Sleeping between the bookshelves might sound like a fantasy, but in Japan this can be a reality thanks to unique book-themed hotels.
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If you love books, what could be better than spending the night reading (and eventually sleeping) between the bookshelves? This unusual concept is at the heart of Japanese book hotels and this quirky idea has become a global phenomenon. Japan is, of course, famous for making its accommodation more than just a place to sleep. There are a huge number of themed hotel rooms out there as well as the famous capsule hotels, which were a Japanese invention. However, if you’re a book lover, then the chance to spend the night in a bookshop, library, or a hotel that’s wall-to-wall books, is a dream come true.
What is a Japanese book hotel?
Japan has a rich literary history going back centuries, from one of the first novels in history in The Tale of Genji to award-winning contemporary authors such as Haruki Murakami and many more in the modern day. Read our guide to Famous Japanese Writers for a longer list. In many ways therefore, it’s not a surprise that book-themed hotels have taken off in Japan. If the concept is new to you, a Japanese book hotel is essentially a hotel that’s a combination of bookshop, library, reading room, and accommodation all in one. In some cases, the rooms are essentially capsules between bookshelves and you can lie in bed reading (and surrounded by books) to your heart’s content - truly a book lover’s dream. Book-themed hotels and hostels do vary across the country though. While some are essentially capsule hotels, others are much grander hotels that have added a bookshop and library to the building, and some are the reverse - bookshops that have added beds and/or sleeping pods between the shelves. While they do vary, the one constant is that they feature lots of books and a place to sleep.
Where can I find a book hotel in Japan?
The good news is that you can find book hotels right across Japan including in many major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sapporo, giving you lots of travel options. Here’s our list of potential book-themed hotels and hostels to consider if you’re interested in staying in a book hotel:
Lamp Light Books Hotel, Sapporo
The Sapporo branch of his bookshop hotel chain has just opened in 2021. The first Lamp Light Books - a new book-themed hotel - opened in Nagoya in 2018 and they have another hotel planned for Fukuoka in the next few months. Featuring more than 4,000 mystery and travel books, Lamp Light Books Hotel in Sapporo would be a great choice for book lovers looking to sample the unique experience of a book hotel as well as Sapporo, the capital of Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido. Best known for its unspoiled nature and breath-taking scenery, Hokkaido has become increasingly popular with international travellers for offering up a different side of Japan - less busy, less touristy, a little colder, and more off the beaten path. Read our Five-day Itinerary Trip: Hokkaido for much more. The biggest city in Hokkaido, Sapporo has lots to offer visitors too including the original ‘ramen alley’ made famous by TV chef Anthony Bourdain as well as the famous Sapporo Beer Museum and Sapporo Snow Festival. You’ll find Lamp Light Books Hotel in Sapporo just a ten minute walk from Susukino and Odori stations, making it ideally located and easy to reach by train.
Book and Bed
The original book hotel chain in Japan, Book + Bed began in Tokyo and has since expanded across the country. You can now stay in Book + Bed hotels in Shinsaibashi, Osaka, and also in Kyoto. Based around the concept of ‘a bookstore where you can stay’, Book + Bed has rightfully become a phenomenon. The original Book + Bed features simple yet stylish wood-panelled decor, very affordable hostel-style prices for a small but charming bunk, and more than 1,700 books to read (as well as a night light by your bed to read them by). There are different types of rooms available for staying the night and you can even choose ‘day use’ if you don’t want to stay over, which basically lets you hang out in the book lounge for the day, and you can even take a nap if you want. Book + Bed is also famous for serving delicious coffee (to fuel your late night reading) and has a cafe serving food. The chain has additionally branched out into a range of quirky merchandise and keepsakes for you to remember your unique book hotel stay after your visit.
Manga Art Hotel, Kanda
Book hotels aren’t just for books and novels, you can even sleep amidst a sea of manga. The stylish Manga Art Hotel in Kanda has shelves with more than 5,000 manga titles in both English and Japanese for fans of the medium. You’ll find manga reviews and recommendations from the hotel for newcomers too. This is definitely a book-themed capsule hotel with a difference.
Located near the Hakone Goura Hot springs, this book hotel, whose name literally means ‘Hakone Bookcase’, is at the luxury end of the market. Opulent and relaxing, with designer furniture and beautiful interiors, it has more than 12,000 books on the shelves in its shared ‘common library’, plus a bookshelf in every room. Rather than a book-themed capsule hotel or bookshop with beds in it, this is more of a luxury hotel with a love of books. Hakone, as well as being home to this wonderful book hotel, is also a hugely desirable destination in itself. A mountainous city in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Tokyo, Hakone offers a wide variety of activities, from hot spring resorts, called onsens, to wondrous views of Mt. Fuji, making it a very popular resort area. Hakone is accessible by bus, cable cars, and boats. However, the most efficient and stress-free way to get there is by train. By obtaining a JR Pass, tourists can take the shinkansen (bullet train), which will get you there in a little under two hours. You can find out more about visiting Hakone in our guide to Visiting Hakone with the JR Pass.
Tsutaya Book Apartment
Unique and fun, Tsutaya Book Apartment is a bookstore, a hotel, a sake bar, a co-working space, and more all in one. You’ll find this brilliant bookstore hotel in bustling Shinjuku, Tokyo, so you’re right in the centre of the action too. With books aplenty and free coffee and tea to keep you reading through the night, what’s not to love?!
Places to Stay in Japan
Of course, book hotels aren’t your only option. Japan has a vast range of accommodation on offer, from traditional Ryokan to Western-style hotels, futuristic robot hotels, and more - you can even stay in a mountain monastery retreat. Here’s a quick selection of alternative accommodation you could combine with a few nights in a book-themed hotel.
Found throughout Japan, ryokan are a traditional type of Japanese inn, operating as a guesthouse for travellers. Holding true to old Japanese customs, they tend to be found in postal towns or rural areas to service people traveling on Japan’s medieval highways. Staying in a ryokan, guests experience Japanese traditions up close, since they too are expected to follow them. Guests will stay in traditional rooms with tatami mats on the floor and thin sliding doors. They’ll also bathe in hot spring baths known in Japan as onsen, as modern ryokan tend to be associated with hot spring resorts. Ryokan are a fantastic way to connect with Japanese culture and tradition in a totally new way. If this appeals, read our guide on What To Expect When Staying In A Ryokan and our recommendations for The Best Ryokan in Japan. You’ll find Ryokan all over Japan giving you lots of flexibility with your travel plans too.
Since the very first capsule hotel opened in Osaka in the 1970s, they have become world famous, but what exactly is a capsule hotel? Basically, capsule hotels are hotels where instead of standard rooms, guests have a small, compact capsule,
Yes, you read that right - robot hotels. To be specific, a state-of-the-art chain of Japanese hotels called Henn na, which are staffed by anthropomorphic robots. From the moment you check in to the moment you leave, robots and technology will help you with all sorts of different parts of your stay. Upon arrival, realistic-looking multilingual robots will help you check-in. If you need to store luggage, a robotic arm will help you with that. Another robot will show you to your room, the door of which unlocks using facial recognition rather than a key or key card. That said, you can request a key card if that will make you more comfortable. Your room even has its own personal robot, who can help you control the lights and check the weather. There are some regular aspects of the hotel though, like alarm clocks and Wi-Fi. Intrigued? Find out more by reading our full guide to Experiencing a Henn na Hotel.
If you’re looking for something more serene and tranquil, how about staying in a monastery? Koya-san is a holy mountain in Shikoku and is the home and birthplace of Shingon Buddhism, which built its temples on Mt Koya in the 9th Century. The town of Koya-san is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also home to Japan’s largest cemetery, the beautiful and atmospheric Onku-in, where some of the country’s most prestigious people are laid to rest. Koya-san is the beginning and end of the Shikoku Pilgrimage, which features 88 temples and shrines and can take three months to complete on foot.
Even if you don’t have time for all 88, you can book a Shukubo (a ‘temple stay’) in Koya-san, which has more than 100 temples to choose from, many with their own onsen and zen gardens for maximum relaxation. Temples such as Eko-in and Muryoko-in are 1,000 years old and allow guests to meditate, practice calligraphy, take part in morning chanting and other rituals, and much more. It’s possible to stay for weeks to fully immerse yourself in the spiritual life. Alternatively, it is possible to visit for the day too. You can use the JR Pass to travel to Shin-Osaka by Shinkansen bullet trains from nearly anywhere in Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. For detailed instructions on how to reach Koya-san from Shin-Osaka read our dedicated Itinerary Tip: Koya-san guide.
Of course, this is just one monastery in particular. There are a number of Zen Buddhist retreats where you can stay across Japan. If you’re interested in finding out more, read our Spiritual Tour of Japan or our guide on How to Detox in Japan for more.
- Reading is a great way to learn more about Japan’s past, present, and future, before you visit. To do this, you need a selection of books that explore this amazing country from different perspectives. That’s why we have put together a list of Five Books You Should Read Before You Visit Japan.
- If you love literature, you could base your whole trip to Japan around this theme, visiting locations where famous Japanese authors wrote their great works. We have done the work for you by planning A Literary Tour of Japan.
- Japan is not just famous for great novels of course, but also for manga and anime literature - a medium that has become a worldwide phenomenon over the last half a century. If you want to find out more read our guide to the best Manga and Anime To Enjoy At Home.