One of my Twitter followers asked me if I had any recommendations for his upcoming trip to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. While I don’t have any specific knowledge about the best places to stay up there, I do have some general advice for finding accommodations inside Japan. The first time I went to Kyoto I took my trusty Lonely Planet travel guide with me, which was loaded with information on places to stay. But one thing was odd: in every ryokan inn or youth hostel I stayed in, nearly all the guests were gaijin (foreigners) like me, with nary a nihonjin (Japanese) in sight. I eventually realized the other gusts were all using the same travel book I was, and since then I’ve made it a point to use Japanese-language travel information sources when I can. Another tip: considering exploring Japan through minshuku, which are awesome budget versions of Japanese inns, rather than full-service hotels. The down-to-earth feel of these family-owned lodgings is great, and the people you’ll meet there are fascinating, too. For a slightly more Western feel, search out pension inns, a kind of Japanese/European bed & breakfast that’s also fun to stay in.
Is summer vacation too long?; I’ve had some great times staying at inexpensive minshuku inns.