Japan: Tokyo, Lodging

Posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011 at 12:06 am.

Considering our first day in Japan was a shortened one, leaving the airport late in the afternoon and checking into our hostel in the evening, it was good to get a fresh start on day 2 (Tuesday, December 21st).

I was still jet-lagged and I always have trouble sleeping in a new bed, so I ended up waking up at 5:40; it should also be noted that we were in a dorm room in the hostel, with 4 other people in addition to ourselves.  The floor we were on was all dorm rooms with separate toilets and a bank of sinks.

There was also a communal kitchen for everyone’s use:

Breakfast is not as big a deal as it is in the US, I feel; typically toast and coffee is usual western fare, which is what our hostel offered for 300 yen.  Dan and I took advantage of it and headed out to Akihabara.

Akihabara aka “Akiba,” is also known as “Electric Town” in Tokyo; it a well-known district that has man shops that specialize in electronics, both consumer (laptops, cameras, tvs, etc.) as well as more specific components for hobbyists, such as computer parts, robotics, circuitry and the like.  It’s also known as a center for “otaku” culture, centered around anime, manga, and gaming (as well as more eccentric hobbies such as doll collecting or cosplay).  I was there during *my previous trip, but it was nice to have a guide this time around, as well as an idea of what to expect and a make-shift list of things I wanted to get before I left.

Gamers, one of the more recognizable stores in Akiba.

The Last Story, a game I’m looking forward to…if it ever gets released in the US.

After Akiba, we made our way to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo; it was only open to groups at the time, so we couldn’t really see anything inside, but it was nice to walk around the grounds and interesting to see how wide the area was; a little uncanny to see such open space in the midst of the modern metropolis.

As we made our way to Ginza, the fashion and retail district, I noticed a familiar sight; the police station which I had seen featured in a movie I saw last year, “Adrift in Tokyo.”

Here’s the location when we visited.

Here’s the location in the movie.

After Ginza we went to the artificial island of Odaiba, which is reached by monorail from the main Tokyo metro system.  It being winter, it was off season; usually the area caters to warmer times, with its outdoor shopping areas and beach atmosphere.  There are also lots of outdoor arenas where there would usually be performances in the summer.

One of the huge malls in Odaiba.

On our return to Tokyo proper, Dan and I met up with Nuria and Gustavo, a married couple that got their international law degrees in Champaign while Dan was an L1.  We went to an Izakaya, basically what we’d call a pub; its main purpose is for social drinking in a group, with plenty of different small plates to order while drinking.  It would be the first of many establishments during the trip to have booths with a touchscreen ordering panel.

Not only do they make it more convenient for the customer to order when they want, it allows the venue to dramatically cut costs on waitstaff; on the 3 level izakaya we went to, there were 2 waitstaff at most on each level, which could hold at least 30 each.

The Rainbow Bridge seen from the Odaiba boardwalk.

After dinner, we parted ways with Nuria and Gustavo and returned to our hostel, and I made some preparations for my individual travels to Nagoya the next day.

During our trip, I stayed in a total of 4 different hostels and 4 different hotels.  Hostels aren’t really a well-known entity in the US, at least not for me before this trip.  They are a type of lodging catered to young travelers, and started in Europe.  They tend to be budget oriented, and the staff tends to reside in the hostel as well.  Most of the facilities are shared, such as toilets, showers, kitchens, dining and living areas.  They also tend to draw a different type of crowd than you would normally find at a hotel.

The showers were smaller than what I’m used to.

Of the 4 hostels we went to, there was a wide variety in the accommodations, locations, but you could mostly be assured that the staff was friendly and the facilities were well-maintained and clean; you could not always count on other travelers for the same, but for the most part it was fine.  It was definitely nice to see other travelers our age who also spoke English and were coming from all over the world.  Probably one of the simple but mind-opening moments that I had was when I had to realize that not all Caucasian people speak English as their primary language; one of the first travelers we met at our hostel in Tokyo was from France, and could speak French and Japanese better than she could English.  It was a hard habit to break right away.

For some reason they went with a horse theme on our floor.

As far as hotels go, you could theoretically divide hotels in Japan into categories based on their primary usage; what we used during our travels were mainly business hotels, but there also exist resort and vacation hotels, capsule hotels, and love hotels.  Business hotels are meant just for lodging on a business trip, with nothing fancy; rooms are usually a full size bed (Dan had to go through some extra effort to book rooms with 2 twin beds), with a TV, small desk, and a very small bathroom.  Vending machines are laundry machines are usually provided on some level of the hotel, but the format overall is very basic: check in after 3 pm, check out by 10.

A majority of the lodging we used offered computer terminals in the lobby to use for an hourly fee, but also free wireless internet.  Some of them also offered continental-style breakfasts for reasonable prices.  We did spend one night in a capsule hotel in Osaka, which I will discuss later.

For the next post I’ll focus on region-specific specialties.

One comment to “Japan: Tokyo, Lodging”

  1. Comment by Paul:

    Cool info. I’ll probably refer back to these entries if I ever get the chance to go there myself.

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