If you are planning your first trip to Japan, chances are you haven’t heard of Japanese business hotels. Japan obviously offers a wide range of accommodation from fancy hotels to ryokans to capsule hotels and hostels. But if you are looking for budget to mid-range accommodation and aren’t a fan of being in one space with tons of people, I highly advice to go for business hotels.
Main features of the business hotels
As the name suggests, the business hotels usually have similar concept – designed for business travellers with rooms with all amenities you might need but nothing over the top. However, of course, they aren’t for just business hotels, many tourists also use them, especially lately.
Certainly, there are some specificities depending on a chain, but overall they are quite similar, so once you stay in one, you will know what to expect in most of them. Here are a few things they all share:
- The business hotels are usually located quite close to transport options. There are certainly exceptions, but more often than not you will find either train or bus station nearby.
Check-in and check-out times
- The business hotels are strict about their check in times. We didn’t have any case, when they offered to check us in slightly earlier, but we didn’t ask really.
Check-in and check-out machines
- Many of the hotels have the check in and check out machines. This means that you will have to scan your passport, the machine will find your reservation and print out the room number, as well as room keycards. Similarly, you can easily check out by inserting your keycards in the machine. However, if you don’t manage yourself, there’s always staff to help you out with this.
- The rooms are usually quite small, so are the bathrooms. However, we did manage quite fine in every one of them. By the way, if you book a twin room, chances of it being slightly bigger, than a double, is a bit higher. If you are particular about having enough space for your luggage and clothes, then these hotel rooms may be small for you. However, we managed to find some space for our two suitcases in all of the rooms. Quite often it was difficult to pass next to the luggage, but we managed 😊
Room and bathroom amenities
- All hotels we stayed at were clean. I usually pick and choose which hotel towels to use, but I didn’t mind using towels in any of the 6 business hotels we stayed at.
- All of these hotels have the following amenities in the bathroom: shampoo, shower gel and conditioner, as well as handwash. Of course, towels are provided.
- All rooms are equipped with the electric kettle and fridge, so you can always bring the ramen or whatever else along to snack on. You will also find hair dryer in the rooms.
- All rooms have a TV. Needless to say, they all offer good wifi.
- You may find iron in your room. If not, you can request it.
- You can find other amenities usually at the lobby: earbuds, cotton pads, toothbrush and toothpaste, razors, skincare (like, moisturizer, cleanser, sometimes sheet masks and oil), tea, coffee, etc.. Sometimes you will even find hair ties or other things you would not even think of.
- Interestingly, all of the hotels provide pajamas. I haven’t seen this in other hotels worldwide. Sometimes you find pajamas in the room, sometimes they are in the lobby or you might have to ask, but they always have them. You will also find slippers in the rooms (I remember seeing them in some, but I didn’t pay attention, if they were in all, as we always carry our own slippers).
- All of the hotels have umbrellas to lend to their guests. So don’t bother packing an umbrella, just ask at the reception. The umbrellas are always the clear type you see a lot of on the streets all around Japan. They are very sturdy and survived very strong rain and wind in Kanazawa.
- All of these hotels have communal laundry machines. I am not sure how much do you usually have to pay for them, because we didn’t use them, but having an option is great.
- You will also find a microwave in the lobby of the hotels. Anybody can use it any time.
- Many of the hotels will also have the water dispenser in the lobby, however, tap water in Japan is drinkable, so we were often drinking from out bathroom tap.
- The hotels often have vending machines in their lobbies. But usually you will find a convenience store just a few steps away.
High tech toilets
- Toilets are a whole new level, as in all of Japan. All business hotels are equipped with the high tech toilets, which warm up the seat, transform into bidet, self-flush immediately when you get up, and sometimes even play the music to cover up the sounds. As many other travelers, we really wish we had one such toilet at home too 😀
- Most business hotels have a rule that they clean the room every 3 or 4 days, or when you ask. They have the signs for you to put out, when you need to have room cleaned, if you just need to get towels, or if you don’t need anything.
- Most of these hotels offer breakfast options. Some, like Toyoko chain offer it to everyone – it’s always included, while for others you will need to book it with the room or separately.
- All of these hotels will keep your luggage before check-in time and after check-out for the day. If you enquire, many of the may even keep it for a few days, if you are going back to the same hotel.
- All hotels offer the luggage forwarding service, as do the convenience stores. People say this is cheap and easy, but paying 2000+ yen for one suitcase per one move didn’t sound cheap to us at all. Plus, you need to keep in mind that most of the time they can’t deliver your luggage next day, so you will need to wait some. If you give the hotel your luggage in the morning, it may be delivered next day (but not necessarily). Same day delivery is impossible. So you will have to choose, if it’s worth for you at all. Many people love this, as they travel without much luggage, we didn’t use it at all, as it would simply cost us too much and it was difficult to figure out the clothes and everything else on the days we wouldn’t have our luggage.
Smoking and non-smoking rooms
- Some of the hotels offer smoking and non-smoking rooms, while others are exclusively non-smoking. If you are sensitive to smells, make sure to book a non-smoking room. I have seen even some smokers complain about the smell in the smoking rooms.
As you can see from all this, the business hotels are very convenient for no frills travelers, who don’t need anything fancy. We stayed in 6 different business hotels representing 5 chains and liked all of them. We also actually stayed in Toyoko Inn in Seoul and Busan and planning to stay in one in Cebu. I would choose this option, if I found it in any city, as it’s clean, affordable and provides everything we usually look for.
How to book business hotels
Many people suggest going through the hotel directly, which can be a good option for many people. However, I personally found the Booking.com and Agoda provided certain deals, which were not offered on the hotel websites, so I booked via third party.
Whichever booking platform you choose, don’t leave booking the hotels to the last minute, if you are visiting during a busy season. However, keep in mind that not all hotels release the room availability at the same time. Some may do so six months in advance, others only three months. So make sure to look early on, as well as somewhat closer to your dates.
Most business hotels have points system. If you register with them and have the membership, you get some discounts and accumulate points, which may help you, if you stay in the same chain several times. So make sure to look at those options before booking. Examples include Toyoko Inn membership card, which costs 1500 yen and gives certain discounts, APA Member’s Club, Loyalty scheme of Sunroute, etc.
One important suggestion is also to be mindful of the dates and days of the week you are staying at the hotels. Firstly, some cities, like Kyoto can be extremely expensive on the weekend, while not so much on weekdays. In Tokyo or Osaka this distinction is less prominent. Besides, it also matters, if you are travelling on holidays. Secondly, some hotels have upcharge for Fridays and Saturdays, others don’t. So make sure to double check, how much the rates increase if you include the weekend and modify your dates accordingly if you need to save money. For instance, I booked our Kyoto stay Sunday to Friday, skipping the weekend days, which made the stay cheaper. The weekends we spent in Osaka and Tokyo, where staying on the weekend didn’t increase the price that much.
The best-known Japanese business hotel chains
Note: this is not an affiliated post. All of the hotels we stayed at were paid by us independently.
One of the most popular chains, which many tourists often suggest, as a good budget option. They have over 40 branches around Japan and even one in Seoul. However, this hotel chain has been around for a long time, so some of their branches are quite old, so if that matters to you, do double check.
We booked Sotetsu Fresa in Tokyo – Tamachi branch, as well as in Osaka – Kitahama branch.
In Tokyo the hotel was very well connected, although not too close to any of the sightseeing areas. It provides a direct line to Haneda, as well as Narita and is close to the Yamanote line Tamachi station. The hotel has several convenience stores very closeby with Lawson just next door. We used the machine to check-in and check-out and it was very easy and quick. They provide breakfast at the attached Chinese restaurant. The breakfast is basic, but quite filling with the rice, fish, buns, vegetables, etc. they also had quite fine coffee.
The Osaka Kitahama branch was also quite well connected with two metro lines nearby. It also had the Lawson and 7/11 just next door. Not sure if they provide breakfast, we didn’t try it.
Both of the hotels had exactly the same very small rooms. These rooms were the smallest compared to the other chains we stayed at. The rooms had comfy enough beds and all the amenities I listed above. The bathrooms were older, but clean.
This chain is very basic and I believe one of the cheapest. It also seems to be the largest with over 200 branches around the country. We first stayed at this hotel chain in Seoul and Busan. We actually were happy with both, as they were well-connected to public transportation, clean and convenient.
The main difference of this chain is that it always provides free breakfast to all its guests. The breakfast is pretty basic, with soup, rice, some vegetables, fish. They also provide coffee.
Another difference is their check-in and check-out times. They have earlier check out of 10am than most other hotels, and later check in of 4pm. They are very strict about this and never allow early check-in whether they have free rooms or not.
In Japan, we stayed at Kyoto Shijo-Omiya branch. I actually booked it 6 months in advance and it was sold out quite soon. It was very reasonably priced for Kyoto. The hotel provides direct train link to Osaka, but with a slower train. There’s also a direct link to Arashiyama from here. The location has many bus stations nearby. There are also many convenience stores around.
We booked a twin room and it was bigger than double rooms of this chain. It was also somewhat older, but clean and we were pretty happy with it overall. My only issue with the Kyoto branch was that the beds were very hard, which wasn’t the case in Korea, so not sure what the standard is.
The name itself is translated as “strange hotel”. As the name suggests, the hotel chain tried to be different. They are the first hotel, which introduced robot receptionists in the lobby and self-check-in. We stayed at this hotel chain’s Tokyo Akasaka branch. This branch has 3 different metro lines nearby and is very easily accessible. There are also Family Mart, 7/11 and many other shops and restaurants nearby. We were welcomed by the android receptionists. Tried the self-check-in machine, which didn’t scan our passports, so had to call staff, who came out from the back room. The staff sorted out check-in and it didn’t take much time.
The hotel offered all amenities I described above. The main difference was the robot staff – by the way in Kanazawa branch they have dinosaur robots. Besides, they offer some technological innovations. For instance, in our room, there was an LG styler – it’s a sort of closet, which steam cleans the clothes you hand in it. Before this, I had no idea this even existed.
Another difference of the hotel was also the luggage storage. We didn’t give it to staff, we simply hooked the to the baggage slots in the relevant area.
The room was standard business hotels size, slightly bigger than Sotetsu Fresa rooms we stayed at. The bathroom was modern and clean. The beds were comfy. Overall, we liked everything here, except the fact that they entered the room and cleaned the bathroom, while we had a “do not disturb” sign on. That was pretty odd, but well, nothing bad happened. We didn’t try their breakfast, but they offered it in the attached Irish pub, which looked pretty good.
The chain is actually growing and they apparently even opened branches in Seoul and New York.
This chain is much smaller and less know than some of the bigger names on this list. They have only a few branches in Kanazawa, Osaka and Kobe. We stayed at their branch in Kanazawa, which was conveniently located one bus stop from the Kanazawa station and near the Kanazawa castle. The lobby was nice with a tiny Japanese garden design.
The hotel had all amenities I listed above. Out room was the biggest among all business hotel rooms we stayed at and the bathroom was modern. Btw we had to use their umbrellas for two days in very heavy rain and wind (we were very unlucky with the weather during our stay in Kanazawa), but they survived very well.
This is another business hotel chain one doesn’t usually hear about. I chose it for Takayama, where options were relatively more limited than in bigger cities. The price was great, and it was close to the train station – about 7 minutes’ walk. The hotel actually turned out to be modern and overall very nice. They offered breakfast as well, but we booked without, so didn’t try it out.
This is one of the most popular and biggest hotel chains with over 150 branches around Japan. We didn’t stay at this chain hotels, so can’t provide personal experiences, but it’s often suggested by many travelers and they do have very conveniently located hotels. Although I always hear their rooms are small (as are those of most business hotels). There has actually been some backlash regarding its owner being an ultra-nationalist, but I don’t have much detailed information about this.
Daiwa Roynet – This is another very popular chain and seems to be more expensive than most. I actually plan to check it out next time, if I find a good deal.
Dormy Inn – this chain is also popular and particularly known for having on-site onsens (sort of hot springs or spas). They also offer free ramen in the evening. I am planning to check this chain out during our next trip 😊
Smile hotel – this is one of the cheaper hotel chains.
Route Inn – the specific feature of this chain is that its branches are located near highway exits.
Sunroute – this is another chain apart from Toyoko, which seems to provide free breakfast for all.
Tokyu Stay – the distinctive feature of this chain seems to be that they provide microwaves and sometimes other kitchen items in the rooms. They also advertise that they have washer-dryers in every room, which might be appealing for some travelers.
Overall Japanese business hotels are a great option. I wish they were more common in other countries as well. I will definitely continue choosing them over other options, wherever they are available, given that they provide everything budget conscious travelers, who don’t like hostels, need.