In Tokyo and Nagoya we’re fortunate to be able to stay with friends and family. However on our tip to the Tohoku region, we had to make use of hotels. There are essentially 3 type of hotels, business hotels, luxury hotels, and ryokan-style. We made use of business hotels and ryokans.
Business hotels are cheap and located in convenient locations. The rooms have a bed, desk, fiber internet access, and a modular bathroom but its really small. There is absolutely no extra space to spread out and the modular bathroom has an annoying step up We were impressed with the Super Hotel chain (they have an English site) we used in Hachinohe, it had clean rooms, free Japanese breakfast buffet, and a common onsen style bathing area – all for about $40. Older business hotels have a strong smell of smoke from years of businessmen smoking in their rooms. The Super Hotel we used was the non-smoking annex.
The ryokan-style hotels are expensive, about $150 per person. Since breakfast and dinner is included, you are charged per person. The dinners tend to be extravagant with way too much food. In some places the meals are excellent and in other its mediocre. At the ryokan in Aomori (Asamushi Kanko Hotel), the meals was excellent. At all others, the meal was mediocre. At the ryokan, you have a choice between Japanese style and western style rooms. A Japanese style is an open tatami area, where futons are laid a night. You can sleep up to 4 in a Japanese style room, sometimes more. The best part of the ryokans are the common onsen style bath, especially the outdoor bath.
The outdoor onsen baths are especially nice in the winter in snow country. It’s like a jacuzzi at a ski resort but much bigger, more integrated with nature, water from natural hot springs, and everyone is completely naked (almost all are unisex). They’re also cleaner since everyone baths before jumping in, at a ski resort jacuzzi most people jump in immediately after skiing all day – all that sweat jumping moguls, can’t be that clean.
We used Jalan (www.jalan.net) to make our reservations – it does not have an English site. The hotel choices on Expedia are very limited.