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Hotel or Ryokan (or both) in Tokyo for four nights in July?
May 10, 2009 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Hotel or Ryokan (or both) in Tokyo for four nights in July? Which is it?

We are trying to figure out if we should stay in a hotel or a ryokan, or some combination of both (one night in a ryokan for the experience?) for the short time we are in Tokyo this early July. Our price range is probably hovering around 10000 yen a night or so (we can go a bit above that, but not too much).

Our considerations: we want an "authentic" Japanese experience (yes, I know, hahaha), so if we are just getting some silly approximation for western tourists, we'd rather stay in a hotel, 'cause at least we'd get our own bathroom with a toilet with a remote control and one of those deep tubs (that seems just as "authentically" Japanese to me, but what do I know). We are probably going to want to eat out most nights, so it may be a waste to stay in a ryokan where dinner is served, not to mention the curfew restriction we've heard most ryokans have. We are also aware that July is not necessarily the most comfortable month to be staying in Tokyo, so a place with good A/C is probably a must.

I guess it's probably clear we are leaning towards a hotel, but I want some second opinions:

Why would you stay in one or the other? What would we be missing out on if we stayed in one vs. the other? Is it worth it to stay in a ryokan for one night, just to experience that, or is it silly to try in Tokyo? While we're at it, any particular places of either type you recommend?

Thanks!
posted by dubitable to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd say one of the main questions is how do you do with sleeping on a futon on the floor and sitting on the floor. If your back/knees aren't going to handle this, the question is pretty much settled for you. Personally, I wouldn't stay in a ryokan for more than a night, but I like my deep tubs. On the other hand, if you can do it physically, I think it would be a fun experience to try for a night. 10,000 yen/night seems really cheap to me for hotels in Tokyo, though I haven't researched rates for a while, so that price point may limit your options fairly significantly.
posted by zachlipton at 8:49 PM on May 10, 2009


Our considerations: we want an "authentic" Japanese experience (yes, I know, hahaha), so if we are just getting some silly approximation for western tourists, we'd rather stay in a hotel

Why not try Shigestsu, in Asakusa? It's a really nice ryokan in an interesting part of Tokyo.

---------------------

By the way...

You're never going to get a silly approximation for western tourists, because the tourist industry in Japan is geared toward Japanese tourists. Generally speaking, you will be treated as guest during your stay there, and since the Japanese (once again, generally speaking) are a very earnest and honest folk, you won't get ripped off.

$100 a night roughly equals 10,000 yen. 10,000 yen should get you dual-occupancy in a cheaper ryokan, and it might even get you both breakfast (but not in Tokyo).

10,000 yen will probably get you dual-occupancy in a business hotel, although I would budget 15,000 for two. This will not get you breakfast. A business hotel is basically a bed crammed into a small room with enough space for a television and a shower/bathroom.

The benefit of "business" hotel is that it operates kind of like a hotel anywhere else. You check in, you get a key, you go to your room, you come and go as you please.

A ryokan, while being somewhat more authentically Japanese from a tourist's perspective, has to be decoded. Shoes come off at the entrance. There is a curfew. Staff will make your bed in the evening, and will arrive at 7:30am to clean up your room. You don't have to tip, but you're expected to neatly fold up your futon...
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 PM on May 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Japanese Guest Houses is a good site.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:58 PM on May 10, 2009


I have stayed in a "Japanese Room" at Shigestsu. I liked it, and it might be a good compromise for you. Then again, I also slept in a tube a couple of times, so my standards might be low. I do like having my own bathroom and shower/bath after a long day out, though.

As for regular hotels... yes, it's really all about the toilets.

Really, you're only in Tokyo for four days... in that time you will be saturated with inputs and have 10x or 20x more to do than you will have time for anyway. My guess is that you'll return to wherever you are sleeping exhausted and have no time or interest for anything other than falling down and sleeping, so I wouldn't get too wrapped up in choosing some idealized Japanese-ified lodgings.
posted by rokusan at 9:00 PM on May 10, 2009


During my first trip to Japan I loved staying in a ryokan and wearing a japanese robe and drinking green tea on tatami mats. It is a culturally unique experience that I had never come close to experiencing. A regular japanese hotel is a very similar experience to any other hotel in the US or Europe. I would say definitely stay at the ryokan at least for one night. Have fun!
posted by avex at 9:41 PM on May 10, 2009


Are you going anywhere else in Japan other than Tokyo? If so, and you would like to have an "authentic ryokan experience," you might be able to find less expensive accomodations outside of Tokyo. Good ryokan are quite expensive, so unless you go the cheap route or choose a pension (minshuku) instead, you might be better off in a regular hotel. You'll be able to come and go as you please, as well -- a plus in a 24-hour city like Tokyo.
posted by armage at 10:01 PM on May 10, 2009




This is my favoutire place to stay in Tokyo - it's a modern Ryokan in Asakusa, walking distance from the incredible Sensoji temple. It's cosy, funky and inexpensive.
posted by lottie at 10:17 PM on May 10, 2009


What are the "authentic" features you're looking to hit?

I stayed at Tama Ryokan for about a week when I was in Tokyo, but for me the biggest selling points were that it was centrally located and very reasonably priced. Potentially "authentic" features: sleeping on the floor on a futon, shared bathrooms, donning house slippers just inside the front door. I'm not clear if you're looking for more cultural offerings, though, like food or performances.
posted by cadge at 10:45 PM on May 10, 2009


Like zachlipton said above, first decide if you will be comfortable switching to sleeping on a proper futon. If you will be, then decide, are you going to actually spend time in your hotel, or will be you filling your day to the brim with activities? If you just need a place to crash for the night, go with what would give you the most effective rest.

Now, the reason I came in here to comment is to implore you, no matter what sort of decision you make regarding ryokans, to stay in Asakusa. I stayed there for about two weeks, and it was absolutely amazing. It was wonderfully central, felt quite authentically "Japan" to my vaguely educated American self, and was filled with great locals and excellent surprises around every corner. This is in opposition to a variety of other neighborhoods in Tokyo that I have since visited and learned more about. In Asakusa you can find any number of places to stay on a huge spectrum of traditional western and traditional eastern lodgings. I stayed at a wonderful family run hotel that catered to backpackers and local travelers, it was cheap and I had a blast. Around the corner was a very traditional ryokan with a lovely fountain and garden I walked past every day. Up the block was a fancy western style hotel. Your choice!
posted by Mizu at 1:21 AM on May 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have stayed in Shigestsu, in Asakusa, and I would recommend it for a night. Sleep on futons on the tatami for experience, but after that you might want the comfort of a real bed. Many hotels have the option of Western or Japanese style baths if that matters.

If you want even more Japanese style treatment, I would seriously recommend Hakone-Yamatoya Ryokan in Hakone. They will come and cook/server your dinner in your room, setup the futons when ready etc. Has onsen and own gondola for access. Is about 90mins on the
VSE Romancecar on the Odakyu-line from Shinjuku. And the lovely Switchback-train up the hill. I have plenty of photos of that in my gallery if interested.
posted by lundman at 1:25 AM on May 11, 2009


$100 a night roughly equals 10,000 yen. 10,000 yen should get you dual-occupancy in a cheaper ryokan, and it might even get you both breakfast (but not in Tokyo).

9500 yen will get you a double occupancy room at the Villa Fontaine Ueno (a Japanese business hotel), and a tasty breakfast.
posted by Gortuk at 7:42 AM on May 11, 2009


I recently stayed at Ryokan Kangetsu (which I think someone on MeFi actually recommended) and really liked it. It's located a a bit out of the way, which I chose on purpose to have a break from the craziness, but you do have about a 35-min train ride to get downtown.

They have some very nice Japanese-style rooms, and wonderful traditional-style outdoor baths. (They also have indoor Western ones.) The garden is lovely as well. Meals are not included.
posted by exceptinsects at 11:25 AM on May 11, 2009


I know this was not an option you mentioned, but we did couch surfing in Japan for most of our trip. It wasn't as comfortable as the hotel where we stayed our first night, because we were sleeping on futons and didn't have an much private space, but it was awesome.

Our hosts talked to us, cooked for us, told us what sights to see, and were generally the nicest people ever - certainly an authentic experience. Also it's a lot cheaper - our hosts generally asked for a small sum to help cover their utility bills.

If you do this, get in touch with them early (like right now) because there aren't a lot of couch-surfing hosts in Japan (most people don't have extra space) and they are in high demand.
posted by mai at 4:02 PM on May 11, 2009


Folks, despite all the excellent recommendations for ryokans, we've decided to go with a hotel. In fact, all of your answers were extremely helpful in giving us both a good range of places to check out as well as a more detailed understanding of what we would be in for if we stayed for a ryokan.

As a side note, we did some research on a bunch of the places suggested, and found out that Shigestsu has been criticized as recently as last November as having bedbugs. Don't know how legit this is, but still I wouldn't want to take a chance...bummer.

I think next time we will try a ryokan, when we can stay longer in Japan and move at a more relaxed pace.

I am reluctant to go through and identify "best" posts, as I think everyone who responded gave me something valuable: thank you all so much! Ask MeFi is so awesome.
posted by dubitable at 6:09 PM on May 11, 2009


You realise it is virtually impossible to have Tatami and not have those Tatami nits? There is a reason every single Japanese person has bites on their calves. It is just what goes with Tatami floor, and really, part of the experience.

For some reason, something about Japan makes bugs (and fruit) flourish! There are some mean looking apache-hornets, etc. (Two thumbs!)
(That's not their name, I was going for imagery).

Just sayin' :)
posted by lundman at 7:18 PM on May 11, 2009


You realise it is virtually impossible to have Tatami and not have those Tatami nits? There is a reason every single Japanese person has bites on their calves. It is just what goes with Tatami floor, and really, part of the experience.

Maybe that's the case, but I didn't see complaints about other places. Don't mean to disparage any establishment, but as my girlfriend is a former New Yorker who directly experienced the scourge of bedbugs in her life for a long, miserable period, there is no way we are taking any chances whatsoever, and we want to at least warn others who may find this thread about what we found.

I hope that puts it into context!
posted by dubitable at 5:29 AM on May 12, 2009


In retrospect, I felt like marking a few posts that were especially helpful. But again, all of this was fantastic information from you folks: thank you very much!
posted by dubitable at 9:24 AM on June 15, 2009


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