10 Cheap Accommodation Options in Japan

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Photo by Eric Montfort

Finding a short term place to stay in Japan can be expensive. GaijinPot has a listing of short term apartments but if even these prices are too high for you, I have listed 10 options below for free or very cheap places to stay in Japan.

1. Internet Cafes / Comic Book Cafes / Manga Kissaten

Price: Around 800 yen to 1,500 yen per night (5 to 8 hours)

I stumbled upon this option one desperate night, having missed the last train home. The only hotel in sight was a Hilton, and since that was beyond my budget I took to the streets.

As luck would have it, there was a comic book cafe/internet cafe, which are known as “manga kissa” (漫画喫茶) or “manga kissaten” in Japanese, right down the street.

I walked into the dark building and was greeted by a large room filled with computer cubicles, nerdy-looking guys and shelves upon shelves of comic books. The receptionist told me it would be 1500 yen for a five hour stay with a private cubical. This also included unlimited access to the comic books, a shower, and all the soda I could drink. 

I was sold. I grabbed a Calpis, took a quick look at the comic books, and then headed to my cubical to check my e-mail. The cafe was surprisingly quiet and since my cubical had a very comfy chair, so I was easily able to fall asleep.

A number of internet cafes have a “long stay” option, where you can go in and out of the internet cafe freely if you pay a set amount per week or month. I’ve been told that a small number of internet cafes even have beds. I did not take advantage of the shower, but I now feel like a more worldly person for the experience of sleeping in an internet cafe. Next time you find yourself without a place to sleep, ask around for a manga kissa.

Popular Manga Cafes

Manboo
Gera Gera
Japanese Manga Café Yellow Pages

2. Hostels

Price: From free to about 6,000 yen per night

The traditional refuge of the traveling poor (read: students), hostels are great places to stay in Tokyo. Personally, I mostly use Hostel World to book, but there are a ton of other sites, so be sure to shop around.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard that the hostel community in Japan just isn’t as vibrant and the travelers aren’t as social as in many other parts of the world. Overall, I’ve found Japanese hostels to be clean, well-staffed, and quiet (if that’s what you prefer).

As with any accommodation, it’s a good idea to check the reviews, hostel rules, and location, since there are a few bad apples, a few rather early curfews, and a few hostels that are far away from tourist sites.


That’s the “almost free” part. Now, on to the free part!


If you are familiar with hostels, you may know about the practice of volunteer work exchange, where you do cleaning or other tasks at the hostel for a small, set amount of time in exchange for a free or reduced price lodging.

Just to clear up any confusion about tourist visas ahead of time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan states that a tourist visa covers stays for “tourism…etc. that does not include paid activities”. However, please contact the hostel and immigration ahead of time to make sure of requirements and details.

Volunteer for Guesthouse/Hostel Accommodations (Tokyo)

Khaosan
Asakusa Smile
Yayoda Guesthouse

3. WWOOF Japan (and Other Volunteer Accommodations)

Price: 5,500 yen for a one year membership

Less an accommodation, more an experience. WWOOF stands for “World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” and is a volunteer work exchange program. You work at a host family’s home, business, or farm on average about 6 hours a day, 6 days a week (although this varies with the host) in exchange for food and accommodation.

The membership costs 5,500 yen for one year, and having paid that fee, you get access to the online list of hosts looking for volunteers.

The two months I spent WWOOFing in Japan were among the most amazing times of my life. Many of the hosts are organic (or striving-to-be-organic) farmers, and farm work isn’t always easy. However, the hosts often take the volunteers to famous sightseeing spots, parties, or other interesting events and cultural experiences, and it is a great way to meet people who like to travel a bit off the beaten path.

There are other websites and programs similar to WWOOF Japan, which aren’t as extensive as WWOOF, but still seem to have a lot to offer.

Volunteer for Farmstay/Homestay Accommodations

WWOOF
helpx.net
workaway.info

4. Camping

Price: From free to about 8,000 yen per night

When you think of camping, this is possibly what most people imagine: bringing a tent or camper to a campground, renting an area to place said tent or camper, and spending fun times with your family/friends/lover/dog. Indeed, there are places like that in Japan as well. The cost to rent a space seems to be, on average, about 3,000 yen to 8,000 yen per night.

Yet this wasn’t quite the camping I was going for. Notice how the price I listed says, “from free…”

Slightly less legitimate than your typical bonfire-and-s’mores affair, this is a camping experience a WWOOFing couple told me about. Armed with a tent and Japanese learned from animated Miyazaki movies, the couple would attempt to hitchhike to their next WWOOFing location.

Whenever they were unable to get to the next scheduled location by nightfall, they would ask to be dropped off in a semi-populated area and then would proceed to ask local residents if they could pitch tent on their farmland. To my amazement, they said that they got permission a surprising number of times. If this bohemian way of traveling doesn’t intimidate you, it’s worth a try!

Not at all recommended and probably not even legal, is something called “nojuku”, which is basically just sleeping in a park or field. Equally cautioned against is “ekine”, which means to sleep at a station overnight. Those who have been to Japan before have without a doubt seen drunk businessmen or the homeless sleeping at the station, and there are even entire websites devoted to the endeavor. There are obvious dangers associated with this practice, one of which is having your picture taken by someone amused by your plight.

5. Couchsurfing

Price: Free

Couchsurfing is staying at a friend, family, or acquaintance’s dwelling for free, presumably sleeping on the couch, and the Couchsurfing website has turned this into an art.

You create a free profile, filling in details such as name and hobbies and whether you are willing to host, and then you’re good to start sending messages to hosts requesting lodging. There are ways to get “verified,” by providing proof of identify, and a section for reviews, which make you look more trustworthy as a host and guest.

I’ve known some people who were lucky enough to find hosts who’d let them stay at their place for weeks or let guests have run of the house while the host was away on vacation. It’s really a fascinating project!

6. Overnight Buses

Price: About 2,500 yen to 11,000 yen one way (one night)

The overnight bus, known as “yako bus” (夜行バス) in Japanese, is probably going to be the most expensive suggestion on this list. I feel justified in adding it because, in addition to having a place to sleep, you’ll wake up in a place far away that could have easily cost you over 25,000 yen or more by bullet train.

Since I’m someone who can sleep just about anywhere, the night buses suit me just fine. The major cautions I have are to double check the departure and arrive times and get to the pick-up area early, since sometimes it is difficult to find where the bus is parked.

Japanese Overnight Buses

Willer Express
Orion Bus

7. Homestays

Price: Free to about 50,000 yen per month

Home stays are a wonderful way to experience the Japanese lifestyle short-term and visit Japan without putting a strain on your budget. There are some websites devoted to matching travelers with households looking to host. Also, although homestays are often thought of as options only for students and the young but don’t let age be a factor in whether you look into doing a homestay, as there are many hosts happy to have you stay, regardless of age.

Homestay Opportunities

Homestay Web
Homestay in Japan
Homestay Booking

8. Capsule Hotels

Price: 2,000 yen to 5,000 yen per night (also available around 300 yen to 600 yen per hour for naps)

If you aren’t too claustrophobic (or too tall), then a capsule hotel, might be just the right for you. In your capsule, you’ll most likely have a TV, radio, alarm clock, reading light, and, of course, a bed. There are even curtains or little doors that you can close for privacy. Just try not to think about how you are mere inches from the person next to you, separated only by thin wall.

The only downside is that, because of safety and privacy issues, women typically aren’t allowed at these hotels. The capsule hotels are most often found clustered around stations, since they are most popular among drunk business men who’ve missed the last train.

Capsule Hotels

Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel
Capsule Hotel Asakusa River Side
Hotel Maruchu

9. Economy Hotels

Price: 2,500yen to 6,000yen per night

Often advertised in English as hostels, economy hotels, known as kanshuku (“simple accommodations”) in Japanese, are actually slightly different accommodations from hostels. While the bathrooms and dining areas are shared, all the rooms are private and typically are outfitted with tatami mats and futons.

Hotel rooms are generally small compared to US hotel rooms, and economy hotel rooms doubly so (although not as small as capsule hotels). At the one I stayed at in Tokyo, I could almost, but not quite, touch both walls while sitting in the middle of the room.

Still, they are a great deal for the price. The rooms often have TVs, a comfy futon, hangers, and sometimes a robe, and occasionally will have free breakfast.

Again, since economy hotels, like many other cheap accommodations in Japan, are aimed at traveling (or drunk) business men, they can be found clustered around stations.

Economy Hotels

Economy Backpacker’s Hotel New Koyo
Economy Hotel Azuma

10. Japan McDonald’s

Price: Free to about 700 yen (for one value meal)

You may think I’m joking about sleeping at McDonald’s in Japan, but, sadly, I’m not. One day, soaking wet from the rain, running on two hours of sleep, and miserable because my hotel reservation had been mixed up, I needed to sleep and since the hotel I had booked didn’t allow check-in until much later in the day, I wandered, dead-eyed, around the city.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a five-story McDonald’s. I looked up absently at the higher floors and that’s when I saw it: dozens of people asleep in their chairs in the McDonald’s upper floors. I couldn’t believe it. Needless to say, I rushed inside and ordered a shaka-shaka chicken, then made a beeline for the third floor, where I had seen the most people asleep. It turns out that many of the people there were students who had fallen asleep on their books. So, I got too it.

After eating my shaka-shaka chicken, I took out a book and promptly fell asleep. I got a good three or so hours of sleep there. I’m not proud of this fact, but I can honestly say McDonald’s saved my life — or at least my sanity. Seriously, thank you, McDonald’s.

Granted, fast food restaurants aren’t exactly the most recommended place to sleep, and it certainly could get you kicked out (actually, it is common practice in Japan to ask someone to leave a restaurant if they’ve been there for a long time and if there are people waiting, even at fast food places). So, while I can’t say that I advocate sleeping there, I will say that it is at least a good place to have a shaka-shaka chicken.

For one more extra suggestion, consider:

A popular option for students, dormitories in Japan are very similar to those on college campuses in the US, with individual rooms (although they may have the option for a roommate) and shared bathrooms and living areas. Dorms typically house students, college faculty, or factory workers — mainly people who are going to be staying for a month or longer.

However, several dormitories are available for non-students. Dormitories start at 30,000 yen per month for the cheapest. Dormitories are one of the more expensive options, but can be a deal if you plan to stay for a month or longer or stay in connection with studies or a job.

I hope that this list has given you an idea of the cheap accommodations options in Japan. Happy travels!

Topics:  

Spends weekends aimlessly wandering Tokyo.

Looking for an apartment in Japan?

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  • George Bowen says:

    In Tokyo, there is an awesome, modern hostel called “GRIDS” It’s located in Nihombashi East. Super nice, helpful people who speak English. Price is super cheap $22 USD per night (2,200 JPY )

  • Sneha Unnikrishnan says:

    Very informative article and I enjoyed reading itarchitect designed villas at trichur

  • CUCKOLD says:

    What you said about having to do extra work at a hostel for a discount or what ever is FALSE! They never ask you to do anything and are in fact very kind and helpful. You just pay for your stay and that’s that.

    • Randy Newman says:

      Its true, although the host will probably be a part of workaway or something comparable and won’t mind bending the rules for both parties best interest.

  • Mina says:

    Could you please recommend me some dormentories in Japan. Thank you

  • Lynn says:

    Thanks for the excellent resource! There’s not an awful lot out there about camping in Japan, but maybe guides like the one from JNTO can help travelers take advantage of this fun and super cheap way of visiting Japan.

  • Yoshiyuki TEZUKA says:

    It’s been a long time since I commented last. “I’m not proud of this fact, but I can honestly say McDonald’s saved my life — or at least my sanity. Seriously, thank you, McDonald’s.” 面白い!!!

    • Lynn says:

      Seriously, though, it did! I was literally sitting on the sidewalk at the side of the station early morning with my huge suitcases and nowhere to go. Some people came up to ask if I was okay, which was nice but super embarrassing.

  • John Smith says:

    how about Karaoke?! Nice comfortable sofas and fits more than one person! Also sometimes have deals for night hours

    • Lynn says:

      Another very fine and classy choice! I haven’t slept in one personally but know of many who have. As readers are pointing out, there are too many to list for just *one* article 😉

  • Perra says:

    How about Weekly Mansions?

    • Lynn says:

      Weekly mansions are another good option, particularly for semi-long stays. Finding some may take some Japanese language ability, but sometimes you can find them tucked among the normal hotels at hotel-booking sites in English.

  • Katie Rakoczy says:

    My friends and I had a mostly easy housing arrangement through airbnb, but there were many of us to pool our money. Before I met up with them, I went to a Hostel called J-Hoppers, which was cheap and accommodating and a really good first time hostel experience.

    • Lynn says:

      I’m glad to hear about your good experiences! I’ve always wanted to try out AirBnB but haven’t found the opportunity yet.

  • Dustin Brewster says:

    neat article, I hate paying high prices for accommodations especially if it is only for a few hours to sleep I wish there is more options like this in North America

    • Lynn says:

      I agree with you! North America may have inexpensive overnight options in non-metropolitan areas, but I feel it is lacking in the hostel and short-stay options.

  • Doc Camacho says:

    that helped a lot

  • Scott Mund says:

    As for the internet/comic book (manga) cafes. There are usually 2 overnight options, typically beginning at 21:00– 5 hours or 8 hours at a set price around 1,500- 2,000 yen ($12.00- $18 USD). Some charge extra for use of the shower, for a towel, and for a kit with soap and shampoo. Usually there is a seating option between a reclining chair and a “flat” bed, sort of like a thin (about 18 cm) plastic sofa– if you’re over 170 cm tall it might not be too cozy.There are many cubicles, like in an office, though people are quite quiet after 21:00. However, the cafe I stayed at didn’t turn the lights off then. I asked if they would and was told that the lights are turned off only in the smoking section! I found these cafes throughout the Tokyo area. I’m not a manga fan, but the use of the computer and free drinks is a plus, as I was stuck in Shibuya and couldn’t make it home that night. The cafes are good in a pinch, but, in my opinion, a hostel is a luxury in comparison.

  • Scott Mund says:

    Don’t forget “rabu hoteru,” love hotels. While typically for a couple’s love tryst, a traveler(s) might avail oneself of these when nothing else is available. On a solo trip, I ended up in one in Wakayama City when all the other reasonably priced hotels were fully booked. An overnight stay costs about 5,000- 7,000 yen (about $40-60 USD– 120 yen= $1.00), with short-term, 2-hour stays for about 2,000-3,000 yen. Love hotels often have a theme– the one I stayed in was called “Estancia,” the term for a cattle station in South America. Love hotels are not staffed to protect privacy– one pays for the room by feeding cash into a device like a vending machine. Language might be the biggest issue as the instructions are in Japanese, though I was fortunate that I speak and read Japanese. If you see cars parked in a garage that has a curtain-like barrier to hide the cars’ identities, you’ve probably found a love hotel. Not for prudes– don’t let the sex toys vending machine in the room dissuade you from saving some cash!

  • dogekins says:

    Wow, thank you! What a great article. Will be super helpful for my next travels to Japan. 😀

  • Lili Vtn says:

    Thanks for that article, it ‘s really useful! For women, are they some capsule hostels? or is it rellay hard to find? ( I mean, is it possible to go to a city and hope for finding it or we have to plan it before to be sure?)

    • Mira says:

      there is even a capsule hotel with double beds, the tokyo kiba hotel. the floors are mixed, so you can even go by yourself. there is a common bath for women and one for men and of course separated toilets.

    • Lynn says:

      Some capsule hotels do have “women only” floors. For example, here’s a relatively inexpensive one with a women’s floor in Ikebukuro that seems interesting to try: http://www.japanican.com/en/hotel/detail/4017A18/?ar=A27&pn=1&rn=1&prto=4000&pr=-4000

      To be honest, for those who can’t speak/read a little Japanese, it may be difficult to find a capsule hotel without some Googling ahead of time, even in Tokyo. Also, outside cities, capsule hotels may be hard to come by.

  • skaizun says:

    For Americans unfamiliar with the yen,
    just divide the price by 100 to get US dollars.
    I’m wondering what the author does for a living
    that she can afford to be in Japan for so long!
    Does she speak the language?
    (so many questions . . . so little time!) 😉

    • Lynn says:

      The tip on converting yen to dollars is some good info, thanks! Recently, the exchange rate has been a bit crazy, but that comes out to the dollar’s advantage.
      As to how I can live in Japan so long, I sleep exclusively at stations. 😉 Actually, I do full-time office work and do speak the language. Hope that answers your questions! 🙂

  • Kamran Morovati says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience

  • Ken Gai says:

    some decent choices worth shopping via airbnb.. https://www.airbnb.com/s/Japan

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