One of the most time consuming things about travel is finding a place to stay. Even more so if you are travelling long term and need somewhere that's actually liveable rather than a bed to crash in at the end of the day.
Before you read my recommendations, I think it's important to know where I'm coming from. It's no point me saying to you that 'this is the best place ever' when what you are really looking for is a party hostel (hint: I don't do party hostels).
As an introvert, I really need to stay somewhere that gives me a break from sensory overload. A bit of a sanctuary. My own space, decent WiFi and a comfy bed are essentials. Give me a workspace, access to good cafes, a basic kitchen and a sofa so I don't have to sit on the bed and I'm pretty happy.
All the places listed below are ones where I've stayed. It's a curated list so only places that I've absolutely loved make the cut.
I have some affiliate links (just click on the heading) but I've not been given free stays or other incentives, although I wouldn't say no if someone offered them.
This page is a work in progress because I am dealing with sub-par internet speeds at the moment.
My most frequently visited city. I've had the worst Airbnb experiences in Tokyo (although to be fair, the bad ones were actually in Chiba) and some great ones. I've stayed a wide variety of hotels and even some hostels in the city.
Because Tokyo is such a huge city, I really think it's important to work out where you want to spend most of your time. there are some really cheap options in places like Kita Senju but that's really out of the way. A commute that looks manageable on paper before you arrive, can end up being totally draining. I'd also recommend staying somewhere close to decent transport (ie. if you are a few minutes walk from the station but it's line that goes pretty much nowhere, and you have to transfer a few times, then give it a miss).
I stayed here when I needed to find somewhere after my horrific Airbnb experience and just walking in and smelling the clean, fresh air of the lobby made me swoon. The rooms are tiny. The single room frustratingly so after a day or two. The double room is workable. Best bed I've slept in and fantastic pillows. You get free bottled water if you don't want your room serviced.
Very close to Tokyo Dome if you want to see events there (like, say, Arashi concerts), close to the Sobu line and also the Oedo line.
Has smoking and non-smoking floors.
Perfect for a quick stopover in Tokyo. You catch the Skyliner to Ueno, walk out of the station and it's there. Too easy. I only spent one night but, like the APA Kudanshita, the bed was amazing. The room itself was a bit bigger, more maybe just better laid out (eg. the TV is wall-mounted instead of taking up bench space).
Has smoking and non-smoking floors.
I stayed here the first time I went to Japan and thought it was the most lovely hotel ever. I went back recently and was disappointed. I'm not sure if it's new management or my expectations. The biggest disappointment was that they no longer serve breakfast and their French toast was amazing. Still, the location is top-notch and they have awesome amenities like skincare kits and these great hair clips that you can pick up at reception.
Smoking and non-smoking rooms.
Awesome hotel, a bit off the tourist path but in a fantastic area. On a clear day, you can see Mount Fuji -- from your bed!
See my review of Claska.
This place in Nakano is in a top location - you could walk to Shinjuku if you are reasonably fit and there are two subway lines (Maranouchi and Oedo) close by. I've stayed at a few places with this host, Fenny, and one thing I love about her listings is that if she says it's a two bedroom place, you know it's two bedrooms. Many listings in Tokyo, that would two sleeping spaces which might be a futon on the kitchen floor! Her apartments are a bit tizzy but well stocked and good value. If I was making a non-solo trip to Tokyo, I'd check her listings first.
Great little studio apartment for a good price. I spent over two months living there. The place is well stocked and the host is lovely. It's a bit of a crap location, only 30 minutes from Shinjuku, 25 or less to Shimo Kitazawa but the Odakyu line is balls.
NOTE: if you sign up to Airbnb, please use my referral link. You get a credit for your first booking, I get credit and give you awesome karma.
Japan (other than Tokyo)
This hotel is brilliant. My sister and I booked the cheapest twin room and expected to get something pretty crappy, instead we got a room that was massive by any standard, let alone for Japan and opened the curtains to sweeping views of the Seto Inland Sea. The Prince is out of the city but you can ditch your bags at a desk at the train station for delivery, go sightseeing then head to Miyajima and catch a ferry right to the dock outside the hotel. Perfect and time efficient if you have a short stopover.
Unlike a lot of fancier hotels, there are cheap dining options on-site including an okonomiyaki place and even a convenience store to pick up a cheap breakfast.
Benesee House, Naoshima
A bit more expensive than the places I normally stay but so worth it. See my review of Benesee House.
I also have this post about accommodation options in Japan. It's a few years old now so I can't vouch for the places. A lot can change over time but, if you want to get off the beaten track, it'll give you some pointers.
I'd booked an Airbnb for the month I was in Phnom Phen but I had deadline fast approaching and needed somewhere more conducive to work so booked a few nights at the Samsara Villa. With a huge room, room service, free breakfast and a lovely balcony plus a pool to stretch out my overworked muscles, it was well worth the (cheap) price.
Fantastic boutique hotel near the old town in Chiang Mai. This place is so pristine white, nice big balconies in the room, super comfortable bed (ie. not rock hard) and really nice staff. Breakfast is included.
When my Airbnb didn't work out, I got onine and booked this place then worried that I was going from the frying pan to the fire. It worked out really well though. This place is definitely an apartment not a hotel room, with a kitchen, great living room with super comfy couch, work area and a separate bedroom. It's near the bus station which is a really quiet area with some awesome cafes nearby and a shopping centre (mainly food places) within easy walk.