Regular hotel accommodations in Japan are usually hotels, guesthouses, airbnbs, and ryokans. But there are plenty of other fascinating, you can’t even imagine, places to stay whilst on a trip in Japan. From robot staffed hotels, luxury train suites, and for those on too tight a budget for regular lodgings internet / manga cafes. Read all about unique places to stay in Japan in this article.
Header Image: ©2019BnAAlterMuseum/©Twilight Express Mizukaze/© JR-EAST HOTELS
Table of Contents
- Basic Hotels & Accommodation in Japan
- Unique Hotels in Japan
- Places You Wouldn’t Expect to Stay in Japan
There are different kinds of hotels and accommodations available in Japan suitable for everyone’s needs and wants. Common types of lodgings include:
Hotels, both budget and luxury
Many hotels, especially in major cities and tourist areas, have foreign language support available. Still, it is not a bad idea to learn essential Japanese phrases for hotels and other places without foreign language support. Hit two birds with one stone by practicing speaking Japanese at the same time.
Itching with curiosity about what types of unique hotels there are in Japan? Let’s great straight to it, the first on our list is of course the well-known capsule hotel.
Capsule Hotel カプセルホテル
Originating from Japan, capsule hotels (known also as pod hotels), are hotels whose rooms are “capsule” sized - a pod just big enough for a single-bed to fit in, a person to lie down, and if you’re not too tall sit up.
Capsule hotels are basic affordable accommodation for budget travellers or people looking for an interesting experience. Capsules are usually lined up in a row and double-stacked, like a double-decker bed.
A number of fancier capsule hotels have popped up since the concept was first introduced. The post above is one of them, Book and Bed Tokyo introduces a unique concept of staying in a library or bookstore with capsules nestled between bookshelves. Sounds like an ideal stay for a bookworm.
Other recent innovative additions to capsule hotels include couple capsules, full-sized capsule rooms, and ryokan-style capsules.
A love hotel is a short-stay accommodation originally meant for couples to have some private alone time, if you know what we mean. However, since entering the 21st century, the need for love hotels by couples have declined. Love hotels have instead turned to tourists as a new customer base. Majority of love hotels welcome tourists looking for a place to stay.
Aside from being an option for lodgings, love hotels have also become places for friends to hang out and hold parties. Karaoke parties and 「女子会 jyoshikai」 ladies-only gatherings are popular, especially around Christmas time and year end.
Hotels are nothing new but hotels with special themes? Japan has a plethora of hotels with interesting and unusual themes, some of which are limited-time event collaborations only. A classic example of a themed hotel is one many of us are familiar with, Disney Resorts
Photo Credit: ©Disney - Tokyo Disney Resort Toy Story Hotel Opened in 2022
There are many other themed hotels unique to Japan. Here are some of them:
Photo Credit: © HUIS TEN BOSCH Co,.Ltd. - Henn na Hotel Laguna Ten Bosch (Aichi)
Henn na Hotel (変なホテル) is a hotel chain characterized by humanoid robots and dinosaur robot hotel concierge. The hotel's name translates to "weird hotel" which is not a far-off description for their choice of design. They have more than 20 hotels across Japan, 8 of which are in Tokyo. Apparently they also have hotels overseas; 1 in New York, and 1 in Seoul.
Each of their hotels has its own unique design and theme. Check the link below to find one that suits your tastes.
Limited-time only (期間限定 kikan gentei) and season-limited (季節限定 kisetsu gentei) are terms unique to Japan’s shopping culture. Most commonly used for food, like strawberry and sakura flavored food and drink in spring and chestnut in autumn, these terms also apply to clothing and in this article’s case hotel rooms.
Whether it’s to celebrate special anniversaries, for nostalgia, or just to hype fans, a thing in Japan is limited time collaboration hotel rooms. Here are some past examples:
For Suica's 20th Anniversary this year, JR East Hotels prepared some special rooms in one of their hotels - Ikebukuro’s Hotel Metropolitan. The theme is Suica's beloved penguin mascot. The special collaboration is planned for April 2022 to March 2023. Two room designs are available.
Photo Credit: © JR-EAST HOTELS - Suica Penguin Glamping Room
Photo Credit: © JR-EAST HOTELS - Suica Penguin Beach Resort Room (Ikebukuro, Tokyo)
This collaboration between Kimetsu no Yaiba and Hotel New Otani lasted from January 2022 to mid-May 2022. The collaboration was carried out in 6 of New Otani’s hotels across Japan; Tokyo, Chiba, Osaka, Nagaoka (Niigata), Tottori and Hakata (Kyushu).
Image Credit: © New Otani Co., Ltd.
As part of the huge collaboration, a large selection of original merchandise were sold and parts of the hotel were beautifully decorated including the dining area where Demon Slayer-themed food and drinks were available.
Photo Credit: © New Otani Co., Ltd. (Tokyo)
Photo Credit: © New Otani Co., Ltd. (Osaka)
Takamatsu Tokyu REI Hotel joins a special event - Udon PrefectureXSlowpoke, Slowpoke Paradise in Kagawa 2022 in preparing a Slowpoke-themed room. For your information, Slowpoke is known as 「ヤドン yadon」in Japanese. The slowpoke room outfitted with original designed wallpapers, Pokeball pillows, and slowpoke paper fans as decoration is a dream come true for slowpoke lovers.
Photo Credit: ©TOKYU HOTELS (Kagawa)
Guests will also receive original slowpoke goods and have a chance to see slowpoke reproduced in local handicraft styles.
Photo Credit: PR Times/ことひら温泉 琴参閣 (Kagawa)
The collaboration is not limited to Tokyu Hotel, other hotels have also joined into the special event that’s widespread over Kagawa Prefecture with slowpoke designed buses, resting areas and even cruise ships.
Technically the same as above but not time-limited, these “character rooms” or themed rooms are around on a more permanent basis.
Since 2021, Apartment Hotel Mimaru have launched a series of Pokemon Rooms in several of their apartment hotels in Kanto and Kansai. From the dining room to bedrooms, and even dishware, the entire motif is Pokemon. And of course, guests will also receive special original designed presents to commemorate their stay.
As expected of Sanrio, the Japanese company behind world-favourite characters like Hello Kitty, Pompompurin, Cinnamoroll, Aggretsuko, and many more. Sanrio has a whole collection of character rooms available for a unique holiday experience, in different hotels and different parts of Japan.
Photo Credit: ©Hotel Mikazuki (Chiba)
Though most of the rooms are Hello Kitty themed, they also have themed rooms for Cinnamoroll, My Melody, Pompompurin, Gudetama, Pochacco, Badtz-maru and Kiki & Lala.
Photo Credit: ©OURS INN HANKYU (Tokyo)
Photo Credit: ©2019 HOTEL OKINAWA with SANRIO CHARACTERS (Okinawa)
Japan has always embraced art with plenty of art galleries across Japan and even islands dedicated to it. Well, art hotels (アートホテル) are a part of that appreciation and love for artistic creations.
Art hotels blur the lines between regular accommodations and art galleries. At art hotels, you can enjoy creative works in common areas of the hotel. Some hotels even have full galleries, and some have transformed guest rooms into masterpieces of art.
As part of their “Artist in Hotel” project launched in 2012, Park Hotel Tokyo’s entire 31st Floor consisting of 31 rooms have been transformed into 31 unique works of art. Each room is hand-designed and drawn by local Japanese artists, no room is the same. Check their Artist in Hotel page for photos of each room including the room’s creation process.
But wait, they’re not done. Park Hotel Tokyo is now working to add more rooms on the 34th Floor to the project. We look forward to seeing what other interesting pieces will appear.
Photo Credit: ©2019BnAAlterMuseum - Room Number: 502 | 602 “Double Dreams” by Sato Sugamoto (Kyoto)
BnA Hotels is an art hotel chain, a result of a project to combine art and hotels with BnA standing for “Bed and Art”. Started in 2015, there are now 4 existing BnA Hotels in Japan; 3 in Tokyo (Akihabara, Koenji, Nihonbashi) and 1 in Kyoto.
Photo Credit: ©2019BnAAlterMuseum - Room Number: 301 | 401 “goen no ma” by Ryuichi Ohira (Kyoto)
Kyoto’s BnA Alter Museum also consists of a 10 story vertical stairway gallery. Art exhibitions are also regularly held there. As typical of an art hotel, no two rooms are the same. You have to admit, these hotel room photos look downright trippy.
Photo Credit: ©Kounkan (Gunma)
For a taste of tradition, Kounkan in Gunma Prefecture is not an art hotel but an art ryokan. Kounkan is part of YADO, an organization of authentic ryokans around Japan. You can explore their website for some of the most beautiful ryokans to stay in Japan.
Photo Credit: ©Kounkan (Gunma)
Kounkan has only 10 guest rooms, each with a unique design focused on traditional Japanese craftsmanship and room design. As part of traditional Japanese architecture and design, the rooms don’t just focus on interior and furnishings, much care is also taken to provide lighting that matches the room and garden views for the room. The aim is perfect ambiance.
In this part of the article, we introduce some places in Japan you’d never think to stay at. Some, well all, of these aren’t even proper hotels.
Kenkou-rando (健康ランド), translated to Healthland, are entertainment facilities centred around bathing facilities including onsen, sento, and spas. Saunas, arcade, karaoke, and other facilities may also be available as a bonus, including overnight stays.
Photo Credit: ©Spa World (Osaka)
Many of these facilities are open to day visitors who relax and refresh before continuing with their busy schedules. For overnight guests, usage of baths are usually complimentary as part of overnight facilities. Day visitors and hotel guests can usually be distinguished by different coloured robes.
Photo Credit: ©株式会社東京ドーム - Tokyo Dome Spa LaQua (Tokyo)
Even if Healthland does not provide overnight accommodations, it is still possible to rest up with a nap at these facilities where breakrooms and resting spots are available. Some places also have private break rooms available for a fee if you’d rather rest alone. Moreover, there are healthlands that are open 24 hours so you can also rest overnight. Note that late night fees may apply.
Imagine sitting first class on a plane, well in Japan, you can sit first class in trains and buses too. In these vehicles, the experience of travelling itself feels like the destination, akin to going on a cruise.
The concept behind Japan’s luxury trains is travelling in your hotel, which is a superbly accurate explanation. These trains are equipped with large glass panes for enjoying the scenery, kitchens where chefs prepare freshly-cooked meals for guests, carpeted dining areas, lounges & bars, and of course shower and bath rooms.
Photo Credit: ©West Japan Railway Company - Twilight Express Mizukaze
For many of these luxury train facilities, your “room” transforms into a bedroom at night. And just as you’d expect, these accommodation/travel options are not cheap.
Overnight buses are nothing new in Japan or the rest of the world, the concept is simple - save time by sleeping on a night bus till you arrive at your destination. However, Japan once again outdoes itself by improving this convenient and timesaving yet uncomfortable travel option. From individual sleeping pods to individual rooms, travel by bus has never been this comfortable.
Photo Credit: © Ryobi Group - Dream Sleeper Superior Class
Photo Credit: © WILLER, Inc.
For budget travellers and backpackers, a cheap (not even affordable, just plain cheap) “accommodation” are internet cafes (ネットカフェ netto kafe) and manga cafes (漫画喫茶 manga kissa). Bonus of staying at these places? Lots of entertainment - manga, computer, internet access, movies, books, games, etc.
The important thing about staying at an internet/manga cafe is picking the right place to stay. Though the main essence of these establishments are the same (a place to read manga, use computers), different places have different ways of running things - open seating vs private rooms, no outside food & drink allowed vs allowed, ladies-only area available, etc. Not to mention different price plans.
Photo Credit: © 2018 Customa Cafe (Ueno, Tokyo)
The best criterias for picking an internet/manga cafe to stay are:
Private Rooms (with locks) / Booths
Close Access to Public Transportation or Coin Laundry (if necessary)
Free Drinks / Allow to Bring In Food & Drinks
Ladies-only Area (for ladies travelling alone, if necessary)
We’ve covered a whole bunch of unique hotels in Japan. Hopefully, this will give you some great ideas when planning your next Japan trip. The establishments we mentioned in this article are examples for each category, there are many more within each type you can slowly find for yourself, something that suits your tastes! So have fun planning, and have fun travelling!