Looking for ways to cut down costs for accommodations in Japan? Consider staying at an Airbnb.
Airbnb is an opportunity to rent a vacation home, apartment, room, treehouse, etc for a specific duration around the world. It’s a unique experience compared to staying at a traditional hotel as the amenities and service will vary.
Japan is our favorite destination to travel to. We love to book a private apartment on Airbnb and have been doing so since 2010.
In this post, we’re sharing why we love staying at Airbnbs in Japan, some disadvantages of staying in one, and helpful tips that we’ve learned from our experience.
Quick Overview – Top 3 Pros and Cons
- Affordable prices and can be cheaper than a hotel
- Affordable prices and can be cheaper than a hotel
- Can have your own place
- Various amenities based on your preference
- No front desk or in-person support
- All communication is with the host and done through the app
- Many rules to follow
Why We Love Using Airbnbs in Japan (Positive Things)
The cost may be cheaper than a hotel.
Airbnbs can be an affordable accommodation option compared to hotels depending on the city you’re visiting in Japan.
We noticed that Tokyo tends to have higher prices for Airbnbs.
For example, we stayed at this amazing glamping Airbnb apartment with drapes over the beds just like a tent. It was $142 per night – a great deal for holding up to 4 people. Hotels on average cost $200 per night.
Yet in Osaka, we can find an apartment for $60-$75 USD per night for two people with the full amenities of a kitchen, bathroom, washing machine, etc.
You may get a discount for a longer stay.
Since Airbnbs are short-term and long-term rentals, you could get a discount for a longer stay (ie: 1 week or longer). The savings add up!
Potentially more space in an apartment than in a hotel room.
If you’ve been to Japan before, you may have experienced super tiny rooms for the lower cost hotel rooms – 15m2 up to 18m2 for 2 people.
There is a bed pushed against a wall, a small table, and an ensuite bathroom. There isn’t enough room for a closet and to place your luggage. It will be tight quarters to walk around.
With an Airbnb apartment, the setup is a rectangle with the kitchen and bathroom near the entrance and then the bedroom at the end of the hallway.
The bedroom has more space to walk around. Or, if you need more space, you can place luggage in the hallway.
Can hold larger groups.
If traveling with a family or larger group, you can find places that can accommodate the party size.
It’ll be a better experience than staying at a hotel where there is a maximum of 2 people, and you’ll need multiple rooms.
Pick and choose your location and amenities in your Airbnb.
This is where you can customize what type of place you want.
On the Airbnb app or website, you can filter amenities, search by location, how many bedrooms, parking space, type of decoration, and much more.
Whether you’re looking for 1 or 2 bedrooms, want to sleep on tatami mats on the floor, or need a pocket Wifi or air-conditioning, the options are endless. Check if the listing has a minimum number of days for the stay.
We personally like to choose apartments that have a washing machine, a separate room for bath/shower and toilet, and a refrigerator.
We also like to find newer and cleaner-looking places with minimal or fun decor. In Osaka, we stayed at one apartment that had an adorable Hello Kitty theme.
Note: If you use the kitchen, many places provide cooking tools such as pans and utensils. All you need to do is buy food and spices from a convenience store or supermarket and wash up afterward.
WiFi & Washing machine
These two aspects are the most important of our stay.
Surprisingly, some listings do not have WiFi in the apartment and if you don’t have a SIM card, you’re out of luck with data access. Some places provide a pocket WiFi device.
After a few days of traveling, having clean clothes is a luxury! We always find a place with a washing machine and do a small load of laundry daily. The host provides laundry detergent too.
Another reason why we love having a washing machine is that we can bring less clothes.
We usually take VietJet Airlines, a low-cost airline, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (airport code: SGN) to Kansai International Airport (airport code: KIX), near Osaka. Since the carry-on weight is 7 kilograms (15.4 pounds), we need to pack minimally.
If you’re a low-key traveler and don’t need room service, towel changes every day, or any help like at a hotel, then an Airbnb would be perfect for you.
If renting an Airbnb apartment, then you’re guaranteed 100% privacy as it’s only accessible to you. You don’t need to worry about strangers coming into your room.
We’ve noticed that the neighbors are respectful of noise during the quiet hours of 10:00pm to 7:00am.
Since communication is done through the website or app, the hosts provide everything that you need.
Everything is written out for you, from the check-in process and time to the instructions on using equipment (stove top, turn on water heater, etc) in the apartment.
We haven’t had any issues as they are responsive. If you have any questions, chat directly with the host through Airbnb.
Some Things to Consider When Using Airbnb in Japan (Cons)
Takes time to research.
If you’re staying in the larger cities of Japan, there will be hundreds of posts to go through on the Airbnb website or app.
Once you filter down your needs, the listing reduces but it will take some time to research listings.
Sometimes we take 1-2 hours to go through many of the options to narrow down a few potential stays.
If you’re limited on time, then this route may not be for you. But, you will save on budget if you decide to research!
Prices on an Airbnb listing include service fees and cleaning fees.
The service fee is what Airbnb charges for the listing and the cleaning fee is up to the discretion of the host.
Therefore, the final price varies from place to place. You’ll need to compare between listings on the final cost and per day cost.
Room size for 3 people or more.
If you have a larger group such as 3 people, you may notice many listings having 1 bedroom to fit 3 people.
Two people will share a bed and 1 person usually stays on a futon on the ground. This will be a very tight space. Luggage will not fit in the bedroom so you’ll need to place in the hallway or closet.
If possible, try to find a place that has two bedrooms for more space.
Apartment Airbnbs do not have a front desk or lobby.
If you need help with check-in, you’ll need to contact the host through the messaging functions of Airbnb app.
Don’t worry as the hosts will respond quickly. Although, hosts may have delayed communication if it’s late evening (midnight) or early morning (before 7:00am).
It’s always better to communicate to the host ahead of time if you will be late for check-in.
Cannot store luggage early or after checkout.
Due to the cleaning schedule and limited space in the apartment, most of the Airbnbs that we’ve stayed at do not allow for early check-in or storing luggage after checkout.
To solve this issue, store luggage at the coin lockers at the nearest train station to the accommodation. The coin lockers are safe to use.
No luggage transfer to the airport or next destination.
Many visitors use this service so they don’t need to worry about carrying luggage onto trains and buses. But there won’t be an option at an Airbnb.
One suggestion is to pack light or bring lighter luggage so it’s easier to transport onto trains and buses.
Language Barriers with Host
You’re in Japan so the host will write in Japanese and/or English through messaging. We’ve seen people write this as a disadvantage of staying in an Airbnb in Japan.
But if you see Japanese, don’t worry! The messaging comes with a translation button so you can read what the host wrote in your native language.
To be honest, the in-built translation is super helpful so you don’t need to stress about communication.
Need to follow the rules of the apartment.
It’s important to read the documents that the host provides before check-in. On the morning of check-in, many hosts share the location of the building and the passcode to get to the key from the mailbox.
Hosts will also share rules on shoe policy (majority require shoes off in the apartment and provide slippers), sorting garbage and throwing away if overflowing (it’s a huge deal to separate your burnables, plastic bottles, and glasses!), sending a copy of the passport through the app for registration, etc.
Also, you’re usually given one hand towel and one bath towel per person. If your apartment has a washing machine, you’ll need to wash your towels daily or every few days.
If it is too overbearing, then you may want to consider other accommodation options.
Please read through the terms and conditions for your rental.
Some places charge extra for late check-out if a late check-out has not been communicated with the host ahead of time. It could be an extra 10,000 JPY an hour if the cleaners arrive and you haven’t left yet.
What are the Top Things To Look Out for in an Airbnb Listing?
Below are the things that we look for during our research. If you see any red flags with the listing, then choose another place.
We like to stay close to or near a main train station, especially if it’s a main hub to go to another major city.
For example in Osaka, we pick a place near Namba Station so Airbnbs around Kuromon Market are ideal.
Here are some things to consider: washing machine, drying racks, bath/shower products, a hair dryer, a parking space, etc. Read the listing’s amenities provided and look at the photos.
For us, it’s important to have a separate toilet and bathroom with shower or shower/tub combo. We also like to have a bidet toilet.
We like bright and minimally decorated rooms. If there are cute themes available, then that is a bonus.
Reviews & Ratings
We look for the number of reviews and the rating for the specific listing. The top keywords that we scan for in the reviews are cleanliness, noise, and any references to the bed comfort level.
Also, you’ll need to see how many listings the host has and the number of overall reviews. Many hosts have multiple postings that use the same photos for different rooms in the same building (which may be a red flag to you.)
We’ve also seen guesthouses and boutique hotels posted on Airbnb, and they also use hotel booking sites such as Booking.com and Agoda. You may want to skip these listings if you want to avoid these types of accommodations.
Final Price with Airbnb Service Fee & Cleaning Fee
Before checkout, check to see if the final price is within your budget.
Cancelation Policy & Other Fees
Many Airbnbs allow cancelation with full return of money 2-3 days before checking in, but you’ll need to read the policy on the full terms and conditions for refunds and extra charges.
Tips for Check-in & Check-Out of Japan Airbnbs
Here is what we like to do before we check into and check out of an Airbnb.
Read the manual on how to obtain the key.
Most of the time, you need to get the numeric code to unlock the mailbox. The code will get sent either the day before or on the day of check-in.
When entering the Airbnb, take off your shoes.
It’s customary to take off shoes at the entrance to keep the apartment clean. Many Airbnb apartments provide slippers for you to use during your stay.
Check the Airbnb for any issues.
You can do a quick walkthrough to see if there are any damages or cleaning issues from the prior visitors. Notify the host as soon as possible.
Notify the host of arrival.
We like to send a quick note to the host when we’ve entered the Airbnb so they know.
Take a photo of your passport and send it to the host through app.
This is a requirement to register all visitors staying at Airbnbs in Japan.
At checkout, put everything in the room back to its original place and return the key to the mailbox.
We take a photo of the key in the mailbox and send it to the host. It’s also the chance to notify the host of departure and to thank the host for his/her hospitality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is staying at an Airbnb legal?
Yes, it is. All Airbnbs need to register with the government and display their registration number on the listing.
When checking into the Airbnb, you’ll need to send a photo of your passport to the host. The photo must be taken inside the Airbnb to show proof that you’re there.
Some places also require you to complete a paper form for registration and it will get picked up by the host or cleaning crew at checkout.
Is it safe to stay at an Airbnb?
Yes, it is. But read through the Airbnb reviews to see if there are any comments about the neighborhood and safety.
Does Airbnb provide breakfast?
You’ll need to read the listing to see if breakfast is included.
From our experience at staying at apartments, breakfast is not included. You can either go to a convenience store or supermarket to buy breakfast ingredients and make it at the apartment or go out to eat.
Can we contact the host outside of Airbnb or via email?
No, you must communicate with the host within the app. Therefore if anything goes wrong, Airbnb can use the communication as proof of record.
After staying at one Airbnb in Japan, you may be addicted to staying at more on future trips!
We love staying at the private apartments and will continue to do so to save on cost and have a more authentic experience. Access to a washing machine is a huge plus for us so we don’t need to do any handwashing during the trip.
If you have any questions about our Airbnb experience in Japan, please ask in the comment section below.
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