There are many things that come to people’s minds when they think of a country. Some of these aspects are due to stereotypes that they have heard of or seen; other points can be from movies, TV shows, comics, and books they enjoy; and other aspects can be from their own experiences in the country. That’s why someone who has only heard of Japan based on things they’ve heard might picture the country as a place of unparalleled technology and robotics without knowing that flip-phones are pretty much still alive in Japan, or someone who has seen Japan in movies and TV shows can already imagine the sounds of cicadas or the panoramic views from Park Hyatt Tokyo as things that represent Japan.
If Japan can be defined by the beauty of its cherry blossoms, delicious cuisine, efficient trains, relaxing onsen, kawaii culture, abundant convenience stores, peaceful temples and shrines, and memorable luxury hotels and ryokan, it can also be defined by the affordable business hotels with tiny rooms that spread across cities. In fact, if you are on the top floor of a Tokyo skyscraper at night and look at the panoramic views, you might notice some blue signs popping up sporadically in the cityscape. Those are actually Toyoko Inns, one of Japan’s biggest business hotel chains.
Japanese business hotels tend to be very small, rooms usually being smaller than 20 m² or just a little bigger than that; and what they lack in size they compensate with good prices sometimes with amenities. Book at the right time, and your business hotel room will be between 5,000 and 8,000 yen a night or lower; if prices are high you would usually be looking at something closer to 10,000 yen a night. These prices are what make business hotels so popular. Quite simply, in the United States no one would be able to find accommodations that’s such low prices when visiting a major city. In fact, roadside motels in the United States tend to be even more expensive than Japanese business hotels, even though they are not as clean and safe.
It is thanks to these competitive prices that foreign tourists who want to explore Japan without having to spend a lot of money on accommodations are able to save a substantial amount of money I’m staying at business hotels. To make things better, some business hotels have daily breakfast, usually in a small area next to reception.
In this article we are going to list some of Japan’s biggest, most recognizable business hotel chains:
Villa Fontaine is a chain of business hotels developed by Sumitomo Fudosan. These business hotels are usually located near major subway stations, making them accessible and convenient for business travelers and tourists.
Most recently, Villa Fontaine has started to expand with the creation of the Hotel Village, Villa Fontaine Grand, and Villa Fontaine Premiere brands, which tend to offer more exclusive services than their smaller business hotels counterparts. Some of these hotels are branded as “luxurious”, so if making a booking at a Villa Fontaine hotel with the intent to save money, make sure you are not booking one of these newer brands that can be twice as expensive or more. Villa Fontaine Grand and Premiere hotels are located in places like Roppongi, Ariake, and Haneda, the Haneda Premiere one having large suites as well.
Villa Fontaine have a stronger presence in Tokyo than in other cities. There are ten Villa Fontaine hotels in Tokyo and one Kobe (the one in Osaka closed in March, 2021). Counting the Villa Fontaine Grand, Premiere, and Village brands, there are a total of 17 hotels in Japan. People who like Villa Fontaine hotels tend to do so because they tend to have better decor, can send your luggage to Narita or Haneda, and many offer services like breakfast (booked through a specific but affordable plan).
The king of business hotels, Toyoko Inn has an astonishing footprint in Japan. This is the hotel whose blue signs are visible from the top floors of Tokyo’s skyscrapers. Depending on the location, these hotels usually have prices ranging from 3,950 yen inclusive of tax to about 7,000 yen, which is one of the most fantastic accommodation prices one can find in Japan.
Toyoko Inn’s massive footprint has also expanded to other countries, having a presence in countries like South Korea, the Philippines, Germany, and France. In 2018, Toyoko Inn had over 60,000 rooms and more than 20 million guests, a spectacular feat for the business hotel chain.
Toyoko Inn hotels are not the most visually appealing. All hotels have the same design, which consists of a facade with three different shades of brown and the company’s white and blue sign on top. Rooms can also be described as cookie-cutter and with a lack of color, but that’s to be expected when paying such low prices for a hotel room.
In the end, Toyoko Inn is known and renowned for their clean rooms, low prices, and labor practices; Toyoko Inn employs many women, representing about 95 percent of the company’s workforce. Additionally, many hotel managers are married women, a fantastic achievement, particularly in a country where gender equality and the gender gap continue to be a big issue in society and in the workforce.
Okay, let me clear here: Hotel Monterey is not a business hotel. Hotel Monterey hotels tend to have quirky facades that resemble European buildings, beautiful decorated rooms, and great services. The Okinawa property is in fact a resort and spa.
However, Hotel Monterey properties also tend to have very competitive prices. Book at the right time, and you can snatch a room from 8,000 to 10,000 yen at some locations. Most hotels will have rooms at higher prices, and never expect a deal like that at the Okinawa property; but generally speaking, most Hotel Monterey properties have rooms at prices similar to Comfort Inn hotels in the United States despite being far (and I mean far) superior.
That’s what makes Hotel Monterey so special. These are proper 4-star hotels, many with wedding venues, restaurants, afternoon tea sets, bars, spas, and public baths without commanding the prices similar properties outside of Japan would. Hotel Monterey is, quite simply, the definition of “best value for money”.
As of 2021, Daiwa Roynet operates 57 hotels across Japan. In Tokyo, Daiwa Roynet has hotels in important districts like Ginza and Kyobashi. Rates usually start at about 10,000 yen. Some hotels are more expensive, though. The Ginza property, for example, has rates above 10,000 yen, pricing itself higher because of the locations and amenities that differ from those of your typical business hotel (this Daiwa Roynet property has a proper restaurant that also offers afternoon tea).
Daiwa Roynet hotels have a clean interior design that’s usually defined by grey tones. This decor has proven to be a hit for Daiwa Roynet because it makes the rooms feel more modern and sophisticated than those of other business hotels that either prefer to be simplistic or overdo the rooms with furniture and colors that make it difficult to tell them apart from love hotels.
Anyone who has gone to Kabukicho knows the famous Godzilla statue standing next to Toho Cinemas. That same building houses Hotel Gracery Shinjuku, which is the best place to see the Godzilla statue up close. The best thing is that this hotel has rooms starting at about 6,000 yen. Low prices are a constant thing across many Hotel Gracery properties (just like with Daiwa Roynet, the Ginza property is more expensive than the rest).
Hotel Gracery has a mere seven properties in Japan, but despite its small footprint it has become one of the most popular business hotel chains in the country.
There are many business hotels in Japan, whether we are talking about chains or standalone hotels, and in the end choosing one of these hotels for an upcoming trip will come down to mostly price and location rather than the name of the hotel and its decoration. However, with the hotel chains above you’ll know exactly what to expect, so it’s not surprising that some business hotel chains have loyal customers. For this list, I have specifically left out APA hotels because the owners are incredibly xenophobic, with their views against China and historical revisionism usually making headlines.