How to find the perfect place to stay in Tokyo (even on a budget)

by Sep 24, 2019Japan

Struggling with figuring out where to stay in Tokyo?

I totally get it.

There are so many neighborhoods to choose from, and each has its pros and cons. Ginza is central but expensive. Asakusa is cheap but far away. There seems to be no place that checks all the boxes.

When planning my first trip to Tokyo, I was so overwhelmed with all the different places to stay (Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ginza, Asakusa) that I stopped looking. I procrastinated until almost all the prime places had filled up.

Don’t put off this very important decision!

I’m going to help you make sense of all the different neighborhoods and help you find a place to stay in Tokyo that is

  • affordable even for those on a budget (without resorting to a hostel)
  • easily accessible to the airport
  • easily accessible to other parts of the city
  • Close to restaurants, cafes, and tourist sights
  • located in a neighborhood where you can immerse yourself in the history and culture of Japan

So, grab a cup of tea and let’s find the perfect place to stay in Tokyo!

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Overview of Tokyo Neighborhoods

Tokyo Station / Marunouchi – central; expensive stores and restaurants; near Tokyo Station, lots of expensive hotels

Ginza and Tsukiji – central: filled with expensive stores and restaurants; lots of pricey hotels

Shinjuku – exciting and fun, unique cultural experience, but few budget hotels and hostels; easy but pricey access to airports

Shibuya and Harajuku – exciting and fun area, but few budget hotels and hostels

Asakusa – historical neighborhood with small narrow lanes; great bargains on hotels and hostels; good choice of traditional Japanese inns; direct and budget-friendly acess to airports

Ueno– historical neighborhood with narrow lanes and old temples; some good budget options and good traditional Japanese inns; depending on your location, it can be easy or difficult getting to/from airports

How important is it to be on the JR Yamanote line?

The JR Yamanote train line goes in a loop around Tokyo hitting Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ueno, Tokyo Station, Ginza.

A lot of bloggers say that you should try to stay in a hotel along this train line.

I disagree.

Nothing irks me more than scrounging for coins or tickets when I take public transportation in Tokyo. And I often found myself without enough money on my Suica card when trying to exit a station. Taking trains in Tokyo is expensive and by the end of the day, it adds up. 

The fabulous 24-, 48-, and 72-hour transportation passes solve all these problems by allowing you unlimited travel on Tokyo’s subway lines for one price. But they can’t be used on JR lines and the Yamanote line is one of them. The pass can be used on any of the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines, which are numerous throughout the city (13 lines total) and can get you almost to anywhere you want to go.

So, no it’s not necessary to be on the JR Yamanote line.

Where to Stay in Tokyo: Tokyo Station / Marunouchi Area

When I was looking for a place to stay in Tokyo, I read lots of blogs that said to stay near Tokyo Station. It’s the most convenient part of the city to stay in.

You’re also next to the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor currently lives. This was also the sight of Edo Castle where the Shogun lived. His most trusted samurai had their estates on what is now the Imperial Plaza, the large, wide-open, pain-in-the-butt-to-walk-across plaza in front of the Imperial Palace. The estates were demolished and the samurai lost their positions when the Emperor replaced the Shogun in the late 1800s.

Since this was the center of power, you’d think that you’d be in the center of history and culture in Tokyo. However, I found this area quite disappointing. The Imperial Palace was a bore. You can’t go inside. And what you can see from the outside are three palace gates and one watchtower. You can tour Higashi Gardens, and the travel guides say that you can see some remains of the original castle, but they are minimal. I didn’t even see any flowers in the garden.

Other than the Imperial Palace, you’ll find lots of office buildings, banks, swanky restaurants and cafes, and upscale name-brand shops. If shopping is your thing, then you might like it here.

The only place that impressed me was the architecture of Tokyo Station. Its brilliant. It feels like you’re back in 1920s Japan.

Easy access to the airports?

This may be the biggest advantage to staying near Tokyo Station. You can access Narita on the Narita Express (over ¥3,000) or by bus for only ¥1,000.

However, the station is huge, so you’ll need to do a lot of walking to get to/from the train that takes you to the airport.

Easy access to other parts of the city and tourist sights

Like I said, Tokyo Station is huge. You can access lots of different parts of the city from Tokyo Station. But I had a hard time navigating the station, having to stop and read signs and backtrack when I found out I was going in the wrong direction.

Another possible plus is that almost all trains going to other parts of Japan leave from Tokyo Station. If you’re doing a trip around Japan, staying near here might help. But you can get to Tokyo Station from anywhere else in Tokyo by subwa anyways. So, I’m not sure how much this really matters. 

There aren’t many tourist sights around the area. The Imperial Palace. Yes. But easily skippable if you don’t have time to see it.

Price

You’re not going to find many (if any) budget or good quality mid-range accommodations here. There are lots of high priced (US$500 to $1000 a night) hotels.

What to do around Tokyo Station

Imperial Palace – The palace is on the grounds of the old Edo Castle. Now it’s where the Emperor lives. The palace is closed to the public (except for two days per year). What you can see are the Higashi gardens. 

Tokyo Station – This is an architecturally stunning red brick building. It feels like you’ve stepped into pre-war Japan. Underground, is an endless warren of shops and restaurants. You could walk forever and not come to the end of it.

Nihombashi Bridge – The bridge was famous for being the point at which everything in Edo was measured from. In the past the area around the bridge was part of the shitamachi filled with warehouses and moneylenders. Today the area is plastered with banks, trading companies, and office buildings. There’s not much of its past here.

National Museum of Art – I didn’t get a chance to see this because it took so long to walk across the Imperial Plaza and around Higashi Kyoen. It contains Japanese art from the Meiji era and beyond.

Great Places to stay near Tokyo Station

For those of you looking for a budget or mid-range accommodations, you can do better than the Tokyo Station area. There just aren’t enough quality hotels and hostels for you. You’ll find better options in Asakusa and Ueno. However, if you can afford something over $1,000 a night, you have a plethora of options to choose from here.

I didn’t find the area around Tokyo Station to be all that convenient or that interesting. Streets are broad and distances between sights are long. The station is huge and unwieldy. I’m not into shopping at swanky boutiques and department stores, so this area just doesn’t do it for me. If you want a real Tokyo cultural experience, I think there are better options like Shinjuku or Shibuya. For more traditional experience, try Asakua or Ueno.

MID-RANGE HOTELS ($100-$200)

Pearl Hotel Yaesu

AGODA | BOOKING.COMThe Pearl Hotel Yaesu is a basic mid-range hotel located 5 minutes from Tokyo Station. You can sometimes get a room in the low $100s.

UPPER-RANGE (Over $200)

Hoshinoya

AGODA | BOOKING.COM – This is where I would stay if money was no object. The Hoshinoya is a traditional Japanese inn but with modern decor. There’s also a hot spring bath. Rooms are priced at over $1,000. Walking distance from Otemachi Station.

Mandarin Oriental

AGODA | BOOKING.COMThe Mandarin Oriental is a luxury 5-star hotel with unforgettable views of Tokyo. It’s located in the Nihonbashi area. 

Where to stay in Tokyo: Ginza and Tsukiji

You can kind of figure out what Ginza is like by just looking at the meaning of its name: “place where silver is made.” Literally, this was where coins were minted during Edo times.  Since then, money has always had a place in its culture.

In 1872, a fire burned down all of Ginza’s wooden buildings. This gave the government a reason to modernize. They rebuilt all the buildings in brick, paved the streets, and added gas lamps. You can see a really cool miniature replica of the area at the Edo-Tokyo Museum.

Unfortunately, while the brick might have withstood a fire, it was not able to hold up against an earthquake, and the 1923 earthquake demolished the buildings. The fire-bombing during the war sealed the casket on what was left. Everything you see here is post-WWII.

However, Ginza bounced back. During the Bubble Economy of the 1980s, Ginza had the most expensive real estate in the world.

Today, you’ll find some of the most poshest shops, department stores, restaurants, cafes, bars, and art galleries in Tokyo. This is the perfect place for those who love shopping, and even more so for those who have the bling to spend money on designer labels. You’ll also find the office buildings of some of Japan’s most important companies there.

Prices

You won’t find a lot of budget options in Ginza. Prices are more mid to upper range.

Easy Access to the Airport

The very affordable Narita Express bus (¥1,000) leaves from Ginza station (exit C4).

Easy Access to the Rest of Tokyo

Probably the best part about Ginza is that it’s smack dab in the middle of the eastern districts of Askusa and Ueno and the western ones of Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku. So, you can easily get to both. There are tons of stations for every sort of subway line you can think of.

What to see and do in Ginza and Tsukiji Market

Kabuki-za Theater – This is THE place to watch Kabuki. You can buy same-day tickets for around ¥1300. 

Tsukiji Outer Market – You can try lots of delicious street food here. Even though the inner market has moved, you can still find some pretty good sushi restaurants in the area.

Hama Rikyu Onshi Teien Garden – This beautiful garden used to be where the Shogun hunted ducks. Now you can find wide-open spaces, a pond, and a nice teahouse on an island in the center of the pond. 

Great Places to Stay in Ginza and Tsukiji

I’ve stayed in this area before because I was planning on seeing the 5:00 am tuna auction at Tsukiji Market. But it’s no longer there. There also aren’t that many other sights to see in this area. And I prefer a more laid-back atmosphere with narrow lanes.

However, Ginza has some great mid- to upper- price range hotels. You can sometimes find great deals on hotels at certain times of the year.

Here are some of the best hotels and hostels in the area:

BUDGET PRICE (UNDER $100)

Wise Owl Hostel

AGODA | BOOKING.COMWise Owl has got 2 hostels around Tokyo. They have both single rooms and dorm rooms. Very close to a small easy-to-get-around station , Hatchabori subway station, which is one stop from Tokyo Station. The station is small, so it’s easy to get around and find your exit. Very clean. Friendly staff. It’s not near any of the major sights. You’d still need to walk a ways to Ginza and Tsukiji Market. They have pods with privacy curtain. There are security lockers and laundry facilities on site.

 

MID-RANGE ($100 – $200)

Tokyu Stay Ginza / Tokyu Stay Tsukiji

AGODA | BOOKING.COMTokyu Stay Hotel is a hotel chain you can find throughout Japan. I’ve stayed at the Tsukiji branch. You step outside the hotel and you are right in Tsukiji market. The hotel has super comfortable beds, and my favorite thing is that they have washer and dryers in the rooms. There’s also a branch in the heart of Ginza.

 

the square Hotel

AGODA | BOOKING.COM The Square Hotel is in the heart of Ginza. And you can sometimes find rooms in the low $100s. An awesome feature is an onsen bath.

 

UPPER-PRICED (OVER $200)

Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza Premier

AGODA | BOOKING.COMMitsui Garden Hotel Premier is an excellent hotel with stunning city views. A short walk away from the major sights in the area. 

Mitsui Garden Hotel Ginza gochome

AGODA | BOOKING.COM – As of today, September 16, 2019, Mitsui Garden Hotel gochome hasn’t even opened, so you can find some great deals if you book now. The regular price is over $300, but right now you can get some deals on Agoda for low to mid $100s. It’s right next to Higashi-Ginza station, which is where the Kabuki-za Theater is. On site laundry facilities.

Where to Stay in Tokyo: Shinjuku

When you think of Tokyo, what’s the first picture that comes to mind?

For me, it’s the scene from Lost in Translation of Bill Murray in the car on the way from the airport. He’s sleeping when he suddenly wakes up to see all the bright neon lights of Tokyo.

This. Is. Tokyo.

And you’ll best find this Tokyo in Shinjuku.

You might not be a partier. I’m not. I, myself, go to bed early and wake up early, but staying smack dab (Hotel Gracery) in the middle of the red light district (Kabuki-cho) of Tokyo was the highlight of one of my trips to Japan. If you want to have a special cultural experience, then consider staying in Shinjuku.

Shinjuku is filled with energy and buzz. The neon lights. The crowds. The crazy bars, cafes, and restaurants. The narrow alleyways of tiny bars and izakayas.

Yes, you’ll see signs for sex shops, sex shows, host and hostess bars, love hotels, etc. You won’t really see women or men propositioning themselves on the street, though. It all feels very inconspicuous.

There are always people buzzing around, so even as a solo traveler, I felt perfectly safe wandering the streets at night alone.

The interesting thing is that Shinjuku has always had a shady reputation. It began as a post town on one of Edo’s main highways. Then it became one of Edo’s six licensed pleasure quarters, catering to a more working-class clientele. Soon Shinjuku grew into a bustling area of shops, inns, theaters, and teahouses.

In the late 1800s, Shinjuku’s population began to grow when railway lines were built that carried passengers to the western suburbs. It grew even more after the 1923 earthquake destroyed much of the eastern shitamachi areas of the city like Asakusa.

Its shady reputation came back when immediately after the war, the yakuza opened Tokyo’s largest black market in Shinjuku.

The narrow dark alleys with their tiny bars and izakayas attracted intellectuals and student radicals.

All this time, it’s retained its reputation as a red light district.

ACCESS TO/FROM THE AIRPORT

Easy access to Narita and Haneda airports: Yes and no. You’ve got two ways to get to Narita airport: Narita Express (NEX) and Airport Limousine Buses. NEX is expensive and inconvenient. For me, it would have taken 25 minutes to walk from my hotel to the train, and that’s only if I don’t take a wrong turn or stop to look at signs as I make my way through the bowels of Shinjuku Station.

The Limousine Bus is easier to get to (there are buses that make hotel stops), but it’s still expensive at ¥3200 compared to other options.

ACCESS TO OTHER PARTS OF TOKYO and KEY TOURIST SIGHTS

I’m not sure if you can count access to Shinjuku Station a plus or a minus. It’s a nightmare to navigate. It’s said that there are over 200 exits in Shinjuku, and 3,000,000 people pass through the station every day. At one point during my stay, I thought I had the station figured out only to find myself completely lost and no GPS signal.

Your hotel might be five minutes from Shinjuku station, but your train/subway is still 25 minutes away by foot. That’s how big the place is.

There are three bus lines called the WE Bus that stop at several key spots around Shinjuku, including some of the hotels. It’s only ¥100. Ask at your hotel.

PRICE

If you’re on a really tight budget (dorm-room like budget), then Shinjuku is doable but not ideal. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything under $100. There’s a capsule hotel for both males and females and a hostel but they’re both a bit outside the main area. 

You’ll be able to find a few pretty good hotels for under $200, though. If you’re a solo female traveler, check out the Hotel Gracery (the hotel with the godzilla head sticking out of it).  They have single rooms specifically reserved for female travelers. I paid $130 a night for a room smack dab in the middle of Kabuki-cho.

WHAT to see and DO IN SHINJUKU

Kabuki-cho – This is the red light district. Just walking around and taking photos of the neon-lights is fun.

Ameyocho – Memory Lane or Piss Alley or whatever people call it nowadays – It’s just a very narrow alley lined with tiny bars and izakayas. It a fun area to walk down, take photos of, and stop for a drink and a bite to eat.

Golden Gai – It’s an area of 200 tiny bars. When I was there, Quentin Tarrantino had just left. How cool is that?

Samurai Museum – A museum devoted to the history of the Japanese samurai

Tokyo Metropolitan Building – You can go for free to the 56th floor of this office building. The views are stunning, but you’ll be out of luck if you want to take photos from it at night. There’s a terrible glare.

Shinjuku Gyoen – This is a pretty park with Japanese, English, and French sections. There’s a teahouse in the park.

Great Places to Stay in Shinjuku

My verdict is that if you can afford paying over $100 for a place to stay, consider Shinjuku. They have some unique mid-range hotels. Stepping outside of your hotel into that electric atmosphere is a special experience.

Shinjuku is divided into two parts: Nishi-Shinjuku and Higashi-Shinjuku.

Nishi-Shinjuku is west of Shinjuku station. This is the area where you’ll find Tokyo’s skyscrapers like the Tokyo Metropolitan Building and the Shinjuku Park Tower where you’ll find the Park Hyatt hotel. This was the hotel where Scarlett Johansen and Bill Murray’s characters stayed at in Lost in Translation. I felt bored walking around here.

Higishi-Shinjuku is the fun area with the neon lights, the small alleyways, pachinko parlors, host and hostess bars, isazakayas, tiny bars, etc. That’s where I’d suggest staying. I felt perfectly safe.

BUDGET-PRICED (Under $100)

Nine Nours Capsule Hotel


AGODA | BOOKING.COM – There aren’t many hostels in Shinjuku. Nine Hours is a capsule hotel for both men and women.

 

MEDIUM-PRICED HOTEL ($100 – $200)

Hotel Gracery Shinjuku

AGODA ] BOOKING.COMHotel Gracery has got to be the most perfectly located hotel in Tokyo. If you find yourself in Kabuki-cho, you can’t miss it. It’s the one with the Godzilla Head sticking out of it. Every hour (8:00 pm is the last one) Godzilla breathes fire and makes noise. I stayed at this hotel and loved it for its location. They have single rooms specifically for females (that’s what it says on Booking.com) that are reasonably priced for its location. It’s still going to be over $100, though. I loved the fact that Kabuki-cho, Memory Lane, and Golden Gai were all so close to the hotel. I would say that this was the perfect place to stay at in Tokyo.

 

Onsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku


AGODA | BOOKING.COMOnsen Ryokan Yuen Shinjuku is a very stylish and modern-looking Japanese inn with hot spring bath. Prices are fairly decent. It will be over $100 but some single rooms are on the lower end of $100. It’s located in Higashi-Shinjuku, but it’s a bit farther away from the station and Kabukicho than the other hotels I recommend here.

Tokyu Stay Shinjuku


AGODA | BOOKING.COM Tokyu Stay Hotel has another branch in Shinjuku. It’s very near Shinjuku Sanchome Subway Station (not the main Shinjuku station). It’s also a 5-minute walk to Shinjuku Gyeon Park.

 

UPPER- PRICED (Over $200)

Park Hyatt Hotel

AGODA | BOOKING.COMThe Park Hyatt is the same hotel from the movie Lost in Translation. Great views of the city. Great hotel bar and swimming pool. Price tag is over $1,000 a night!

Where to Stay in Tokyo: Shibuya and Harajuku

You know that scene in Lost in Translation when Scarlet Johansen’s character is walking across a busy crosswalk and gazing up at two dinosaurs walking across a video screen. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, I’m sure you’ve seen photos or video of hundreds of people crossing a crosswalk from every direction all at the same time.

That’s Shibuya Crossing.

To be at that crosswalk in person is pretty amazing.

Shibuya itself is amazing. The main attraction in Shibuya is Shibuya itself. It’s so fun and exciting to just walk around the streets at night.

Harajuku, a district that is part of Shibuya, is another cool area you’ll love. Both Harajuku and greater Shibuya are where the youth of Tokyo hang out. You’ll see some crazy fashions and trends. You’ll see long lines of young people waiting for their bubble tea and fluffy pancakes. You’ll find cool stores selling everything under the sun in every shade of pastel or neon. 

Shibuya and Harajuku have a lot of character and staying there would allow you to immerse yourself in Tokyo’s unique culture. It’s fun and exciting. However, is it an ideal place to stay?

Easy access to the Airports

You can take the Narita Express train (NEX) directly to Narita airport from Shibuya. Haneda is closer geographically, but you’d need to change trains a number of times.

Easy access to the rest of Tokyo and key sights

Like all of Tokyo, it’s got several subway stations that connect to other parts of the city.

You’ve got a lot of great sights to see: Meiji Shrine, Takeshita Dori, and some world-class museums.

Price

However, there just aren’t enough great places to stay. If you’re a budget traveler, you won’t have a lot of options. There’s one hostel that is 15 to 20 minutes away from a subway station. They do have single rooms for under $100. And then there are some chain hotels under $200.

What to see and do in Shibuya and Harajuku

Shibuya Crossing – Can’t miss this fun neon-saturated crosswalk!

Hachiko Memorial Statue – This is the famous statue of the dog, Hachiko, who continued to meet his owner at Shibuya station long after his owner had passed away. I think there was a movie starring Richard Gere based on the story.

Meiji Shrine – THE most important shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to the Meiji Emperor

Takeshita-dori – A fun street filled with young people shopping til they drop

Ometo-sando – shopping street with lots of ritzy name-brand shops

Ota Memorial Museum of Art – a small and lovely art museum on ukiyo-e paintings

Nezu Museum – an art museum dedicated to Asian traditional art. The highlight is a beautiful garden with teahouses and Buddhist statues

Great Places to Stay in Shibuya and Harajuku

So, is this a great place to make as your base?

Yes and no.

You’ll have a lot of fun staying in either Shibuya or Harajuku. There are tons of things to see and do here. Just being in Shibuya at night is a special experience.

Tokyo subways stop running at midnight, so if you’re really into partying and want to stay out late, then staying in this area would make sense. If you’re an early-bird, you’re likely to get back to your hotel in another part of the city pretty easily.

Pricewise, there aren’t a lot of budget options. The hostel is way too far from the subway station, in my opinion. There are a few decent mid-range hotels for you to choose from that are close to the subway stations, though.

BUDGET-PRICED (Under $100)

Wise Owl Hostel

AGODA | BOOKING.COMWise Owl has private rooms for under $100, mixed dorm rooms, and female dorm rooms. They also have privacy curtains. There’s a safety deposit box. Laundry facilities. There’s a café on site. 15-minutes from main shopping in Shibuya. 15-minute walk from Shibuya Crossing. Kind of far from the station. 15-20 minute walk from the closest Metro. I think this hostel is too far from Shibuya crossing and a metro station to be a good choice.

MEDIUM-PRICED ($100 – $200)

Dormy Inn Premium Shibuya-Jingumae

AGODA | BOOKING.COMDormy Inn is a hotel chain found all across Japan. I haven’t stayed in one. I booked a room in one, but had to cancel my Japan trip due to a death in the family. 5-minute walk from Jingumae Station without heavy bags. This is in a great location—kind of between Harajuku and Shibuya. There’s a public bath and sauna. Free shuttle service to Shibuya station. On site onsen. Walking distance from Harajuku and Shibuya. They have rooms that are under $200. They have on-site laundry facilities.

Hotel Granbell Shibuya

AGODA | BOOKING.COMHotel Granbell Shibuya is very Close to Shibuya station and Shibuya Crossing. Over $100 but under $200. Very small rooms.

Where to Stay in Tokyo: Asakusa

Can you find anything in Tokyo (not a dorm room please!) for under a $100?

Why yes you can!

In Asakusa.

You’ve probably read, though, that Asakusa is too far away from all the major sights.

True. It does take longer to get to the western neighborhoods like Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku from Asakusa than it would if you left from pricey Ginza or Tokyo Station.

But

Tokyo’s got an amazing subway system. And Asakusa has four train lines (Ginza, Asakusa, Tobu, and Tsukuba) You can easily get to any of the major sights by subway or train from Asakusa.

So, before you go writing off Asakusa as too far away, consider it.

I stayed here twice.

For starters, it’s got the coolest and most fascinating history of all the districts of Tokyo. During Edo times, the Shogun divided Tokyo into two parts: the higher inland, more western area known as the yamanote (high city) and the low-lying, flat eastern area of the city called the shitamachi (low city).

The Shogun and his samurai lived in the yamanote (wide-open spaces, lots of green hills and gardens, free from flooding and fires), while the commoners (laborers, artisans, and merchants) lived in the shitamachi. This was where you could find the real Edo-Tokyo traditional culture. Here half of the population of Edo lived on just 16% of the land. So, you can imagine how crowded everyone was. Roads were narrow, living quarters were cramped with buildings stacked right against each other. Flooding and fires were common.

Asakusa was considered the heart of the shitamachi culture. It was also THE entertainment district of Edo: teahouses, kabuki theaters, archery ranges, and brothels. It was also the location of Edo-Tokyo’s most important licensed pleasure quarters: the Yoshiwara. The highest class geishas were here in Asakusa.

Unlike Shinjuku, Asakusa hasn’t retained its bad boy image. There are no longer any kabuki theaters or brothels. There are still the neon lights and lots of fun restaurants and cafes, but it’s much quieter than Shinjuku and less pretentious than Ginza. More laid back and down-to-earth. In the morning, the narrow streets are as quiet as a village. At night, you’ll find some streets dark and deserted, other streets filled with locals sitting outside drinking and eating, and still others filled with tourists. A very mellow atmosphere.

Unfortunately, you’re not going to find any traditional wooden houses from the Edo or Meiji era. Earthquakes, fires, and war did away with all of that. Everything you see is post-World War II, including the famous Senso-ji Temple, which was rebuilt after the war.

Easy access to Airports?

Asakusa makes for a great place to stay because of its direct and inexpensive connection (¥1200) to Narita and Haneda airports on the Keisei Access Express.

Easy access to rest of Tokyo and key tourist sights?

Asakusa has several subway stations: station for the Ginza line, for the Asakusa line, the Tobu line, and the Tsukuba line. You’ve also got the terminus for the Tobu trains to Nikko, a town a couple of hours from Tokyo with the most beautiful temples in Japan.

Senso-ji Temple is right in Asakusa. Tokyo Skytree, the sumo wrestling stadium, and the wonderful Edo-Tokyo museum are across the river from Asakusa.

Price

The best thing about staying in Asakusa is the price. You can actually find hotels for under $100. And if you’re really on a budget, there are more hostels than I can count on my two hands.

Things to See and Do in Asakusa

Senso-ji Temple – This is a terrific temple. You’ll get some fabulous shots here. Try going at night when the temple is all lit up.

Tokyo Skytree – This is the tallest building in Tokyo. It’s a bit pricey to go up, but you’ll be able to take some photos of the night sky of Tokyo without the glare from the interior lights.

GREAT PLACES TO STAY IN ASAKUSA

I think Asakusa is one of the best areas to stay in. I love its easy access to both airports, laid-back atmosphere, history, and the price of its accommodations. Don’t be scared off by its location.

If you’re interested in staying in a Japanese traditional inn with a hot spring, then you’ll find some good options here in Asakusa.

BUDGET OPTIONS (Under $100)

Bunka Hostel

AGODA | BOOKING.COMBunka Hostel is an 8-minute walk from the nearest subway station. It’s a super clean and modern hostel. Beds in dorm rooms have a lot of privacy and security: storage lockers, privacy curtains. But mattresses are hard and uncomfortable. There are laundry facilities on site. Staff are friendly and helpful if you have questions. They’ll take the time to answer them.

Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu

AGODA | BOOKING.COM – Depending on the season, you can get a single room at Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu for less than $100. Japanese style tatami mats and futon with private bath. It’s five minutes from the Ginza line subway station. Right next to Senso-ji Station and lots of shops and restaurants. There’s an onsen on the top floor with stunning views of Tokyo Skytree Tower. Traditional Japanese inn.

MID-RANGE (Over $100)

Wired Hotel


AGODA | BOOKING.COM – I stayed at Wired Hotel when the place had a floor set aside for dorm rooms. It doesn’t anymore. It’s just got hotel rooms over $100 and family rooms. It’s a beautiful hotel. Japanese hotels aren’t known for their comfortable beds. Thin mattresses on a piece of wood. But the Wired Hotel has comfortable beds. It’s a 15-minute walk from the main subway stations of the Ginza line and the Toei Asakusa line. It’s very close to Senso-ji temple. In a very quiet area of Asakusa. Modern hotel, beautifully designed. Laundry facilities on site.

Sukeroku no Yado Sadachiyo Ryokan

AGODA | BOOKING.COMSukeroku no Yado Sadachiyo Ryokan is a beautiful traditional Japanese style hotel. Has traditional Japanese hot spring baths. Japanese style rooms with tatami mats and futon. Lots of beautiful traditional Japanese art and antiques. Located near Senso-ji temple. The downside is that it’s about a 15- to 20-minute walk from Asakusa station, where you can can catch the train going to/from Narita airport.

Where to stay in Tokyo: Ueno

Is there anything of the old pre-war Tokyo left? Anything that looks a little bit like Kyoto?

The closest you’re going to find to real traditional shitamachi buildings is in the Yanesen area of the Ueno District.

Yanesen is an area that is comprised of 3 neighborhoods: Yanaka, Nezu (famous temple), and Sendagi.

Here is one of the few areas in Tokyo where you’ll still see some traditional wooden pre-war buildings along narrow winding streets. You’ll find old craftshops, bathhouses, ryokans, temples, and cemeteries.

But, still, don’t expect anything like Kyoto. So much of Tokyo was destroyed during the war.

There are some terrific Japanese style inns in this area at reasonable prices. 

EASY ACCESS TO NARITA AND HANEDA AIRPORTS

Technically, Ueno has direct access to Narita with the Keisei Skyliner. However, the best hotels and hostels in the area require transferring from Ueno station to another station or taking a cab.

You’ll find one hotel on my list (under $100) that is within walking distance of Ueno Station.

EASY ACCESS TO THE REST OF TOKYO AND TOURIST SIGHTS IN TOKYO

The JR Yamanote line, Ginza line, and Hibiya line pass through Ueno station. All these lines have access to lots of different areas in Tokyo.

There are lots of small temples around Ueno and some of Tokyo’s best museums.

PRICE

There are some good bargains here with some rooms under $100.

What to see and do in Ueno

Tokyo National Museum – You can find several museums in Ueno Kyeon, but Tokyo National Museum is the best museum in Tokyo. Great for learning about the art and history of Japan.

Ueno Koen – This is one of Tokyo’s most popular parks, especially during the cherry blossom viewing season.

Yanaka Ginza – A traditional shitamachi pedestrian-only shopping street with lots of small shops and cafes.

Nezu Shrine – You can visit Tokyo’s most colorful and peaceful shrine. Dedicated to a Tokugawa shogun, Ienobu.

Yanaka Cemetery – You can stroll throuhg the largest and oldest cemetery in Tokyo where many famous people are buried. Many temples.

Shitamachi Museum – A small museum that tells the history and culture of the Shitamachi.

Ameyoko – Near Ueno Station, a vibrant outdoor market selling everyday stuff; lots of outdoor restaurants

GREAT PLACES TO STAY in UENO

Ueno makes for a great area of Tokyo to stay in. It’s got some unique hotels and hostels that are nicely priced. Staying here allows you to immerse yourself in shitamachi culture. The only downside is that once you get to Ueno by direct train from Narita, you’ll have to take a taxi or another train to get to your accommodations.

BUDGET-PRICED (Under $100)

Guesthouse Toco

AGODA | BOOKING.COMGuesthouse Toco is a gem of a place. It’s in a traditional wooden house with a beautiful garden. You’ve got dorm rooms and a single room with balcony. No laundry facilities. It’s very close to Iriya Station. If you’re coming from Narita, it might be a bit of a slog, though. The good thing is that you can take the Keisei Skyliner directly from Narita to Ueno, but the bad thing is that you then need to change stations and take the Hibiya line one stop to Iriya station.

New Izu Hotel

AGODA | BOOKING.COMNew Izu Hotel is very near Ueno Station, so very convenient for getting to/from the airport and getting around Tokyo. It’s not a traditional style inn. Rooms are more modern. But price is really good. Single rooms under $100.

Annex Katsutaro Ryokan

AGODA | BOOKING.COM – Annex Katsutaro Ryokan is a 2-minute walk from Sendagi station and 8-minute walk from JR Nippori Station. Rooms with tatami mats and futons and with attached bath. Price is good for Tokyo–low $100s. Right in the heart of the Yanaka area.

MID-RANGE ($100 – $200)

Sawanoya Ryokan

You have to book the hotel directly through their Sawanoya Ryokan’s website. It’s a 70-year-old Japanese traditional inn with onsen baths. They have both rooms with bath and without bath. Their rooms with bath are reserved many months in advance. It’s gotten excellent reviews on Tripadvisor.

Choosing a place to stay in Tokyo may feel like an impossible task, but it’s really not that overwhelming as it seems.

If your trip to Tokyo is part of a larger trip to Japan and you’re both arriving in and leaving from Tokyo, stay in two areas of the city.

At the beginning of your trip, try a more traditional and laid-back area like Asakusa with its direct access to both airports. Then when you’re leaving Japan, stay in exciting Shinjuku or Shibuya so you can immerse yourself in Japan’s neon-soaked nightlife.

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2 Comments

  1. Very helpful! I’m visiting Japan next year and good to know tokyo have day passes for the subway. Still considering the Jr pass and calculating if its needed for my trip. And! Cannot wait for the ryokan experience 🙂

    Reply
    • Yes, the day passes in Tokyo were very helpful. You can get them at the airport or at tourist information centers around Tokyo. I definitely recommend trying out a ryokan at least once.

      Reply

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About the Bamboo Traveler

Julie Krolak

Hi! I’m Julie, the Bamboo Traveler!  This blog is devoted to helping the inquisitive traveler explore Asia’s history, heritage, and culture. Fun facts about me: I’m from a town so small that if you blink, you might miss it. I once owned my own language school in China.

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