Accommodations range from very deluxe Western-style international hotels to country family inns and pensions. Of the non-Western variety, most fall into one of two categories: business hotels that cater primarily to Japanese businesspeople and traditional Japanese-style hotels, called minshuku
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The traditional hotels are truly fascinating: Minshuku are family-owned bed-and-breakfast-type properties, ranging in price from inexpensive to moderately priced (they'll appeal to those wanting to become more familiar with local culture); ryokan are larger hotels that are usually more expensive, as the price often includes an elaborate evening meal. Little English is spoken in either, and private bathrooms are often not available; however this is changing as more ryokans add rooms with private baths.
In these inns, remove your shoes and change into slippers upon entering. Guests sleep on futons (thin mattresses spread on the floor). These are not as uncomfortable as they sound. Guests take Japanese-style baths—you must scrub and rinse yourself thoroughly in the shower before entering the communal tub (getting soap in the tub is a major faux pas). Be aware that many traditional Japanese inns lock their doors at 10 or 11 pm. Contact the Japanese National Tourist Organization or the Japan Ryokan Association (http://www.ryokan.or.jp) for a directory of hotels.
If claustrophobia is not a problem, keep an eye out for "capsule hotels," whose "rooms" are rows of cubbyholes set in a wall. Each room comes complete with phone and TV. The approximate dimensions are about 6 ft/2 m long and 3 ft/1 m high. As a rule, many do not accommodate women, but if you search around there are some capsule hotels that have women-only floors.
For couples, bargains are available in "love hotels." Though the normal charge is by the hour, less-expensive rates are available for customers who arrive late, usually after 11 pm. The rooms are clean and decorated in an incredible variety of themes that run from the sublime (feudal Kyoto) to the ridiculous (Lucy, Charlie Brown and Snoopy). Most people do not stay overnight in a love hotel; couples just rent a room for an hour or so.
Note for business travelers: Keep in mind that where you stay will be interpreted as a reflection of your company's stature and success. Staying in a cheap hotel can have serious business consequences when dealing with the status-conscious Japanese, especially if your competitors are in upscale accommodations.< Show Less