The end of 2017 marked yet another record-breaking year in the number of visitors to Japan. With it came the swift development of the inbound tourism market as various companies sought to capitalize on the trend.
One industry that’s undergoing big changes here is accommodation. Hotels and hostels are popping up left, right and center throughout the capital, filling in the gaps between the city’s slim pickings of affordable business or capsule hotels — many of which still feel expensive when compared with other destinations in Asia. Now, though, we’re seeing all new and different styles of accommodation hybrids — from robot-manned stays to luxury dormitories — vying for tourists’ attention.
There is one innovative player, however, that’s been around for decades. The original provider of shelter for Nippon-bound gaijin and a name familiar to pretty much every foreigner who’s come to call Japan their home-away-from-home: Sakura Hotel & Hostel.
This company has been doing the whole international hospitality thing since before it was a thing. Being one of the first providers of prayer rooms and halal food options for Muslim guests at its Sakura Hatagaya hotel is just one example. Its most recent hotel opening in Nippori offers a local’s experience through its Japanese-style rooms in a traditional neighborhood, proving a real determination to stay ahead of the game.
Here are six things that set Sakura Hotel & Hostel apart from other budget accommodation in the city.
1. A good choice of locations
Striking exactly the right balance between central/accessible and local/residential, each of Sakura Hotel & Hostels five properties is situated in its own distinct neighborhood, all within a 10-minute walk of the nearest subway station. Depending on what kind of travel experience you’re after, you can choose between:
Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro
For bustling city life and otaku gaming culture. This hotel’s attached 24-hour café and restaurant is a local favorite thanks to an open-air terrace and menu of national dishes based off the native countries of its international staff.
Sakura Hotel Hatagaya
A quiet, residential place is a perfect retreat after the mania of next door Shinjuku and Shibuya. This hotel is properly equipped for those of the Muslim faith, with a prayer room on premise and halal food available.
Sakura Hotel Jimbocho
This neighborhood is home to more than 160 second-hand bookstores and a ton of traditional coffee shops. A perfect hotel for book lovers — and caffeine addicts.
Sakura Hostel Asakusa
For a stay steeped in history and spirituality, this is where you’ll find the impressive Senso-ji Temple in the heart of Tokyo’s former pleasure quarter.
Sakura Hotel Nippori
Newly opened (and ideal for groups), offering a traditional stay in one of Tokyo’s oldest and most charming districts that is also a direct train from Narita International Airport.
2. Some of the best rates in the city
With dormitory beds from ¥3,000 (approx. US$30) up to around ¥7,000 for a private single, rates throughout the hotels and hostels are affordable — and reliable. Guests really rate the price relative to other options in the city. Factor in the location, facilities, free Wi-Fi and regular cultural events plus the ¥390 all-you-can-eat breakfasts, and it’s winner winner, chicken dinner (chicken may not be included).
3. A diverse range of room types
Traveling solo? As a couple? With friends? Sleep on a futon or prefer Western style? Private bathroom or want to save money and share? There are plenty of options in Sakura Hotel & Hostel. Whether you’re traveling with an entire volleyball team, 299 other students of architecture (a regular situation at Sakura Hostel Asakusa) or just have an enormous family, there are unbeatable choices when it comes to catering for a group stay. Some rooms can host up to eight people and it’s even possible to rent out an entire floor of the hotel. Special rates apply for groups, which means it can work out to be as cheap as ¥1,300 (US$13) per person, per night.
4. Bilingual and super friendly staff
Both Sakura Hotel & Hostel and Sakura House (see below) make a point of hiring multilingual and well-traveled staff; a chip off the old block when you consider that the company was actually started as a way to pay back the hospitality that its founders received during their own travels abroad. All reception desks are open 24-hours a day so guests can find support whenever they need. Staff — who speak English, Japanese, French, Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, Spanish and German — also organize regular outings to local festivals (where you can sometimes even participate), as well as cultural workshops and sports activities. Check the Sakura Hotel & Cafe Facebook for past and upcoming events.
5. 24-hour international cafés
You’ll also have the chance to interact with locals and other guests in the hotels’ dedicated cafés. The 24-hour Sakura Cafe has become a brand in itself, loved by customers for its genuine international vibe. Staff are a mix of Japanese and foreign, while the café menu is made up of dishes local to the home countries of former and current staff. Secure yourself a spot for a craft beer from Poland or proper Tunisian shakshouka (a kind of spicy poached egg) and lose hours chatting to fellow travelers and neighborhood residents. Sakura Cafe & Restaurant even has its own organic farm in Aomori, Tohoku in northern Honshu called “Tohoku Bokujo”, where many of its vegetables and produce are sourced.
6. Extend your stay or move into long-term accommodation
Sakura Hotel & Hostel have been in the biz long enough to know that plans change, sometimes for the better if it means extending your stay in Japan. You’re able to lengthen your stay from weeks to months, with many former guests making the easy transition into a Sakura House apartment, share house or dormitory that caters to new foreign residents in all the ways the group’s hotels do — and more.
Another reason to choose Sakura Hotel & Hostel for your next stay in Tokyo? When Sakura Hotel & Hostel was established a quarter of a century ago, along with its sister company Sakura House, the philosophy was simple: return the kind hospitality that its founding members had received during their travels abroad by creating a home and a community for people from all walks of life in Japan. Having welcomed more than 100 nationalities and generations of people (often from the same family) through their doors, it’s a philosophy that they still champion — hopefully for the next 25 years and beyond.