Jalan.net is, by far, my favorite place to book hotels. The site has a lot of great deals and has very detailed information on the hotels: closest train station, amenities, services, photographs, maps, and what meals are included. Plus, you can search by what kind of accommodations you want: ryokan, business hotel, single, double, Japanese-style room, and so on. Until recently, Jalan was Japanese-only, but they have opened an English version of the website.
The English site features all the details of the Japanese one, and the interface is the mostly the same but has the international traveler’s’ needs in mind.
For example, the map on the front page lists important cities in each region, and the drop-down menu for selecting the region has popular destinations listed at the top. There is an additional separate search menu for onsen/hot springs; this feature is more integrated on the Japanese site, so the English site makes it easier to find. When you input your desired features and price, you can also ask the site to search for hotels near foreign money exchange sites.
Interestingly, the hotels that are featured on the English site are only ones that have multilingual services and can communicate in at least English. Hotel listings note in which foreign languages they have services and to what level. For example, J-Hoppers Osaka is featured on the English site’s list of Central Osaka hotels, and there seems to be a focus on international hostels that I have not seen on the Japanese version of the site in addition to hotels and ryokan.
There’s a comprehensive usage guide in English here. The booking process is different than the Japanese version, and requires you to enter your email, then follow a link to complete the booking. (The Japanese version requires you to sign in, which I prefer.) Also, since the English site is directed at foreign tourists rather than expats, you can also book with a credit card–very helpful for your friends and family back home.
Sites with Japanese-only bookings are also featured in the search list after the English-friendly ones, so if you don’t quite find what you want, you can check out more hotels without redoing your search on the Japanese end of the site.
Even though I’m still planning to use the Japanese site to access more deals and hotels, Jalan has really hit the bulls-eye on its English-language site. The English is, on the whole, smooth and natural, and the website is sleek and user-friendly. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of only featuring hotels that offer English support at first, but I think this is a stroke of genius: the guests and hotel will be able to communicate with each other in the booking process. (After all, if you speak Japanese well, you should be able to navigate the Japanese site just fine.) Another good idea is listing the hotels’ names and addresses in both English and Japanese; the featured maps are also bilingual.
Have you used the English interface? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
Leah Zoller is a second-year CIR in Anamizu and the current editor of this blog. She books 80% of her travel accommodations on Jalan.net’s Japanese site.