Minami Senju continues to be a travel bargain with the Tokyo SA Ryokan.

Tokyo’s reliable, convenient rain network is great for travelers in a whole lot of different ways. Not only do all those crisscrossing train and subway lines make it easy to hop to different sightseeing spots all over town, they also mean that you can stretch your travel budget by staying in a lower-priced hotel that’s outside the city center, but still puts you just a short train ride away from the cool attractions downtown.

The Minami Senju neighborhood, which is on the northeast edge of downtown Tokyo, has been getting a reputation for offering a wide selection of budget-friendly places to stay, and we recently heard about one, called Tokyo SA Ryokan, that’s proving especially popular with foreign travelers, so we decided to check it out for ourselves, getting a room that cost us only 3,600 yen (US$23.50) for the night.

The hotel is about a 10-minute walk from Minami Senju Station on the Hibiya subway line. Its sign, with 東京SA旅館 written on it, might be a little hard to spot from the street, but you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see…

…the sword-wielding samurai above the front entrance!

OK, so technically it’s a statue of samurai, but still, it’s a very dynamic welcome, and while it’s undeniably sort of kitschy, it’s also rather well made, with some very nice detail work.

▼ Check out the folds of the sculpted hakama pants.

Step inside, and you’ll find yourself immediately at the check-in counter. The entryway isn’t very spacious but it’s bright and cheery, with some nice floral decorations.

This was merely a precursor, though, to the full-force of Tokyo SA Ryokan’s flower aesthetics, because once you go past the reception area…

…there’s a hallway and stairwell covered in sakura murals! The bright pink of the fluttering cherry blossom petals, contrasted against the blue sky and the white of the clouds and snow-topped peak of Mt. Fuji, put a smile on our face with its unabashed Japan-appeal.

The building has four floors, with guestrooms on the first, second, and third. The fourth floor is for the coin-operated laundry facilities, and the first floor also has a lounge and showers for guests staying in rooms without an attached shower.

▼ The shoers are past the cloth curtain marked with ゆ (yu, meaning “hot water for bathing.”

The Tokyo SA Ryokan doesn’t have a communal Japanese-style bathtub, but the showers were nice and clean. There’re also sinks for washing your face or brushing your teeth, plus bathrooms.

The lounge is surprisingly snazzy for a budget-priced hotel, with a beautiful wall-covering piece of art like you’d find on a traditional folding screen, a raised tatami reed floor mat area with zaisu chairs and a low table, and shoji paper window coverings. There’s also a leather sofa, if you prefer to sit Western-style

One thing you won’t find in the hotel is a restaurant. This isn’t really a problem, though, since there’s a cafe and izakaya pub just a block away. The lounge also has a microwave where you can heat up anything you picked up at once of the supermarkets or convenience stores that are within near the hotel.

Since the building isn’t particularly new, we expected our room to open with a well-worn key, but nope, it has a modern card key lock.

As mentioned above, we booked a room for 3,600 yen, which is the lowest-price room the Tokyo SA Ryokan offers. Some more expensive rooms have private showers and baths, but ours had neither, and it didn’t have a whole lot of space, either.

Still, if you came to Japan to see Japan, not to see the inside of your hotel room, it’s got everything you need: a futon to sleep in, air conditioning to keep you comfortable, and even a TV.

Oddly enough, we’re not sure whether we should call this a Western or Japanese-style room. Yes, it has tatami flooring and a futon.

…but that futon is on top of a mattress, which is itself on top of a frame, so you could argue that this is actually a Western-style bed, although a very low one.

The strangest thing about our room, though, was this.

Right next to the window was the sculpted hindquarters of a dog. With its upswept tail, we thought this might be a quirky coatrack, but we didn’t want to change snapping it, so we just admired it as an interior decoration.

After showering up, we crawled into our futon, finding both the pillow and mattress extremely soft and comfortable, and dozed off…which brings us to the only real downside we experienced during our stay. Like we said, the building itself is kind of old, and the walls either aren’t very thick or aren’t very soundproofed. Either way, we woke up more than once in the middle of the night and could hear the sounds of people talking in some language other than Japanese in another guestroom through our walls.

Aside from that, though, we had no complaints about our stay. Dropping our card key at the front counter as we checked out, we noticed that every other person staying in the hotel was a traveler from overseas, and maybe thanks to the excitement of having arrived in Japan, they all seemed friendly and energetic, so apparently the thin walls hadn’t kept them up all night, and with Ueno, Akihabara, Tsukiji, and Ginza all just a short ride away on the Hibiya line, we’re sure they were on their way to making all sorts of great travel memories the rest of the day.

Hotel information
Tokyo SA Ryokan / 東京SA旅館
Address: Tokyo-to, Taito-ku, Kiyogawa 2-15-11

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