With less than a year to go before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics, it’s time to book your accommodations immediately if you’re planning on attending. Even though Tokyo can hold a lot of people (the greater Tokyo area is ranked the most populous metropolitan area on the planet), it’s going to be a battle for the expected 10 million Olympics travelers to find a place to stay during the Games thanks to a 14,000-room shortfall.
Hotels are already filling up — or blocking out dates to host Olympics personnel — around the game’s July 24 through Aug. 9, 2020, window. Prices for what’s left are quadrupling. Even if you’re still trying to get your hands on tickets, you’ll want to figure out your sleeping arrangements as soon as possible.
But what kind of place should you book? Tokyo offers an array of interesting, luxurious and sometimes confusing accommodations for travelers to experience. To decide what’s best for you, here’s a breakdown of options.
Staying in a Tokyo Airbnb or apartment rental, or minpaku, gives you the chance to pretend to be a local while you’re in town. They vary wildly by price point and personality of the rental’s host. This option can give you the chance to dive deep into a neighborhood without many, or any, hotels.
If you’re staying in town awhile, book an Airbnb with a washing machine so you can do your laundry seamlessly. Make sure you have access to the Internet when you’re going to your Airbnb for the first time, as directions to Tokyo homes can be incredibly intricate, requiring heavy use of Google Maps and online help from your host.
A capsule hotel offers guests a cubby-like space that usually has just enough room for a twin bed. While ones in Tokyo can normally be as cheap as $20 a night, they’re more likely to be around $150 a night during the Olympics thanks to the rise in demand.
Keep in mind that these accommodations aren’t for everyone. Many require you to climb up into a bunk, or into tricky, narrow spaces, making it difficult or potentially impossible for people with disabilities to access beds.
Capsule hotels aren’t for travelers who want a lot of peace and quiet, or privacy, either. You’re close to others who come and go from their nooks through the night, zipping and unzipping bags while you’re trying to get rest. If you’re a light sleeper booking a night at a capsule hotel, make sure you pack earplugs.
Hostels and capsule hotels are very similar. In the latter, you may have some more privacy with your entire bunk being enclosed. At a hostel you’re more likely to be stuck in a dorm-style bunk bed. You’ll want to pack an eye mask and earplugs to get the best sleep at a hostel. Prices for a bunk bed in a dorm room are skyrocketing as well, but this may be your cheapest bet for accommodations.
If you have the budget to stay in a hotel, this is going to be your most comfortable accommodation option in Tokyo. Depending on the price point of the hotel, you’ll have access to amenities like a hotel gym, breakfast or pool (which may be particularly enticing during the Summer Olympics when Tokyo will be sweltering). The only downside may be their astronomical Olympics rates. For those who want to stay near the action near the New National Stadium, look for hotels near Shinjuku (like the Hotel Rose Garden), Shibuya (Mustard Hotel Shibuya) and Chiyoda (Sakura Cross Hotel Akihabara).
Love hotels, or rabuho, were built for couples who needed privacy. You can book them for “rest” and for “stay.” Rest means you’ll get a couple of hours, while stay gets you an overnight. Despite their sexual connotations, love hotels that are available for online booking are already filling up, even though they’re traditionally accessed on a drop-in basis. Though not reliable, this may be your best bet for a last-minute option when you get to town.
To combat Tokyo’s room shortage problem on land, temporarily docked cruise ships are being made available to Olympics travelers. This won’t be the first time for such a practice, as cruise ships were used as hotels during previous Olympics and even other big sports events, such as the Super Bowl. The travel company JTB has sold packages to travel agents that will host travelers on the Sun Princess cruise liner. A perk of this option is that guests can have all of the amenities and social activities of a cruise experience, while having easy access to Tokyo at the same time.
With Tokyo’s incredible train system, you may want to consider staying somewhere farther out of town and coming in for events and sightseeing. Heading out of Tokyo can give you the chance to stay in traditional inns, known as ryokan, or unique temple stays, known as shukubo. Getting outside of the city will afford you the opportunity to see Japan’s natural beauty, from its stunning mountains to seafood-rich coastlines. Consider buying a Japan Rail Pass before your trip for discounted rates on train travel to give you access to more of the country.
Remember: No matter what type of accommodation you prefer, it’s best to book now before it’s too late to find a place at all. At the time of publication, more than 90 percent of Booking.com’s rooms were already reserved for the duration of the Games.