What's the AirBnB scene like in Tokyo?
January 6, 2015 10:10 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning my first trip to Tokyo in March! I'm excited! What's AirBnb like in terms of prices and locations compared to hotels/hostels? Anyone have any recommendations?

I'm flexible on prices, looking more for bang for the buck. Are there areas in the City that are more convenient to be in? I'm going to be doing museums, restaurants, concerts and nerdy things. I can't read or speak Japanese if that makes a difference. Also I really appreciate a good night's sleep so someplace that's quiet. Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by storybored to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I stayed in an AirBnB flat in Toshima near the JR Yamanote line last February that was in a mostly residential neighborhood. If you stay near the JR Yamanote line you can get anywhere in central Tokyo very quickly.

It was about $75 before fees, which is way cheaper than any hotel you'd find, and from my search, there were more good deals on AirBnB in Tokyo compared to other cities I had used AirBnB in. I would say in terms of amenities, the place we chose was middle of the road.

First, if you are from the US, you may need to get used to living in smaller spaces in general. I'd say the flat was about studio apartment size, with a kitchenette and one small bathroom. There were traditional mattresses that we laid on the floor, which were pretty comfortable. There was also a 3G wifi device that the host let us borrow so we had internet access all over the city for Google Maps, etc, which was really useful since we didn't have to pay for mobile phone service.

Trains are basically everywhere in the city, so it's really hard to get away from train noises, but I eventually got used to them. Otherwise, the neighborhood was really quiet. The walk to the place was a bit confusing, but the host was fluent in English and left good instructions.

You should be able to get an idea of whether you'll be able to communicate with the host in English from the listing text. Since many people don't speak English in Tokyo, it's important to have good communication with the host before you arrive and know how to get to the flat, especially if you will not have any mobile phone or internet service when you arrive.

Tokyo is awesome, have fun!
posted by melvinwang at 11:14 PM on January 6, 2015 [2 favorites]

Not about AirBnB, but Tokyo general:

It helps to be somewhat familiar with the subway lines in the vicinity of your place and where you want to go before getting into the train station. It can be overwhelming when you're in a big crowd and feel rushed to see THAT on the wall.

The N'EX one-way fare from Narita to Tokyo is a great deal and super convenient, but then it leaves you in Tokyo station with your luggage trying to figure out how to get the last miles home. Might be 2nd trip material unless you're staying right next to one of its stops, or you're up for some adventure from the very first step.


Maps and Translate use surprising amounts of data. Avoid using those on the cell network (off wifi) unless you have a great international data plan. Also try to avoid looking for a place by street address; they don't work the way you're used to.

Learn the Katakana before you go and you will be able to read a lot more than you think. A lot of shop signs are actually English words spelled out in Katakana (if you imagine saying them in a Japanese accent.)

Have fun, as melvinwang says, Tokyo IS awesome!
posted by ctmf at 12:48 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

We just had a 6-day stay in a really, really nice AirBnB apartment which was off Otsuka on the Yamanote circle line, and it was great. Very well appointed, good communication with the host who lived elsewhere - it was definitely a much nicer experience than a hotel for the same price would've been, especially over the holiday season. Having used AirBnB in a couple of different countries now, I definitely felt like Tokyo had a lot to offer. Keep in mind that everything in Tokyo is pretty expensive, so compare prices with hotels in the area rather than AirBnBs in other areas.

Agreeing with everyone above that as long as you're close to good to communications, you're somewhere convenient. Our place was five minutes away from the Marunouchi, and only a couple of minutes more from the Yamanote. It made it easy for us to go all over, which we did.

When familiarising yourself with the transportation network before you pick your accommodation - make sure to consult a map or app that show all the networks, as there are several operating in the city, including Toky Metro and Toei Subway. Having visited Tokyo quite a bit when I lived in Japan, knowing which popular destinations were just off the Yamanote circle line and which would need more changes to get to was one of the main things that made it easy for me to structure my time as well as to be spontaneous.

Tokyo is an awesome place, so I'm sure you'll have a blast no matter where you stay, but I'll drop you a MeMail with a link to the place where we stayed!
posted by harujion at 2:30 AM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't necessarily rule out hotels - hotels in Tokyo can be surprisingly inexpensive compared to other major cities. I've booked a week next month in Shinjuku for $95/night, breakfast included. There are lots of business hotels with decent rates, but be warned that some chains charge *per person* instead of per room.

I considered Air BnB for this trip, but I haven't used it before and I was concerned about my stay relying on meeting up with a stranger while jetlagged. If you're experienced with Air BnB YMMV of course. The main thing is being close to transit lines - you can get pretty much anywhere in Tokyo easily especially if you're close to the JR Yamanote.

If you do stay at a hotel, or if your Air BnB doesn't include it, consider renting a 3G wifi device - it's hard to overstate how important having an actual map is when trying to find anyplace specific in Tokyo. The Reddit Tokyo Tourist Megapost has info on 3G rentals as well as a wealth of other useful information.
posted by Gortuk at 8:36 AM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

about $75 before fees, which is way cheaper than any hotel you'd find

This is not true. Single-room hotels are available for under ¥4000 in Minowa, north of Asakusa. Example: the Hotel Juyoh.
posted by Rash at 10:02 AM on January 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you're going to Japan, staying in a capsule hotel is an experience in itself. I stayed in the Capsulevalue Kanda, which was fairly centrally located, for abt ¥ 3500, IIRC. It was surprisingly quiet and I slept well, though the Sapporos might have helped.
posted by charlemangy at 7:29 PM on January 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

I stayed at an AirBnB place in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood, rented out by Happy Tokyo hosts who are running multiple AirBnB properties and seem to do a very good job of it.

I found the neighborhood through reading the AirBnB neighborhood guide to Tokyo.

Although there are plenty of restaurants and cafes in that neighborhood, I found it pleasantly quiet for sleeping, even with the windows open. My experience with rentals in Japan generally was that there would be specific instructions about not being noisy because there is a societal expectation that you do not bother your neighbors. And very detailed instructions for sorting garbage!

I had a pocket wifi and it was very handy, so I would definitely look for a place that provides one.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:21 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

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