Written by Don Glen
Using The Affordable National Lodging Networks In Japan
Did you ever wonder where Japanese families lodge while on vacation? Learn how budget conscious Japanese use national lodging networks for affordable accommodations.
Lodging in Japan can be a major expense for a family of four since the lodging fee is charged per person and not per room unlike most other countries. So, where do the budget conscious Japanese families choose to stay while on vacation?
Major hotel chains such as the Prince or APA are not really orientated toward Japanese families or their budget. Japanese families, therefore, often use an established lodging network that is affordable, reliable, clean and located near major tourist spots, hot springs or mountain ranges. The cost of lodging at these facilities is usually less than 10,000 which includes two meals and a taking a bath in the hot springs (onsen in Japanese).
Kokumin Shukusha Matsuzaki-so, Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture
The two major national lodging networks that Japanese families use the Kokumin Shukusha (People’s Lodge) and the Kanpo no Yado. The facilities operated by these networks generally include two meals and an onsen bath and are located near major tourist sites.
They offer a choice of Japanese or western style rooms and one can also request sudomari (素泊まり), which means lodging without meals. Sudomari is convenient for those checking in late and leaving early, also offering one the option to eat out and enjoy the local cuisine.
All these facilities provide their own shuttle bus services from major train stations and nearby airports (call in advance and schedule pickup).
Kokumin Shukusha - People’s Lodge
There are a total of 101 People’s Lodges all throughout Japan. These facilities are government or privately managed and located close to National Parks and Quasi-National parks and recreational hot spring areas. Most of the rooms are Japanese with breakfast and supper served in large dining halls. All have hot springs for bathing.
Kokumin Shukusha Niji no Matsubara, Karatsu Bay, Saga Prefecture (Photo courtesy of Kokumin Shukusha)
Some are located right on the ocean with beautiful seaside views such as Niji no Matsubara located on Karatsu Bay in Kyushu. Many are also located near famous mountain ranges such as the Kujusan Kokumin Shukusha in Kyushu which is an excellent location for climbing Mt. Kuju.
Kokumin Shukusha Kuju Highlands with Mt. Kuju in the background
Kokumin Shukusha Kuju Highlands, Oita Prefecture
The meals served are exceptional considering the lodging fees. Prices are set based on prefectural and municipal government regulations and lodging fees (including two meals) range from 7,000 to 10,000 for adults and 6,000 to 9,000 Yen for children up to elementary school age. In the past several years many of the People’s Lodges have been upgraded or entirely rebuilt and lately most of their websites are available in English, Chinese and Korean.
Kokumin Shukusha - People's Lodge
Website: Kokumin Shukusha (Japanese only)
Japan Postal System's Kanpo no Yado
Up until the 2007 law of privatizing the Japan Postal System, the Japan Post Insurance Co. Ltd. operated a network of resorts and inns primarily for its employees or subscribers of the Japan Post Insurance. After privatization, the Japan Postal Co. Ltd took over the management of the remaining 52 inns and now all are open to the general public under the name of Kanpo no Yado.
Kanpo no Yado Otaru, Hokkaido. Photo courtesy of Kanpo no Yado
Most are fairly new and besides hot springs, they also have sports facilities. Kanpo no Yado puts more and more emphasis on making the facilities barrier-free. Since privatization, a large number of unprofitable facilities have been closed; however, more investment has been made in upgrading older facilities.
Kanpo no Yado Toba, Aichi Prefecture - An excellent location for touring the Ise Jingu area.
One can apply for a free Kanpo no Yado membership card on-line. You can also stop by the local Japan Post office to apply and also pick up additional information on Kanpo no Yado such as their annual guidebook. There are no enrollment costs or annual membership fees. Being a member permits you to make on-line reservations.
Kanpo no Yado
Website: Kanpo no Yado (Japanese only)
With the websites for making room reservations in these national lodging facilities being in Japanese, it might be difficult to make a reservation directly, but if you have Japanese friends or acquaintances, ask them to help you get an accommodation in these affordable facilities. More than just lodging, the national lodging networks offer a glimpse into the vacation style of the Japanese people.
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