Trying to find somewhere to stay in Japan for longer than a week, but less than a year, can be a tricky process indeed. I recently went through it when I headed to Japan on a working holiday visa – the job market is slightly scary at the moment, so I didn’t want to get locked into an apartment for a year, but hotels are expensive and small, so that wasn’t an option either. The following is more information on my experiences in renting an apartment, as with everything, these are just my opinions, and the decisions I made, be sure to look around to see if something else is better for you.
Long term (longer than a week) accommodation options in Japan:
– Normal hotel: Similar to hotels in Australia and America, but a more expensive option. No need to worry about deposits, furnishing etc [Hotel Club, Wotif & Asia Rooms]
– Business hotel: Much smaller than a normal hotel, but often a lot cheaper. Sometimes without a private bathroom, you may need to share with the rest of the floor [Japan Hotel, Toyoko Inn, GoJapan’s list of cheap Osaka hotels & GoJapan’s list of cheap Tokyo hotels]
– Gaijin house: Essentially a guest house or a hostel, where the norm seems to be a private bedroom, with shared bathroom/kitchen facilities, similar or cheaper prices than a hostel. Not many available outside of Osaka and Tokyo [Gaijin House Japan & Oak House]
– Hostel: As per hostels in other countries, you have the companionship of other international guests, kitchen facilities etc, but not as much privacy, and can be a similar price to a business hotel (particularly if sharing with someone else) [Hostels.com, Hostelz.com & Hostel World]
– Apartment: By far the trickiest option, but offers many advantages: privacy, can be cheaper than a business hotel/hostel, need to find a furnished one if not planing on being around too long [Leo Palace 21, Weekly Mansions & Fukuoka Apartments]
I had already decided that I was going to base myself in Fukuoka (Kyushu, southern Japan), which limited my choices somewhat – it isn’t a hugely popular destination for foreigners, and as such, there weren’t so many options available. I stayed in a business hotel whilst in Osaka for only Y2300 per night (New Chuo Hotel: a small tatami room with a single futon, television, fridge and airconditioning, shared bathroom and free internet), and noticed plenty of similarly cheap options in the neighbourhood, and concluded that a business hotel in Fukuoka might also be the best option.
Hotels were never really an option for me, as I wanted to be able to live as cheap as possible, and despite the luxuries they afford, hotels will never be considered “cheap”, and so it was onto looking for a business hotel. However, it was soon evident that Fukuoka doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of cheap business hotels available, after 2 days of wandering around the areas, this was painfully obvious. The cheapest I could find was a twin room at Hakata Seagull Business Hotel. It was small and compact (had twin beds, a small couch, television, tiny bathroom and airconditioning), but at Y3500 per person it was hard to imagine surviving in the small room for very long.
Hostels in Fukuoka are also thin on the ground, a quick check of the hostel websites shows only two or three options. I’ve only stayed at one, KhaoSan Fukuoka, which is a great hostel in Japan, but at Y2600 per night for a tiny twin room (bunk beads, aircon, shared fridge, kitchen facilities, bathrooms etc), it wasn’t really a long term solution. They state that they have long term rates, but these are not available in summer. Gaijin Houses (literally “foreigner houses”) sound like a good option for most, but were unfortunately impossible to find in Fukuoka. Probably a good option if looking for accommodation in Osaka or Tokyo.
The last option available was getting an apartment – something we did in Beijing without too many issues. The reality is that finding an apartment in Japan is a costly business for foreigners and locals alike. Read more about renting an apartment in Fukuoka, Japan.