HOTEL OR RENTAL APARTMENT?
Tokyo has an abundance of both hotels and rental apartments. New Airbnb and HomeAway listings are popping up all the time, but thanks to pressure from the hotel lobby, the government is considering new fines for vacation rental hosts who don’t follow strict guidelines. With that in mind it’s possible that your rental apartment booking could suddenly be cancelled before your arrival. On the plus side, the companies that run the booking web sites are usually very helpful when it comes to finding stranded guests new accommodation.
Rental apartments, in general, have many advantages over typical Japanese hotels. Hotels in Tokyo are often cramped, overpriced and reek of cigarette smoke. Furthermore, they often lack wifi and the staff may not even speak English. If you’re traveling with multiple people there’s also a good chance you’ll be charged per person even if you share a room or bed.
A good rental apartment, on the other hand, will be considerably larger and cheaper than a hotel room. Furthermore, you can be sure before you book that you’ll have a fluent English speaker to communicate with. And best of all, you’ll get to feel what it’s like to live like a native Tokyoite. Overall, the vacation rental apartments in Tokyo are a much better deal and experience than hotels.
Hotels still have a few advantages over rental apartments, however. For one, they’re going to appear on Google Maps and will generally be easier to find. While rental apartment hosts typically only clean before you check-in, hotels will clean and replace your towels every day. Hotels may be able to assist you with other things like airport pickup. Unlike most rental apartments, you can leave your luggage at hotels while waiting for your flight or train.
You should also consider that with the wide range of rental apartment options out there and the fact that absolutely anyone can sign up to be a host, not all listings or experiences are going to be good ones. Some guests may encounter apartments that were hardly cleaned or that look a lot different from the listing pictures. Some hosts also tend to go AWOL when there’s a problem or it turns out they’re completely reliant on Google Translate for communication. Therefore, it’s especially important to only book rental apartments with lots of good reviews.
WHERE TO STAY
When travelling to such a big city, choosing where to stay can be overwhelming. You may have heard of neighborhoods such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Roppongi. These are all centrally located and would all be ideal for getting to the main sites featured in Murakami’s fiction.
The most convenient station in all of Tokyo would have to be Shinjuku. Shinjuku Station is an attraction in itself and it directly connects to pretty much every other neighborhood mentioned in this guide book, with only a few exceptions. The JR Yamanote Line, the JR Chuo/Sobu line, the Odakyu line and a multitude of subway lines run through Shinjuku Station, meaning you can get just about anywhere with no transfer.
Understand, however, that while Shinjuku has many hotels and vacation rental apartments, it’s hard to find something very close to the main station. You should always check which station is actually closest to your accommodation before confirming your booking. Watch out for deceptive titles such as “Shinjuku – 5 Minutes From Station!” The listing may very well be 5 minutes away from the station, but more likely an inconvenient station at the edge of Shinjuku Ward and not the main Shinjuku Station you were probably imagining.
Shibuya is also a convenient place to stay. The neighborhood itself appears frequently throughout Murakami’s work and it’s connected to the JR Yamanote Line and a number of subway lines. Another very convenient, yet often overlooked station to stay nearby would be Yoyogi. Yoyogi Station gives you access to the JR Yamanote Line, JR Sobu Line and the Oedo Line, which connects directly to Roppongi and Aoyama-Itchome.
These aren’t the only convenient places to stay and regardless of where you base yourself, you’ll still be doing a lot of travelling around the city. Most of the locations in The Murakami Pilgrimage are in central Tokyo’s western half. Some eastern neighborhoods do appear a couple of times, however. Basing yourself somewhere along the western half of the JR Yamanote Line or anywhere relatively central on the JR Chuo/Sobu Line would be ideal. As far as subway lines go, the Marunouchi Line is probably the one that comes up the most often in this book. The line runs through places like Shinjuku, Yotsuya, Ginza and Ochanomizu.