The name should have tipped us off.

If you’re looking for someplace to stay in Tokyo that’s both affordable and convenient, the Nippori area is a good pick. Nippori itself may not have much in the way of tourist attractions, but that means its hotels are more affordable than many of Tokyo’s other downtown neighborhoods. At the same time, Nippori Station is on the Yamanote Line, the rail loop that encircles the Tokyo city center, making it easy to hop on over to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ueno, Akihabara, and tons of other sightseeing and nightlife districts, and the station is also connected to Narita Airport via the Keisei Main line, so staying in Nippori makes things easy on the days you fly into and out of Tokyo too.

We went looking for an especially good hotel bargain in Nippori, and we found one. As is often the case with budget accommodations, though, there’s a bit of a trade-off that comes with the low price, and it’s one that, in retrospect, we probably should have seen coming.

Let’s start with the good stuff, though. Hotel Owl Tokyo is just a quick five-minute walk from Nippori Station, so it definitely checks off the “convenient location” box. It’s also incredibly budget friendly, as we paid just 2,400 yen (US$15.70) for a night in a capsule hotel-style “dormitory” room.

It’s also a pretty nice-looking place, with a cafe-like terrace out front and tables and chairs in a pretty spacious lobby, where guests can enjoy food or drink that they’ve brought with them.

Actually, even if you didn’t bring a drink with you, you can still quench your thirst here, as the lobby has a self-service drink bar that free of charge for staying guests. The buttons are labeled in English for the benefit of those who can’t read Japanese, and they even have coffee from Doutor, one of Japan’s favorite cafe chains.

Part of the reason why the hotel is so inexpensive is because certain amenities aren’t supplied free of charge, such as bath towels and shaving razors. You can purchase these at the front desk, but the prices seemed a little high to us. Still, this isn’t all that big an issue, since even if you’re not a backpacker who’s in the habit of carrying your own towel with you when you travel, you can save a couple bucks by simply picking one up at a Daiso or some other 100 yen shop.

We were kind of surprised to see earplugs, priced at 150 yen, on the amenity list. Maybe some guests have complained about loud snorers in the dormitory rooms?

The hotel interior isn’t fancy, but it’s clean. Guestrooms are located on the first, second, and third floors, and there’s a laundry facility up on the fourth. One guestroom floor is for women only, and there’s also a common-use refrigerator and vending machine.

Entering our room, we found bunks arranged in the style of a capsule hotel, stacked two high with closable curtains at their ends.

An interesting quirk to the room is that it has its own face washing sink…

...and even its own shower, for the dormitory room occupants to share.

For a second, we thought that maybe this was why the hotel sells earplugs, so that you won’t be woken up by the sounds of people showing late at night. However, it turns out that guests are asked to refrain from using this shower between 11 p.m. and 6;30 a.m., in order to keep the dormitory room quiet. If you do need to shower during that period, there are showers on the second floor, not connected to any sleeping quarters, that you’re asked to use instead.

Checking out our capsule/bunk, it was roomier than we’d expected, with a fairly high ceiling for this sort of sleeping arrangement and even space to put a backpack or small suitcase next to your mattress.

Other creature comforts include a light, mirror, hook to hang clothes on, power outlet, and even a fold-out desk.

Lights out is at 10 p.m. – not an enforced curfew, but that’s when the room’s overhead lights get turned off. We decided to take a shower before that, and feeling thirsty afterwards, we went to the lobby to get a drink from the self-service drink bar. The lobby, by the way…

…is also where you’ll find Mori, the hotel’s resident mascot owl.

Yes, “Hotel Owl Tokyo” isn’t a case of exuberance for English seeping into a Japanese company’s name-picking process. There really is an owl that lives in the hotel.

“Goodnight, Mori” we told him as we finished our drink and headed back to our room to go to bed.

Crawling into our capsule, we were happy to learn that the mattress was thick and the pillow soft. Refreshed from our shower, we fell asleep without incident…but then…

Suddenly, we were awake. You know that weird sensation where you wake up because you heard something, but you can’t tell if the sound was real or something you were dreaming about? That’s sort of the situation we were in. We thought we’d heard something, but we didn’t know what it was. Maybe someone else in the room had done one of those snort snores, where there’s a quick burst of sound before they go back to sleeping quietly?

Ah well, nothing to do about it now. Still curious, we closed our eyes to try to go back to sleep, and that’s when he heard it.

“Hooo! Hooo!”

Yep, it was Mori. Our room was on the first floor, and out in the lobby Mori the owl was giving a greeting to the night-shift employee who’d just come on duty. It was kind of nice that it at least sounded like happy hooting, so maybe the employee is one of Mori’s favorite members of the staff. Still, we could definitely hear it from our capsule. Th first round of hooting came a little after midnight, and with owls being nocturnal creatures, Mori woke us up with his hooting once more before sunrise, the second time around 1 a.m.

Aside from that, though, we didn’t really have any complaints about Hotel Owl Tokyo. Even the lack of a big Japanese-style bathtub wasn’t a problem, since there’s a sento (public bath) right next door if you’re interested in experiencing that part of Japanese culture. And honestly, at just 2,400 yen a night and a great location, it’s hard to complain…but you might want to consider splurging on the earplugs for an extra 150 yen.

Hotel information
Hotel Owl Tokyo
Address: Tokyo-to, Arakawa-ku, Higashi Nippori, 6-59-3

Photos ©SoraNews24
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