Friday, August 30, 2019

Finding Accommodation Bargains


When I am walking around Japan I am on a serious budget. For accommodation, I often sleep out, called nojuku in Japanese. Under bridges, in bus shelters, shrines, etc, I settle in after dark and leave before light. Sometimes I want or need to pay for a room, and I will always try and find the cheapest option. Because I'm walking I don't have a lot of leeway with location, so choices are often limited.

I primarily use two methods to find a room in advance, one is to use Rakuten, the Japanese shopping site that has a much wider range of accommodation establishments than the other hotel booking sites, and more importantly in the remoter areas where I usually travel. Often, if you look carefully into the details you can find special deals, maybe for specific dates or if a place has recently changed ownership etc. A case in point is Guesthouse Suzukaze near Shibushi in southern Kyushu.

It is among a group of new houses that were purpose-built as guesthouses. There is a hot spring nearby that has no accommodations. They were advertising a room for one without meals, sudomari in Japanese, for 3,500 yen. Not a bad price, but they offered a reduction for people traveling by cycle, AND a huge reduction for anyone who was walking, a price of just 1,000 yen. The owner had spent a lot of time backpacking around the world and wanted to offer help to similar souls.

For that price, I got a six-tatami room with AC and wifi, with a shower room next door. However, the owner was really into chatting so gave me a couple of cans of beer to drink while chatting. He also drove me a few miles to visit a shrine as I had expressed interest in such things. Next morning he gave me some toast and eggs with coffee. Not a bad 1,000 yen.

The other method I am fond of is googlemaps. If you zoom in then obviously more details emerge, and this way I have found many small, independent places that have limited web presence. While searching around Ajimu in the middle of Oita Prefecture I came across Musica B&B. It seemed to be an eatery housed in a barn. By typing the name into google and searching I found a bunch of blogs that talked about the place. It is primarily an eatery that offers big, tasty meals at low prices, but is also a Rider House.

I had never heard of a Rider House before, but apparently, there are quite a few scattered around japan offering budget accommodation to people traveling by motorbike. I phoned them up and booked one night for 3,500 yen including two meals!! The cafe was closed that day but the elderly couple opened it up just for me. They fired up one of the pot-bellied woodstoves that heated the cavernous and very funky interior. Dinner was tasty and filling and came with a couple of free beers. Both the husband and wife had their evening meal with me and were very chatty and inquisitive. Breakfast next morning was also substantial.

I slept in a large room that had a heated carpet. There was wifi, TV and a computer to use. The walls were covered with flyers for other rider houses around the country and snapshots of previous gusts and their bikes.

If you are willing to do some searching, there are still amazing deals to be found with older, independent businesses that go way beyond the robotic hospitality that is the norm.


  1. This is so helpful! How things have changed since I did a pilgrimage pre-smart phone. Thanks for the post.

    1. Dont have a smartphone... this was all done in advance by computer ;)