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If there was one piece of advice I heard over and over when planning my trip to Japan, it was “stay in a ryokan!!!”
After hiking through Japan’s Kumano Kodo Iseji route for two weeks, I became obsessed with the traditional Japanese ryokan guesthouse. I loved sleeping on a futon laid on a tatami mat floor and soaking in a large tub or onsen every night. The incredible food and family atmosphere was so great that I didn’t even mind shuffling along a cold hallway in the middle of the night to use the communal toilet.
When it came time for my trip to Tokyo, I knew I wanted to stay someplace a bit different. Who needs a generic hotel when you can have your own modern Tokyo Ryokan experience?
That’s when I found Andon Ryokan.
Andon Ryokan: A Blend of Old and New
Andon Ryokan is the perfect combination of Japan’s traditional ryokan guesthouses and all of the modern conveniences you might find in a friendly hostel, along with the architecture and styling of a boutique hotel.
Andon Ryokan definitely lives up to the incredible traditions of the ryokans I experienced in Mie Prefecture. You’ll sleep on a futon laid out on your tatami mat floor, and you’re given the world’s most comfortable slippers to wear around inside. (Seriously, where can I buy these?!)
Just like a traditional ryokan, Andon Ryokan will serve you a delicious breakfast. However, in addition to the Japanese set breakfast, you can also order Western favorites like eggs and bacon or french toast! I had two breakfasts while I stayed at Andon, and both were delicious.
A Modern Onsen Experience
Andon Ryokan even has its own onsen on the top floor. But rather than a traditional onsen, Andon has a jacuzzi!
Next to the jacuzzi is a shower where you can follow the Japanese custom of cleaning yourself before entering the onsen. Then you can soak in the nude to your heart’s content.
Andon Ryokan knows that many international guests aren’t so comfortable with public nudity, so they developed a booking system for the onsen. Just sign up your name and room number and you can have the onsen all to yourself for 30 minutes! It may not seem like a long time, but in that hot water 30 minutes is definitely enough.
After weeks of having to split up for our onsen time, I really loved the fact that Chris and I could actually soak in an onsen together for once.
Usually, the onsen finishes up about 10 pm, but on the weekends this jacuzzi stays open past midnight, making it the perfect way to end your day. The best part? It’s completely free if you’re staying at Andon.
The Conveniences of a Hostel
One thing I absolutely love about hostels is their affordable community activities. Andon Ryokan’s lobby is full of posters detailing sake tasting, origami courses, calligraphy classes, and more. If you’re a solo traveler, or you’re looking for something to do or a good way to meet people, Andon’s events are actually really affordable and are offered almost every day!
Andon Ryokan has great community spirit. Travelers of all ages congregate in the lobby area where you can treat yourself to complimentary coffee and green tea. At breakfast we were surrounded by other travelers, chatting about their Tokyo adventures.
Here you can also purchase very affordable passes for both the metro and the bus system. We purchased a 3-day metro pass and used it religiously every day.
Boutique Hotel Art and Design
Andon Ryokan is more than just a traditional ryokan. The entire property has a unique design, with metal accents, art installations in the stairwell, hand-made comic books attached near the toilets, paintings on the bathroom walls, and a funky hot tub room design.
I really loved how in this ryokan, old meets new in every single aspect. You might sleep on a tatami mat floor, but the window and shelves in your room are all made of futuristic industrial metal.
One interesting fact we learned while staying here is that Andon means “lantern” in Japanese. Because of this, the entire ryokan is dimly lit with interesting light accents. In this way, the rooms are supposed to look as if they’re lit by lanterns just outside.
A cool design is something you just don’t see in Tokyo’s budget hotels, which is why I was so impressed that Andon managed to incorporate this while also offering affordable accommodation.
Andon Ryokan’s Beautiful Rooftop
While I didn’t spend much time on Andon’s rooftop considering it was December, I did go up and have a look on my last day. Wow, is this rooftop stunning.
On the very top of Andon Ryokan, you can have your breakfast with a view. Here you’ll look out over all of Ueno with a perfect view of the Tokyo Skytree. While you do have to climb a pretty precarious set of ladder stairs to get up there, the views are something you definitely can’t miss.
I absolutely love it when you can get to know the owners of a hotel or hostel. At Andon Ryokan, you’ll definitely spend time chatting with the owner, Aya, who takes the time to help you choose a metro card or learn the bus routes.
From talking with her, you can really tell that she cares a lot about the traditions of Japan and sharing them with international visitors. She negotiates great deals on metro and bus cards for her guests and loves showing off the local neighborhood, right near Asakusa.
While at Andon Ryokan, you’ll also probably meet Aya’s daughter, who cooks a mean breakfast and regularly brings her adorable baby to work. You’ll see her cleaning rooms with her baby asleep on her back, or hanging out in the lobby, letting all of us coo over how cute her daughter is.
Andon Ryokan: Bang for Your Buck
Finding an affordable hotel in Tokyo is a struggle. Even hostel dorms can go for $40-$50 a night, and tiny budget hotels are all at least $80-$100 a room.
After a very, very forgettable night in the world’s smallest budget hotel room in Nagoya, Chris and I were looking for something that actually provided a unique experience without costing a month’s salary for a three-night stay.
When we stumbled on Andon Ryokan, we were both very pleasantly surprised. While the rooms are indeed very small (welcome to Tokyo!), this hotel provides all of the conveniences of a fancy hostel, with the traditions and perks of a ryokan, and the design of a boutique hotel. Oh… and a private soak in a jacuzzi?!
Chris and I were sold.
Getting Around Tokyo From Andon Ryokan
Andon Ryokan is located a bit out of central Tokyo, in Ueno, a residential neighborhood. About a 5-minute walk to the Ueno subway station, here you can easily take the metro all over Tokyo.
Ueno is just a few stops away from Akihabara, the funky technological district famed for its otaku fan culture. Akihabara is also a major transfer station to the JR metro city line, which is pretty convenient if you have a JR pass.
It’s important to note that Ueno is very far from Harajuku, Shinjuku, and Shibuya. It’ll take you about 45 minutes to get to Harajuku and Shibuya, and almost an hour to get to Shinjuku. While it’s definitely worth taking a trip to these neighborhoods, Andon is not the place to stay if you want to spend most of your time in these areas. Trust me, Chris and I went over this way three days in a row while staying at Andon, and the daily commute was not fun. Whoopsies!
However, if you plan to spend most of your time in Ueno, Akihabara, and Asakusa, this is definitely the spot for you. Over in this area, you can go temple hopping, see the Tokyo Skytree, explore otaku culture, wander around museums, and easily hop on the train to Nikko.
You Can Walk to Asakusa
It’ll take you around 15-minutes to walk to Asakusa, the famous temple and shopping area near the Tokyo Skytree. I absolutely loved this area, despite the crowds. Here you’ll see gorgeous temples and Japanese locals and tourists wearing beautiful kimonos for photo ops.
I definitely suggest spending a day wandering around Asakusa and its side streets. You’ll find shops selling Japanese sandals, paintings, mochi with strawberries, and even beautiful kimonos. This place is absolutely stunning for photos on a clear day, and you really can’t miss it.
Who is Andon Ryokan For?
Andon Ryokan is the perfect place for those interested in exploring a more traditional side of Tokyo. If you want the experience of sleeping on a tatami mat floor, and the rituals of an onsen (without the public nudity), you’ll love staying here.
If you plan to spend most of your time exploring temples and museums, rather than Tokyo’s nightlife, the neighborhood of Ueno is a perfect place to base yourself.
If you want to have a fun, family and group atmosphere, and feel like you really know the owner and fellow guests, you’ll love the community of Andon.
Finally, if you want an affordable hotel that has so much more to offer than a tiny, basic room, this is your place.
What Do You Think?
Would you want to stay in a ryokan in Tokyo? Have you ever slept on a tatami mat floor? Let me know in the comments!
Also, if you have any questions about my stay at Andon ryokan, the Asakusa and Ueno neighborhoods, or anything else about your travels in Tokyo, be sure to leave a comment below. I’m always checking for new comments, so I’ll be sure to get back to you ASAP!
Thanks so much to Andon for providing Chris and I two nights accommodation in exchange for this review. We liked Andon so much that we paid to stay a third night!
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