Airbnb in Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto

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With hotels being notoriously expensive, it’s no surprise that Airbnb in Japan has become very popular. That being said, there are plenty of cheap hotels in Tokyo, but where should you stay? No matter what city you’re in, accommodations can be found everywhere, but narrowing down the choices can be tough. I’ve highlighted some popular spots as well as my favourite places to stay when visiting Tokyo and Kyoto.

Tokyo locations

Tokyo is a massive city, and with so many different things to see, it can be pretty confusing for first time visitors to figure out where to stay. To be honest, as long as you’re staying near a train station on the JR Yamanote line, you’re probably good since it’ll take you 20-25mins at max to get anywhere. Here are a few locations that are worth considering.

Shinjuku – This area is probably the most popular spot for Airbnb in Japan. The shopping and nightlife draws a lot of interest from tourists. It’s basically the Times Square of Tokyo, and as a result,it’s one of the more expensive areas to stay in the city. Airbnb is still pretty reasonable compared to hotels here, but you’re probably going to be paying a premium over other areas. One other advantage is that if you’re landing at Narita airport, you can catch a train or bus directly to Shinjuku station.

Shibuya – Home to the world-famous scramble crossing, Shibuya is a very exciting place, but it really doesn’t have that much to offer. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of great restaurants, decent shopping, and it’s definitely a great place to people watch, but if you’re looking for a place to stay and your budget is an issue, there are better options.

Ebisu – This is the area I decided to stay in during my last trip to Japan. Ebisu is more of a residential area that is popular with ex-pats, but since it’s not considered a major area, Airbnb rentals are about 25% cheaper. Ebisu is just one stop away fromShibuya and it’s also walking distance from a trendy area called Daikanyama which is a cool lesser known area of Tokyo. The other advantage of this area is that it’s relatively quiet so you can easily get a good nights sleep (assuming you’re not staying by the train station).

Ikebukuro – Another area that might not be known internationally, but it’s definitely worth staying since prices are lower. Ikebukuro is actually a great area with a lot of tourist attractions; There’s Sunshine city, a commercial and entertainment complex, various department stores near the train station, and even a penguin bar.

Other spots worth checking out are around Ueno and Tokyo stations.  Don’t forget that unlike North America, Japan is a very vertical city so look up when you walk. Wherever you go, you’ll find restaurants, lounges, and entertainment right above your heads.

Airbnb in Japan

Kyoto locations

Most people who visit Kyotovisit Kyoto are quickly disappointed by the transportation options compared to Tokyo. Although Kyoto has multiple train lines, they don’t actually service the city well so you really need to be picky about where you stay.

Kyoto station – In my opinion, staying near Kyoto station is the best option. Many people who stay in Kyoto make day trips to Nara, Osaka, Himeji, and Kobe so it’s very convenient to be near the station. All major bus routes start at Kyoto station and there’s also a bike rental place nearby, so you have plenty of options for transportation. When you’re done sightseeing for the day, the station has multiple food courts and great shopping, making it a great place to hang out.

Downtown Kyoto – If you’re looking for the best food, shopping, and nightlife then downtown Kyoto is the place to stay. Roughly bounded by the Kamo-gawa River to the east, Karasuma-dori to the west, Oike-dori to the north, and by Shijo-dori to the south, downtown Kyoto doesn’t have many temples or shrines but it is home to the famous Nishiki Market. Shijo is the closest metro station and it takes just 5 minutes to reach Kyoto station.

Higashiyama – More commonly known as eastern Kyoto, Higashiyama is home to many of Kyoto’s most famous temples and shrines. There’s no doubt that this is the most beautiful part of Kyoto, but you’ll need to rely on buses to get around. Some sites may seem to be walking distance from each other, but you quickly realize how spread apart things are. If you have no budget, many of the higher end hotels are located in this area.

Arashiyama is the other area of Kyoto that most tourists visit but it’s inconvenient to stay there since it’s pretty far from everything else. With Kyoto, convenience should be your priority so stick to one of the other areas instead.

Kyoto station is huge

Final thoughts

In Japan ,there are restaurants and bars everywhere, so regardless of where you stay, you won’t need to worry about going hungry. Free Wi-Fi is another reason to stay with Airbnb in Japan. Every host I stayed with provided free portable Wi-Fi, having an internet connection comes in very handy when you’re trying to figure out your train connections, or just trying to figure out where you are. 

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

5 Comments

  1. Tawcan on July 30, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    That’s a good run down of the locations to stay in Tokyo and Kyoto. For Tokyo the Yamanote line is really convenient for sure. If you’re visiting Kyoto, staying in Osaka is another option.

    • Barry Choi on July 30, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      Tawcan,

      Yes Osaka is a good alternative to Kyoto, but Shin-Osaka is not close to anything. I like Kyoto station since you can just on the bullet train directly.

  2. Stephen on December 14, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    hi barry, just wondering if you could recommend any airbnb’s in tokyo area that you’ve actually stayed at… we are going for spring and there is so many to choose from, but wanted 1st hand experience/reviews that are trustworthy… thanks! stephen.

  3. bossandthecity on May 4, 2016 at 12:02 PM

    Great article! I’m heading to Japan in November and will likely stay in Shinjuku and then Downtown Kyoto (and obviously in an AirBnB). Thanks!

    • Barry Choi on May 4, 2016 at 5:04 PM

      Bossandthecity,

      Have a great time! Japan is so much fun.

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