When I first started planning for my trips to Japan the first thing I noticed were the expensive hotels. Sure there are cheaper hostel and capsule type accommodations for around $50USD. But I’m too old for hostels and too big for capsule styled hotels.
I think a lot of people are scared off from visiting Tokyo because of expensive hotel prices. It’s no surprise after all since Tokyo is ranked as the #1 most expensive city in the world according to the Economist.
But even without that mention from a published magazine, I think everyone knows that Japan is an expensive country to visit. It’s a reputation Japan has held for the longest time.
However, if you can afford to spend in the neighborhood of $100USD per night you can find a good place to stay which is what I did in Shinjuku Tokyo. And the price for eating out is quite reasonable too. To me, it’s not much more than having meals out in NYC.
After looking through Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet I finally decided on Shinjuku, one of 23 wards in western Tokyo. Besides being one of the areas where I found affordable accommodations, Shinjuku is a good travel hub with plenty of train stations nearby to get to other parts of exciting Tokyo. You can catch the train to nearby Akihabara, Asakusa or Rappongi Hill in south Tokyo.
From Shinjuku station you can always make a side trip as well outside of Tokyo like I did to Kamakura. The NEX (Narita Express) airport train is a great way to get to the airport fast and easy and you can catch one at Shinjuku station.
For anyone who loves to explore on foot like me, you can easily visit popular parts of Tokyo like trendy Harajuku, the serene Yoyogi Park and even to the magnificent Meiji Shrine. I’ve stayed at a few hotels right on Meiji Dori Avenue. And if you walk straight down you’ll come up upon those 3 areas of Tokyo I mentioned. As I recall the walk from my hotel at Meiji Dori Ave to Harajuku took about 30 or 40 minutes. It was a slow stroll because it was a beautiful sunny day at the time. Forgot to add that Shinjuku Gyoen National Park is a wonderful place to chill out and take in the fresh air and it’s not far from the heart of the district.
I’ve stayed in 2 hotels in Shinjuku district of Tokyo and both are on Meiji Dori Avenue so the hotels are easy to find.
The first is called Sunlite Shinjuku Hotel and it’s a 2 star business hotel. It’s a bit old and the rooms decor is grey colored so it’s a bit depressing. But you know what? From my experience, the best thing about Japanese Hotels is that they are always clean.
And the hotel staff always try their best to make their guests happy no matter how many stars are pinned to the hotel’s name. Goes without saying that most budget hotels in Japan have small rooms.
But I didn’t mind because I paid around $80USD per night for a room at the Sunlite in a city where it’s normal to find rates 3 times as much.
The second hotel I had stayed at is not far from the first. It’s called the Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku, a 3 star business hotel. Its newer and shinier with bright and cheerful designed rooms.
The price for a standard room isn’t so bad, only $120USD was what I paid. And the room was slightly bigger and much more modern than the Sunlite Shinjuku.
If you have the money to spare, I would definitely choose the Sunroute which also has a Tokyo Metro train station directly beneath the hotel. Other points of interest near the hotel are Korea Town, Golden Gai (popular for bars) and Kabukicho the red light district. Bear in mind the rates for both hotels do fluctuate with the season and are priced as of writing.
Though Kabukicho is rather tamed as a red light district because there are plenty of locals even families strolling around. Funny thing happened though while I was walking around that area. Some guy comes up to me and spoke to me in Mandarin.
I can’t understand Mandarin and I don’t make a habit of speaking to strangers so I just ignored him, even though Japan is one of the safest countries to visit. Then he switched to Cantonese which I can understand. He mentioned something about going somewhere to see girls.
Well he’s a pimp. I just smiled and kept walking away wondering how of all the hundreds of Asian faces surrounding me he could pick me out as a China Man??
I noticed that food prices in Shinjuku are reasonable. Most restaurants though with the best prices are geared to people eating in groups. As a solo traveler my best best to score a tasty yet affordable meal were these Japanese styled fast food restaurants. The type of places where there big pictures of dishes of food with numbers. You punch in the number of the menu item you want into a vending machine, pay the amount and voilá a ticket pops out.
You hand the ticket to a cook and if your order has soba noodles they’ll ask if you want hot or cold. Don’t worry. These guys will know that you can’t speak Japanese but they’ll figure out a way to explain it to you.
About every 3 or 4 blocks in Shinjuku you’ll find these type of fast food restaurants though mostly tucked away in small streets. Smaller meals cost about $5USD but you can buy bigger set meals for around $10USD. It’s quick, cheap and quite tasty. I could eat in these restaurants everyday but if I did I’d be 250lbs because the pricier set meal portions are big.
Though if you’re in Japan you might as well eat Sushi too right? And you want the top grade stuff too right? But that would cost an arm and a leg right? To save money on top grade sushi I went to Isetan Department Store. It’s on the corner of Shinjuku Dori and Meiji Dori avenue.
Isetan has an awesome food center in the lower levels featuring Japanese cuisine. Starting around 7pm a lot of the food items go on sale before closing time which I believe is 8pm. So a lot of the stalls want to sell everything out at a discounted price. And that’s where I strike like an eagle spotting a fish in a pond. It get’s really busy around that time as you can imagine. You’ll be up against Japanese housewives who’ve been waiting, watching and jockeying for position to get the best looking sushi and sashimi.
Okay, so it’s really not that cut throat. But you should be ready to grab what you want before it gets taken as the stuff sells quick once the clock hits 7pm.
If you think a visit to Japan is out of your price range, it’s not really. Okay, so you might have to save up a bit more at home by eating ramen noodles every night, just to scrounge enough money for a dream visit to Tokyo. It’s still worth it.
But as you can see, hotels are not as expensive as Hong Kong which are just as expensive but the rooms are not crap. And the cost of food isn’t that bad as you can get by with as little as $5USD per meal. Or head over to Lawson convenience stores and you can load up on a lot of inexpensive food, albeit junk food, but nonetheless still strangely satisfying.