Although they tend to be expensive and quite small by international standards, Tokyo hotels are among the best in the world. There are several hundred hotels to choose from, and they're classified as either international (Western-style) or Japanese (ryokan). You're likely to stay in an international hotel while in Tokyo. The efficiency hotels, called business hotels by the Japanese, used to cater almost exclusively to Japanese businessmen but now attract international tourists and Japanese women, too.
There are two features you're going to like about staying in Tokyo: First, all of the better hotels have a concierge desk where the staff speaks English. They'll bend over backward to help you at any time of the day. And they're paid to know everything a tourist might want to know—from finding a doctor to finding a disco. Second, nobody expects a tip.
Traditional Japanese inns (ryokan) are not common in Tokyo. Almost exclusively patronized by middle- and upper-class Japanese, they're found more typically in the countryside, especially in hot-spring resort areas and in smaller cities and towns. Although English is becoming more common, don't assume you'll find English speakers on the staff at these inns. The rates can be astronomical for the more luxurious ones (¥20,000-¥100,000 or more per person), which include a private Japanese-style room, breakfast (usually Japanese style: fish, rice, miso soup, eggs and pickles, though Western-style breakfasts can often be arranged in inns used to foreigners) and usually an elaborate Japanese dinner. For a list of ryokan in Tokyo, as well as hotels that offer Japanese-style tatami rooms, visit the Japan Ryokan Association website. http://www.ryokan.or.jp.
Inns catering to budget travelers are becoming more popular, however. Often calling themselves ryokan too, they tend to be clustered in the eastern shitamachi areas of the city. Typically these provide small tatami rooms in which you sleep on futon mattresses on the floor. Baths and toilets are usually shared, and only basic English is spoken. Even so, they are a great way for more adventurous travelers to get a glimpse of a more traditional setting at a very reasonable cost. Meals are not included in the rate. You can get more information from the JNTO tourist information office.
Capsule hotels are another low-cost option, but we recommend they be used as a last resort if you've missed the last train and cannot afford a taxi. The capsules in question are little more than large boxes stacked on top of one another with just enough room to roll over, designed almost exclusively for sleeping and sleeping only. All amenities are shared with other capsule guests.
If you have an early flight from Narita Airport, it's not a bad idea to book a room nearby for your last night, saving you a great deal of rush and worry on the morning of your departure. However, public transportation is so efficient that, except in the rare event of a natural disaster, the trains and limousine buses to the airport are rarely delayed.
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