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  • Aug 25, 2017

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Traveling to Japan: Pros and Cons of Airbnb vs Hotels

Last year, Japan experienced a record number of foreign guests and tourist spending and that number is expected to continue to grow with both the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics right around the corner. Hotels are expected to add over 60,000 rooms leading up to the 2020 Olympics, yet the Mizuho Research Institutes forecasts a shortage of 10,000 hotel rooms during the Olympics.

With the decrease in hotel rooms available and recent legalization of sharing economy rentals in Japan, Airbnb is expected to become one of the largest accommodation options in Japan. The Airbnb community in Japan has seen over 200 percent growth year-over-year and are expected to continue to disrupt the hotel industry and even replace many traditional inns.

Here are some pros and cons of Airbnb and hotels:

Airbnb Pros:

1. Generally cheaper

Airbnb is generally considered cheaper in Japan. If you are traveling in a group, it is much cheaper renting an entire house with Airbnb than renting two or more rooms with a hotel. According to Airbnb, the average price in September of an entire apartment for five in Tokyo is $148 a night while two hotel rooms would be roughly $302 ($151 a room). You can even try negotiating the price with the host and most offer discounts for weekly and monthly rentals. Check out the most recent average prices of listings under ‘price range’ on Airbnb.

2. Local experience

Staying in a Japanese apartment is a great way to connect with Japanese locals. Locals can provide authentic recommendations on food and sites not found in guides. You can also experience living in a charming traditional Japanese home with sliding doors and tatami mats.

picImage | Rennett Stowe

3. Great amenities

Many Japanese Airbnbs offer useful and free amenities such as a fully functional kitchen, Wi-Fi, washer, heater, and air conditioner. These amenities can help you save money and temporarily live like a local.

Airbnb Cons:

1. Everything is typically smaller

Japanese people are considered smaller than westerners and the difference in size is reflected in the small apartments, bathrooms, and beds. Keep in mind a home for six in Japan will probably be considered small for six westerners.


Image Unique Airbnb stay at the center of Tokyo

2. Strict Rules

Before home sharing became legal in Japan, foreign guests staying in short-term home rentals were often noisy, messy, and disobeyed residential rules. Today, the government and Airbnb enforce strict rules to ensure hosts and tenants follow strict hygiene standards and not disrupt any neighbors or the community. Residents living near Airbnb listings can also now submit complaints on hosts and guests online. An Airbnb representative will then review the complaint and penalize accordingly.

3. Challenges with the host

Depending on your host, your experience with Airbnb may be negative. Communicating with the host can be difficult especially if he or she does not speak the same language as you. Based on TOEIC test results on speaking section, only 12.9% of test-takers score higher than Level 7, which measures fluent English speakers. When deciding to stay with Airbnb host in Japan,  guests should be aware of communication limitation.

Checking in and out can be frustrating and inconvenient especially after a 10+ hour flight.Hosts can also cancel your reservation at the last minute leaving you scrambling to look for a new and probably more expensive place. Although these problems make it unappealing to go with Airbnb, hosts can be penalized for slow response rates and cancellations within seven days of check-in.

language barrier

Hotel Pros:

1. Standard and Efficient

You can expect the standard consistent cleanliness and quality at any Japanese hotel chain. The pictures you see online are what you get. Japanese hotels are also extremely easy, reliable, and safe to book.

2. Great reception

Like most hotel receptions, there is always someone who can help you out anytime of the day, even if you don’t speak Japanese. Most hotels will also hold onto your luggage for free and even make reservations to exclusive restaurants and events that require a local to call in.  

3. Convenient transportation.

Hotels in Japan are typically located near either a subway or bus station making it fast and convenient to travel around the city. If you are unsure on how to get to your destination or decide to use other forms of transportation, the hotel’s reception can help answer your questions and help you arrange transportation.

pic2Image | hans-johnson 

Hotel Cons:

1. More expensive.

Hotels are generally more expensive, especially if you plan on staying more than a week or are traveling with a group. According to Kayak, the average price of a 3-star hotel for two guests in Tokyo during low season (September) is around $141 and around $243 during high season (July).

2. Little to no authentic experience.

If you are staying in a hotel, your lodging experience will be fundamentally the same as any other hotel and you will already know what to expect.  

3. Lack of amenities.

Most hotels in Japan lack amenities such as a kitchen or washer and dryer. You would need to find a laundromat or pay a hefty price for the hotel to get your clothes washed.

While hotels in Japan are adding more rooms in response to the rise in tourism, Airbnb has been increasing listings throughout all 47 prefectures and preparing to add premium tier listings. Listings in rural prefectures and premium tier listings would lure adventurous and wealthier tourists away from popular sites and hotels.

Which appeals to you more? Will you be staying in an Airbnb or hotel the next time you visit Japan?



Ivan Ding

Ivan is a marketer at a biotech company here in Silicon Valley. He graduated with a BA in Sociology and minor in Business from the University of California, Irvine. During his free time, he enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures.


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