In general there is a hesitancy in Japan to discount prices for goods and services. The price for a six pack of beer, for example, is same price as six individual beers. Landlords are wary to reduce rents even to fill up rooms that may be empty for a long period of time, and hotels rarely give price breaks – as reported by Yen For Living, even a drastic reduction in highway tolls did not increase overnight stays for travelers. The Internet, however, has at least helped consumers pinpoint the companies that have lowered their prices, which in turn has helped stimulate competition.
Recently the website 一休.COM (www.ikyu.com) made it to the No. 4 spot of Goo keywords, perhaps because it was being inundated by visitors trying to take advantage of the site’s 10-year anniversary specials and other summer specials during the current summer vacation. While the site does provide discounted hotels, it’s not exactly targeted at budget travelers – some of the rooms go for as much as ¥33,000/night for two people. There is an English site to take advantage of (which even includes a frequently updated blog about Japan), but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to have the site’s full line of rooms, so using the Japanese side is recommended.
Budget travelers can look to Rakuten Travel for a larger selection of cheaper digs. Rakuten is also equipped with an English site, but if you can navigate the Japanese, you can take advantage of the full-featured search engine to narrow down housing by station, maximum price and distance from station. By searching strategically, you can find rooms at fantastic value. For example, a semi-double at City Hotel Hiroki at Kamata Station (a station that offers a decent amount of edible, drinkable and shop-able entertainment and isn’t far from central Tokyo on the Keihin-Tohoku Line) runs ¥5,400/night for two people this upcoming weekend. (If your name happens to be Hiroki, you can take advantage of the special discount rate of ¥5,000/night!)
Other websites are bringing down the price of goods. Kakaku.com has long offered significant discounts on a variety of different merchandise. For those looking to stay out of the sun while shopping for groceries, the bulk liquor store Kakuyasu has an impressive online presence that offers free delivery 365 days a year to Tokyo, Kanagawa and Osaka on any order, even if it’s as little as a single can of beer. Their prices are nothing to scoff at either – the Suntory Premium Malts costs a mere ¥220/can for a 24-pack, and Asahi Super Dry is ¥193/can. Although the bulk of the products are alcohol-related, there is a decent selection of snacks and basic foodstuffs. You can get your salsa and tortilla chip fix and, if you’ve got the moral and intestinal fortitude for it, try some whale curry.