We’re not going to call Japan a cheap destination. After all, getting there will cost you a pretty penny, not to mention nearly a day’s worth of flying. And the bullet train -- as convenient as it is -- can cost about $130 for a two-hour ride.
The good news is that there are plenty of ways to save once you actually arrive, particularly if you get out of Tokyo. Here, we offer two affordable options for one of the most expensive aspects of any trip: lodging.
Located two and half hours north of Tokyo by bullet train, Sendai sits as the capital of Japan's Miyagi Prefecture, home to the cluster of over 250 tiny islands known as Matsushima; officially one of Japan’s most scenic spots and also the gateway to Tashirojima, the infamous island of feral cats. Less than a 10-minute walk from the city's train station and accessible by sidewalk and pedestrian bridge, the APA Villa Hotel Sendaieki Itsutsubashi stands tall with a total of 610 rooms.
In total, the APA chain of hotels operates nearly 132 properties through the country -- without sacrificing its upscale boutique vibe. While APA caters primarily to a business clientele, the compact rooms are also ideal for travelers looking for affordable indulgence, especially given the thoughtful amenities at an average rate of $40 to $50 per night in Sendai. Here, each room comes stocked with toiletries from the legendary Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido, and the hotel cleverly offers different colored towels if two or more guests occupying a room, to help you easily keep track after a shower. Even more, the APA Villa Sendai boasts a natural hot spring spa on the second floor, gratis for all guests. There's also an outdoor bath that’s a part of the spa, a restaurant on the lower floor of the property, and WiFi throughout.
Much further south, on the opposite end of the country, Kyushu island’s capital city Miyazaki calls to travelers looking for a basecamp in the south. If you’re searching for convenience and are ambitious about exploring on your own, the Richmond Hotel is just a two-block, two-minute walk from the JR train station -- where national and local trains connect to other smaller islands, local bus routes across the Miyazaki Prefecture, and area attractions like the wild horses of Cape Toi.
From $40 per night, guests are treated to clean design in a modest setting. Even the single rooms offer plenty of floor space and are equipped with a large desk, flatscreen TV, and appliances like an electric kettle for making warm drinks on whim. A late-night restaurant with plenty of Japanese and international options operates on the first floor of the hotel, separated from the reception area by a quick escalator ride. Representatives speak varying levels of English and are able to accommodate just about any request, whether it's an extra toothbrush or navigating transit information.