This is a continuation from Training in Japan Part 1: Flights
Disclaimer: This blog post is intended for use as a reference. It is based on my personal experiences. No part of this blog can be or should be taken as legal, medical, or other advice.
Your second biggest expense will be your lodging. There are a few options available to you, depending on how much you are willing to spend and what level of convenience you hope to experience. The nice thing about flights and lodging is you can see those prices online very easily in most cases, so you can get a realistic expectation of the two biggest costs for your trip. Then you can follow my recommendations in Part 4 of this blog series of Training in Japan to know exactly how much to set aside for you trip as you plan ahead of time.
I'll repeat this next point from Part 1: Flights. Be aware of your departure date and arrival date! Japan's time zone is far ahead of ours in the USA. When flighting into Japan, you will arrive a day later than you left the USA. So, if you get on a plane in Seattle, Portland, or any airport flying directly to Japan, on Monday, you will arrive in Japan on Tuesday. This is important when planning your hotel stay, don't reserve a room for the date you leave the USA, reserve your room starting the date you actually arrive in Japan.
Hotels: Staying in a hotel will be highly convenient, but a little more expensive than some of the other options below. Not by a whole lot though, depending on what deals you can find/negotiate. Most hotels will have a mini fridge and an electric kettle for boiling water (instant ramen in Japan is amazing! See more in Part 4 of this Blog series). However, you will likely find yourself eating out more often when staying in a hotel. When I go to Japan, more often than not, I stay in the Kashiwa Plaza Annex. In Kashiwa, there is also Kashiwa Plaza Hotel, and Sotetsu Fresa Inn. All three are good options. The Annex is newer than the Plaza Hotel. Fresa Inn is the newest of the three. If you decide to call to make your reservation, ask if Bujinkan members get a discount. Often times, you'll get a better rate than if you reserved online because of being in the Bujinkan. You can also choose to stay in a hotel closer to the Hombu Dojo. The Hombu Dojo is in Noda, near the Atago train station. While Kashiwa is further away, there are some benefits to staying in Kashiwa. It has better rail access to Tokyo, so if you want to split your time between training and doing tourist stuff in Tokyo, Kashiwa is a good bet. Also, sometimes we travel to another city for training, our direct Sensei in Japan taught at another location in addition to the Hombu Dojo. This location was much easier to get to from Kashiwa than Noda using the trains. The hotels in Kashiwa also feel newer. I personally have never stayed in any Noda hotels, but from what I've been told from others, they definitely feel older. However, looking at pictures and reviews online, they don't look too terrible, and might save you a bit of money in hotel stay costs and train fare for training at the Hombu Dojo. If you stay in Kashiwa, you just take one train line to get to Noda. Take the Tobu Urban Park Line to Atago Station in Noda.
If you want to try a hotel in Noda, I would suggest based on pricing and reviews the Business Hotel Noda. It is only one train station away from Atago, though you will need to walk a few blocks from the hotel to get to the train station. No big deal most days, it might just be tedious with luggage (though I've walked further with luggage before using AirBNB, so it's very doable). If you want something very close to the Hombu Dojo, the Azusa Ryokan is the closest. See below under Hostels/Ryokan.
It takes about 20 minutes to get from Kashiwa to Noda using the Tobu Urban Park Line. I always give myself at least 30 minutes just to be safe. You also need to factor in walking time. It takes about five minutes to walk from the hotel to Kashiwa Station, then about seven or eight minutes to walk from Atago Station to the Hombu Dojo. If you stay at the Business Hotel Noda, this is going to be much shorter since it is one train station away from Atago (the hotel is between Umesato Station and Nodashi Station, so I would suggest walking to Nodashi since the next stop is Atago). Ask if they have bicycles to rent, if so, this could be a great option. Always get to the dojo early well before class time begins.
AirBNB/VRBO: I've used AirBNB once before on a trip to Japan. It was the best price for my wife and I to use together (Japanese hotels charge more for two people staying in a room) saving us about $30 per night. AirBNB can be hit or miss though. That same year, I had booked an AirBNB in Kashiwa, but the Japanese government changed laws governing AirBNBs, so my reservation was dropped days before my flight because the one I had booked wasn't compliant with the new laws yet. I scrambled to book a new AirBNB and found one in a suburb of Tokyo. While it proved quite convenient for our tourist activities in Tokyo, it made getting out to Noda for training much more of an ordeal and much more expensive. Depending on your goals for your trip, this might prove perfect though. If you don't plan on hitting classes at the Hombu every day, staying in Tokyo will be more convenient. During this particular trip, I still hit one or two classes ever single day of the trip. Some nights I was getting back to the AirBNB after midnight. Be aware, the train stations close and trains stop running at certain times, depending on location (rural routes stop running earlier than metro routes) and whether it is a weekday or weekend. Weekend trains run longer to support Tokyo's night life. Also, be aware that with some AirBNBs, especially the cheaper ones, you are renting a room from someone or a family. If you don't mind staying with a family in their home during your trip, this can save you a lot of money. You also won't be able to come home as late (that would be rude to come home after they are asleep), and they might have rules for kitchen use and bathroom schedules. You could also try Vrbo. As of writing this, I see a Vrbo in Kashiwa for half what I paid per night for my hotel this year. It just didn't have my travel dates available to rent. Other nice features with SOME of the AirBNB/Vrbo options: kitchen or kitchenette to save money making food vs. eating out, washing machine in unit, private balcony, and larger bathroom. AirBNB/Vrbo are the best way to save money on food because of the larger fridge and better kitchen options. In the one I stayed in, there was a toaster, microwave, fridge, electric kettle, and kitchen sink. Plus dishes and utensils.
Depending on location of your AirBNB, your train travel time could be up to two hours (if in Tokyo) each way to the Hombu Dojo. However, if you can find on in Kashiwa, then it's more like 20 minutes.
Hostels/Ryokan: Your closest option and also quite cheap will be a Ryokan in Noda. Azusa is the most well known for Bujinkan travelers. Often called the Bujinkan Hotel. You will not find prices online, in fact, you will have to call the Ryokan directly and hope there is an English speaking employee available. Azusa is an old-style inn, meaning you will have a small room with a futon for sleeping. The bathroom (showers and toilet) are communal, as is the case with most hostels around the world. If you have stayed in a hostel before, this will be no issue for you. If you have never stayed at a hostel before, it could be a bit of a shock your first stay. They also have private rooms and semi-communal rooms. They have bicycles to rent, which makes getting to and from training super easy. Full disclosure, I've heard some horror stories from people staying there many years ago (over a decade ago). More recent reviews on Trip Advisor leave me hopeful the problems have since been corrected. Some Ryukan even serve meals to guests for an additional, but reasonable fee.
Homes: Another option is to find a place to stay with a Bujinkan member. Several of them have rooms to rent in Noda. They often provide or rent bicycles, and you can chat with Bujinkan people from around the world. You can google search for them and see what pops up. These come and go and are not consistent, so I can't really make any suggestions where to stay other than one that has been available for many years, the Kasumi An Study Center: kasumian.com You just might get roped into a Yoga session or several when you stay here! Often you will prepare meals together in the shared kitchen, much like one might in a dormitory with roomates.
Laundry Tip: Whether you are staying at a hotel or Vrbo/AirBNB, you will have access to laundry machines. Even some Ryokan will have one or two on premises. If you are planning to stay in Japan long enough to need to do laundry, here is my tip: take a couple of Tide Pods or equivalents and dryer sheets with you in your luggage. I put two Tide Pods in a snack sized zip top baggie, and put that in a sandwich sized zip top baggie with the dryer sheets. I put the Tide Pods in the snack bag so if one leaks (which has never actually happened) it is contained in two bags, and won't get on the dryer sheets so they may still be useable. This way you don't have to buy the single use soap and dryer sheets from the hotel laundromat's vending machine. Do keep in mind, the dryers use heat pumps rather than heating elements, so they don't do a great job at drying your clothes. I put a whole bunch of 100 yen coins in the dryers to have them run for over an hour each, the clothes still come out damp. That's just how heat pump dryers work. Plan to lay your clothes out on the bed to finish air drying, or some actually have clothes hanging lines for air drying.
Shane Sensei is a licensed Shidoshi in the Bujinkan and member of the Shidoshi-Kai. He has trained in the Bujinkan since 1998 and regularly travels to Japan for training.