Japan is undoubtedly one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit and sleep in. Do not worry; locals share the same sentiment as well. Japan is a sleep deprived country, and people there tend to take advantage of sleep whenever they can (sans the expensive hotels).
Most visitors to Japan who look for accommodation will head over to booking sites right away, but I personally discourage booking all nights of your trip in one batch. Suggest for you to book only your first night, and then look locally once you’re there instead of online for the rest of your stay. By doing so, you’ll be able to find out other, cheaper inns and other free places to stay at that are not available online.
If you are flexible enough (meaning you can sleep standing up), consider these tips first:
- Sleep with a local host – Before anything else, try Couchsurfing. While you are on your way to your destination, hit a few couch requests to members in that area and you might be staying with a local that same night. Just make sure your profile does not project an image of a criminal. J You get to stay at one of the couchsurfers’ home for free, and sometimes your hosts will give you a free tour / homemade meal, and you get to experience being a local, which is a great plus to your adventure. You also get to find out where the best bargains are with the help of your local host.
- Sleep at airports – Japan generally tolerates sleeping in public, as long as you do not pose a threat. If your flight is delayed and you have no place to stay at, feel free to sleep at their safe and best-in-class airport lounges.
- Sleep at 24/7 fastfood restaurants – I was once stranded at a train station (Himeji station) not far from Osaka since the stations close at around midnight. Good thing there was a 24/7 McDonald’s right at the entrance of Himeji station. You may be concerned that sleeping may not be permitted there – the answer is YOU CAN. You can even sleep in one of the seats and use the outlets for charging without ordering anything. Just see the pic I took below – looks like they’ve missed that 11:30PM train, too. Trust me, I’ve done it.
- Sleep in cheap motels – not only they are cheap, they are in close proximity to the happenings as well. I’ve tried looking for Shibuya, Tokyo cheap hotels using TripAdvisor and Expedia while standing in front of Hachiko statue in Shibuya, only to be shocked at the sky-high prices of the available hotels. I just walked a few blocks and, voila! Cheap motels lined up at the streets 2 minutes by foot from Shibuya’s premiere clubs. Spacious, convenient, and cheap! And oh, I’ve done this in Kyoto, too, where I luckily scored a cheap motel just right at the back of the geisha houses. As a side tip, just be sure to be ready with the necessary Japanese words (e.g. how much, for two please, what time is check out, etc.), use your smartphone calculator to confirm the price with the attendant, and use clever body languages as the attendants at the motels will just (most likely) turn down tourists just to avoid further frustrations with the use of English.
- Sleep in internet cafes – more prevalent in Tokyo (and at 1400-2400 yen per night, more cheaper than motels and capsule hotels), internet cafes provide PRIVATE booths with comfortable seating or lay-flat-mats. You can use the Internet, watch DVDs, read from their large manga and magazine collection, order food, take advantage of the free drinks, and sleep in your own private (but really tiny) room. Many have extra features such as showers. You’ll never miss these internet cafes in the streets of Tokyo with their bright, attention grabbing signages. These internet cafes are popular with university students and irregular workers who live in the internet cafes (Internet café refugees hop from one internet café to another as one cannot stay long term).
- Sleep on trains – worst case scenario :)
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