In one of the world's most expensive and crowded cities, it helps to have some guidance on where to sleep with the family.
Tokyo, long one of the world’s most expensive cities, actually has a variety of hotels and hostels in all price ranges. However, families will find that very few places, with the exception of the Japan Youth Hostels or the International Youth Hostel Federation members, will accommodate more than three persons in a room. When choosing an accommodation, in addition to price, consider location, as Metropolitan Tokyo is very large and attractions are widely spread. Other factors to take into account: public transportation is relatively expensive (unless you have a JR Rail Pass which covers part of the mass trans system) and certain neighborhoods are easier for foreigners to navigate.
Imperial Hotel Tokyo
1-1, Uchisaiwai-cho 1-chome
The legendary Imperial Hotel was founded in 1890 at the behest of the Emperor, and has maintained a prominent place in the deluxe Ginza district. Several major subway stations, the tranquil Hibiya Park and the original Imperial Gardens are nearby. The first hotel was a Victorian wood structure catering to visiting dignitaries and business people in the “Continental” manner. A later building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright survived a terrible earthquake on the very day it opened in 1923, but by 1968, was badly deteriorated. That second hotel was carefully demolished, with parts of its Mayan-influenced terra cotta facade rebuilt at an architectural museum in Nagoya, and parts incorporated into the present-day hotel. The third Imperial is still a masterpiece of quiet style, with spacious gold and sand-hued rooms, lush contemporary furnishings, and impeccable service. One must-do for families is a dip in their grand pool and Japanese baths, located in the adjacent Imperial Towers office and shopping complex. Imperial Club members (join this frequent guest program online before your departure, it’s free) can use the super luxurious pool, health club facilities and deluxe amenities free (for others there’s a daily fee).
Travelers with young children will be delighted by the hotel’s babysitting services. You can confer with a supervisor in English and request a special sitter after hours in your hotel room (advance notice required.) The Imperial Hotel will also arrange escorted tours of the city specially designed for children visiting with busy parents (or tired grandparents); fax The Baby Room at 81/3-3506-8800 in advance of your arrival to make special plans for your family. (Note: If you’re traveling to Osaka, the Imperial Hotel Osaka has similarly extensive childcare facilities.)
Meguro-ku , Tokyo
The contemporary, yet very plush Westin is in the lively Ebisu area. With a smattering of Keith Haring-like patterns, rich fabrics, fantastic floral arrangements, sleek furnishings and a panoramic city view, the Westin is sure to please teens with its confident sense of cool. Large guest rooms boast clean lines, lots of marble and mirror, and truly ‘heavenly’ beds, as the brochures claim. Here, the superb concierge staff arranged for us to visit a Sumo Gym and watch a practice session, with little notice.
There’s no pool at the Westin, but guests of any age are welcomed at the health club at the neighboring Yebisu Garden Place shopping mall. We frequented the mall’s compact Mitsukoshi department store, wonderful yakitori grill restaurant, photography museum, Beer Museum Yebisu, and pleasant public promenade. Day and night, its fountains lured groups of lively shoppers and office workers, in part because of the JR Rail station and Tokyo subway station down below. Although the Westin has no formal children’s facility, the concierge will arrange babysitting services with advance notice. Here again, Starwood frequent stay plan members may find extra benefits.
Keio Plaza Tokyo Hotel
The very convenient, contemporary Keio Plaza is well located; not only is it a few minutes’ walk from a major Japanese subway and rail station, it’s also near the Odakyu and Keio Plaza shopping malls and about 10 minutes’ walk from Yodabashi, the city’s best known discount electronics store. Children will enjoy the lobby art displays (at our visit, a huge mobile of small fabric dolls). The business-oriented, large yet very friendly 1,450-room hotel boasts newly redone Plaza Premier rooms. Priced higher than less stylish standard rooms, they have poufy white duvets and fine linens, black marble bathrooms with multi-functional Japanese style toilets, French toiletries and comfortable work station with extra seating, great lighting, an LCD TV, and Internet access. The hotel’s EI Club members receive meal coupon, upgrades, free access to the rooftop pool and fitness club, and other perks; join online before arrival.
Family amenities include free cribs, excellent handicap access, a staff-supervised nursery open daily, and a delightfully Japanese private room for dinner parties called a Family Parlor (9th floor.) There are many seasonal meal specials among the 12 eateries, which include a good coffee shop for light meals and pastries, a buffet and an Italian restaurant.
This boutique hotel’s name comes from a combination of two words: “kurasu,” the Japanese word meaning “to live” and the English word, “classic.” With only nine rooms, this innovative and fashion-forward hotel is the peak of Japan’s hipness combined with lasting practical sensibility. Bathrooms are decorated with Japanese-style mosaic, and dogs are welcome guests. In fact they can equally be as pampered at the lobby’s dog-trimming salon.
No doubt, it’s a stylish place that’s better suited to families with older children. Who else but teenagers could appreciate the hotel’s dance space where big-name designers usually throw lavish parties? It doesn’t mean you have to get caught in the party – the rooms are quiet and have ample space. Double rooms start at Y18,900 ($157), and monthly and weekly rates are available for long-term guests.
$$$ room sleeps 3; $$$$ suite sleeps 4
For families interested in a ryokan or traditional style of Japanese inn, Tokyo has some good value, inexpensive business travelers’ accommodations. Typically, they will lack the aged teak and ethereal rice paper furnishings of older ryokan, but will have spare rooms with natural woodwork, screen doors, a low table for tea, and tatami flooring upon which to lay out a futon mattress in the evening. Depending on price and location, some have private baths, others have shared bath.
The Shigetsu comes highly recommended by Tokyo insiders. It is well situated in historic Asakusa (pronounced Ah-SAK-sa), one of the few preserved areas of the old city. Visitors enjoy walking the narrow crowded streets, eyeing the old apartments with laundry hanging from their balconies, and visiting the pagodas of the Sensoji Temple. (Throughout this classic walled compound are stalls selling candy, comics, religious trinkets and more.) The Shigetsu is modern and clean, with elegant, simple interiors; if futons seem too firm for your family, request a Western style room, the largest of which has two ample single beds. There’s free Internet access and a Japanese restaurant on property; rates don’t include breakfast. Most fun of all, the inn has a Japanese-style shallow wooden bathing area on the 6th floor with a window overlooking the neighborhood — a perfect place to introduce the kids to the joy of traditional and relaxed bathing.
2-34-10 Nihonzutsumi Taito, Tokyo 81-3-3873-8611
Another option is the Andon Ryokan, located just 15 minutes away from the Ginza by subway. Its inexpensive rates for an accessible Japanese inn make it a popular choice for backpackers. While it has the traditional touches of a ryokan, such as the tatami matts and andons or Japanese-style lanterns, for which the place is named after, the inn incorporates a modern design sensibility. Wooden lattice work and shoji screens that one would usually see in a typical ryokan are replaced by dot point glazing and translucent glass. Guests can book a large, private Jacuzzi -a relaxing treat for the family.
Unlike most hotels and inns around Japan, Andon Ryokan charges per room and not per person (double room = Y8190/ $68). However, owing to the small size of the rooms, this inn is good only for small families. There are a few rooms that can accommodate up to three adults, but most choices are limited to two. In fact, there is a charge for children under 11, as the ryokan states that the “rooms are not suitable for children.” So unless your family fits into this set-up, it would be wise to choose a hotel that’s more accommodating to your family’s needs.
Tips & Resources For Finding A Tokyo Hotel
The “Tips” section of the JNTO’s website is a good place to begin your search for more lodging ideas. Other excellent sources for hotel information include the site of Welcome Inns, an association of affordable inns; the Japan Hotel Association which represents all hotels approved by the tourism ministry, and the Japanese Inn Group which represents many traditional hotels or ryokan.
When considering any Japanese chain hotel, it pays to see if there is a guests rewards or membership club. Enroll in these programs at the hotel’s website for free, and you may be entitled to dining specials, discounted room rates, upgrades, free access to the pool and fitness club, and other promotions.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.