Where can two adults and two kids find a bed among a sea of lots of pink flowers?
February 18, 2010 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Affordable hotel in or near Tokyo for 2 adults and 2 young children? Difficulty: We're going to be there during what looks to be peak of the cherry blossom celebrations. Earlier ask.mefi recommendations are booked solid. Bonus: Ideas for us to spend the time in Tokyo (or alternatives)?

I'm being overwhelmed by a sea of Engrish and hindered by a personal ignorance of Tokyo. Please help!

Two adults and two small (5/6) children are making the best of an emergency trip by taking a 3 night layover in Tokyo on the return. Our plans have us arriving to and leaving Narita airport over the weekend of April 3rd. Hotel availability calendars are full of vacancies for everything but this weekend.

I read through the thread Hotel or Ryokan (or both) in Tokyo for four nights in July?. No other threads seemed particularly relevant.

I especially liked the look of Andon Ryokan, but they are booked full. We don't have our mind set on a ryokan, but I don't want an overly western style room both for cost and because the more intimate and the more traditional nature of the ryokans appeals to us. We don't need a fluffy bed, but we do want a good toilet and shower.

Budget is unknown. Andon would have worked out to 12,300 JPY (135$ US), which is perfectly doable, but I don't know if that's a laughable amount given the situation.

Having two children with us seems to throw everything off. Single beds abound, triple rooms (three singles) are common, but two doubles are nowhere to be found. Ryokans seem to be hit or miss on if they'll provide extra bed rolls for children.

I can't even figure out where in Tokyo would be good to stay. We're resigned to possibly having to to stay in Narita at one of the airport hotels and take the train in daily, but that's the least appealing solution.

We don't have an itinerary for Tokyo. The eldest is in 1st grade Japanese immersion classes, the mom speaks a workable amount of Japanese, and I'm the typical Japan obsessed computer geek. Any suggestions of must-see ways to kill time would be appreciated, too.

Thank you for reading and any assistance!
posted by ydant to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Rather than a hotel, you could look into weekly apartment rentals - when I was pricing out a potential trip for two couples a few years ago I found several places that, if rented for the week, would be substantially cheaper than two separate hotel rooms. As a bonus, you get a kitchen so you can save on a couple meals (or just have a nice breakfast before heading out).

I can't recommend anything personally, but if you Google "Tokyo apartment rentals" you should get a nice selection.
posted by Gortuk at 2:04 PM on February 18, 2010

Best answer: My family and I stayed at the Arca Torre in Roppongi. My uncle, aunt, and their two kids stayed in a room that had 2 double beds and it was pretty spacious.

It might have been me being spaced out but I do remember the ride from Narita to the hotel was long, but not unbearable. We took a bus that stopped at different hotels and got off at the Grand Hyatt stop and walked to the Arca Torre.

The hotel is near Roppongi Hills which is pretty cool to walk around. It is also near a subway stop. On the corner is Cafe Almond. You get a packet of dry ice when you get something to go. Yes, I do feel the need to point this out. Because it's awesome. Also, awesome to play with in the sink afterward.

Here's my flickr set from the trip if it helps with planning stuff to do. The first two pages is the Tokyo leg (up until the sumo pictures). I think Tsukiji Fish Market is no longer available to tourists.
posted by spec80 at 2:13 PM on February 18, 2010

I usually stick to Ueno or Kamata if I'm looking for cheap, but clean accommodations. My favorite is the New Izu Hotel in Ueno. Their page is is Japanese, but I believe that they have someone on staff who speaks English. They are inexpensive and located above a Lawson for cheap eats.

Try to book a Japanese style room. Everyone will be sleeping in Futons on the floor, but it's a good way to cram more people into one room where space is limited. They can be piled up for more space during the day.

In Kamata you can try Kamata Onsen Hotel. They are less likely to speak English, but they are super cheap and your stay comes with free time in their black water hot spring bath. I think the number is this article goes to the right place.

As a bonus, the hotel is right next to the big Yuzawaya craft store complex and just one minute from the station.

Do not stay in Narita if you can help it. There are plenty of places that are closer and more convenient to Tokyo. MefiMail me if you want suggestions.
posted by Alison at 2:28 PM on February 18, 2010

Best answer: Dude all I recommend is eat as much ramen as you possibly can because I was just there in October and I have been craving it, madwomanly, ever since.
posted by mckenney at 5:36 PM on February 18, 2010

Best answer: No idea on hotels, but if you're here when the cherry trees are in bloom, some of the best places in Tokyo are Ueno (and there's a zoo for the kids, though it is a kind of small, not too wonderful zoo), Shinjuku-gyoen (small entrance fee), Yoyogi Park (near Harajuku Station, not Yoyogi), and Yasukuni Shrine. Bear in mind that most of those places will be pretty crowded, and there might be a good number of noisy drunks having parties on plastic tarps under the trees.

If you are in Ueno, right across from the main gate of the station, you've got Kiddyland and Ameyoko. Kiddyland is a 7 story toy store, which your kids (and you, if you're a Japan obsessed computer geek) will love. Ameyoko is kind of a holdover from it's roots as a blackmarket alley. It's now more of a wholesale/clothing/knockoff area, and it can get pretty crowded, but it is kind of interesting.

Just as a random toss-in, no matter what, you'll be doing a good amount of walking. When my friends came to visit, even the most active among the group were exhausted by what I thought was a pretty normal "sightseeing in Japan" walk. If you're coming with kids, it might be a good idea to start going out for walks to prepare. Ueno park, for example, is quite large, and you could literally spend hours there, but if it's crowded with cherry blossom parties, there won't be many places to sit.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:42 PM on February 18, 2010

If your wife can read japanese, check out Jalan. It has hotel information and availability for hotels/ ryokans across Japan. There seems to be some available rooms on there.
posted by Sar at 9:16 PM on February 18, 2010

Rather than staying at Narita and taking trains in to Tokyo, why not consider staying at Yokohama ? The city has enough to be interesting for a day or so, and traveling time to Tokyo is not too long either (around 30 minutes by train, I think)
posted by joewandy at 9:38 PM on February 18, 2010

I have often stayed in Hotel Monterey Hanzomon. It is in a nice quiet area behind the Palace, rigjt near the Hanzomon metro stop and is thus just a few stops from the action. AM/PM (like a 7-11) next door. Kettle in the room. Two blocks away is a McD if needed.

maybe this link works so you can see how quiet it is.
posted by priorpark17 at 1:30 AM on February 19, 2010

Just wanted to point out in my answer above, I said 'weekly' but I was able to find several apartments that rented nightly, for as little as $100. Please do not stay in Narita - as far as location, look for somewhere that is close to one (or more) subway lines. Fortunately that includes about 90% of Tokyo.

Adding to the list of places to engage in hanami - in Nakameguro, there's a canal that is lined with hundreds of cherry trees, and shops on either side. There's not a lot of sitting room, but it's pretty wonderful place to stroll. Here's a photo (and many more in my flickr stream).

Also, to update the comment on Tsukiji above - I believe the 'banning of tourists' was very short lived, and was only related to the tuna auctions (which had always technically been off-limits to visitors anyway). But your kids might not like being dragged around a fishmarket at 5 AM anyway... take them to the Ghibli Museum instead!
posted by Gortuk at 6:06 AM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: Narita is definitely last resort!

Kids are up on walking long distances, so hopefully we'll be ok there. We'll bribe them with sushi.

I'm absorbing everything recommended. I definitely appreciate it all.

I'm also continuing to get "we're booked" emails in response from various hotels. Note to self - plan these unplanned trips much earlier!
posted by ydant at 6:15 PM on February 19, 2010

Try the Toyoko Inn chain. You can stick your dates into one website and see what they come up with. This worked for me when i was stuck several weeks ago with everything in Tokyo coming up booked.
posted by DMelanogaster at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2010

Response by poster: If anyone is following this, or has a similar problem, we ended up settling on Keio Plaza. I called their California office, and the rate is less than the website by a significant amount. The best part is the children will be free, or roll-out beds are available for their Superior Room (twin). The twin beds are apparently wider than an American style twin (closer to a double).

Also, it appears that children under 6 don't count as people in terms of regulations that limit the number of people in a room. I'm not entirely sure on that, but that is the impression I got after speaking with various hotels and with what I've read. So, really, searching for 3 people rooms would have been sufficient for a lot of the hotels.

All of the Ryokans I could find were either sold out or expensive for the quality apparently offered. So Western style it is, but at least I know I have somewhere comfortable to stay at night.

Thanks again for the suggestions.
posted by ydant at 2:32 PM on March 21, 2010

Response by poster: One more follow-up now that I'm back.

Tokyo was great, and we did just fine with our standard style of random tourism. Pick something that looks interesting, walk/metro there, enjoy, wander. It works for us for the time we had.

We tried to go to the Ghibli museum, but it needs multiple-days advance notice. The Lawson (convenience store) ticket machine is Japanese only, and the directions on the Ghibli museum website don't quite match up. You can probably figure it out, though.

A word of warning about Keio plaza - we were stuffed into a smoking room in the south tower (old, not modernized) despite an explicit reservation for non-smoking. We complained and they "found" us a room in the Plaza Premier floor of the main tower. My partner has since talked to a friend who explicitly reserved the main tower and got stuffed into a smoking room in the south tower as well - until her husband raised a fuss. I'm not saying they do this intentionally, but it does seem a little suspicious.

Keio is great in the main tower plaza premier room we got. Very nice, actually. Worth what we paid ($280/night) in my mind. The south tower room we initially saw was horrible and not worth half that. So buyer beware.

Shinjuku was a fine leaping point for our purposes.

General travel tips:

* An unlimited fare card for Tokyo Metro doesn't cover four of the lines on the general metro map (ignoring JR, Keio, etc, lines). Pay attention to that!
* Go to the department store basements. Food galore. Yum.
* The dry ice comment above is spot on. Get some ice cream to go. :)
* Cheap good sushi if you go to the right spots, but there's plenty of American priced places. I was amazed how two shops almost side by side could be charging 100% difference on price for seemingly similar quality.
* The rice balls with the ingenious nori separation wrappers are fun. Most aren't labeled in English with what they contain. It's a mystery meal!
* Udon for breakfast. Prepare yourself and then embrace it.
* The hotel is outrageously expensive to eat in.

Fun place to visit. I will go back with more time next time!

Thanks, all!
posted by ydant at 7:40 AM on April 8, 2010

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