a private washroom and bath. A Ryokan is a traditional Japanese style inn, where you will find mat floors with a futon and sliding paper doors (though the door to the external hall is a thick metal secure door), and will include a public bath.
In Nagoya, I tried the capsule hotel. There are a number of capsule hotels throughout Japan, and basically have the same structure. The capsule is about 2 meters deep and 1 meter by 1 meter high and wide, just enough to get into and roll around comfortably. The capsule contains a small TV, a radio, an alarm clock and a lamp, all built into the surrounding walls and coated in plastic, making it feel like it could all just be hosed down for cleaning. Basically, the capsule hotel is like a hostel dorm, but for business men in Japan. You share a public bath and will get a small locker, but they will hold a large bag behind the desk. The capsule provides all toiletries needed, including toothbrush and paste, shaver and shaving cream and towels and PJs (actually, most of the hotels provided all these things). As I said above, though, no women are allowed at the majority of capsule hotels.
In Osaka, I stayed at the Hotel Mikado, near the Dobutsu En Mae station for ¥2100 (US$21). There are a number of hotels in the area with similar prices. You get a small room with a TV, and access to the public bath and shower. Women are allowed, and there are separate men's and women's hours on the public bath. The shower is open 24 hours a day, with a limit of one person per time in the shower.
Food in Japan is great, and needn't be expensive. Though you can easily run up tabs of ¥10000 (US$ 100) per person in the nicer restaurants, it's possible to eat really well for a decent price. I found many places offering really good meals with lots of variety for ¥500 and ¥1000 ($US 5 - $US 10) a meal. In fact, many of these meals were large enough that you could get away with only two meals a day.
English isn't widely spoken, so look for places with English menus or picture menus. Failing that, you can always point.
The fish market is a great place to get a cheap breakfast. In most towns there will be a fish market, and as the workers are winding up their day as you're getting started, there's a ton of great sushi and soba noodle places to eat at.
For lunch, I'd often just grab something from a variety store. Most of them will have a large selection of prepared meals, from sandwiches (egg salad, tuna, ham and cheese and vegetable are usually all available) to meat skewers and cold noodle dishes.
At dinner, there are lots of great places around the train stations. You need to try eating at least one night at a yakitori restaurant, where you pull up to a counter and order small dishes and big beers.
For the single traveller, eating in Japan is great, because almost all places have a counter for the single dinner to sit, avoiding the usual embarrassment of taking up a whole table for one person.
Also, there is a strong possibility that as you are sitting at the counter, you'll get invited to join in the conversation, meal and drinks of other parties. Don't be surprised if they end up paying for your meal, it's Japanese tradition.
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