Economy Backpackers HOTEL NEW KOYO / Tokyo.Japan


Tokyo - An Internet Miracle: A $21 Hotel Room    By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

A hotel room in Tokyo for $21? It seems incredible, but the Hotel New Koyo charges just 2,500 yen for its smallest single rooms, including service charge and tax. In a city where a fine melon can cost more than $100, that is an extraordinary find, and I turned it up through a Web site called Planet Tokyo at www.pandemic.com/tokyo.

Information about Tokyo abounds on the Internet, but Planet Tokyo is perhaps the best Web site for visitors. It offers a range of information about restaurants and hotels -- the $300-a-night variety and the $21 kind -- as well as temples and shrines and even the Japanese language. The information is mostly timely and accurate and ranges from the serious to the whimsical: this is the only Web site I know of that tutors people in expressions like "mapputatsuni hiki sakuwayo," which means "I will tear you in half."

Planet Tokyo has separate sections for restaurants, hotels, sightseeing, general trip planning and travelers' tales. It does not have a site index, but it is easy to navigate. Under sightseeing, for example, it offers a four-paragraph introduction and then a list of 19 possibilities, from amusement parks to the Ueno Zoo, which is more than 100 years old. Click on any of them, and you get the information.

There is also a general section of "culture notes," such as how to bow and when to give gifts and take off your shoes. One of the very few mistakes is in the language section, suggesting that "moshi moshi" can be used as a greeting when entering a room. Moshi moshi is used only on the phone or when you call out to a stranger -- for instance, a passer-by who has dropped his wallet.

While Planet Tokyo is the best place to start, it is a bit short on history. So turn also to Exploring Old Tokyo at www.twics.com/eds/oldtokyo. It has information about museums, shrines and temples, even about a historic Edo Period public toilet.

Still, one of the problems of these Web sites is their inability to be helpful with directions: Tokyo is so huge that location matters enormously. Perhaps it will take 10 minutes to get some place, or perhaps two hours, but there is not much guidance.

Then there is the larger question of whether these sites, however rich in information, are any better than a guidebook. A guidebook is easier to consult on an airplane, or to browse through on a subway, and the fact-checking may be a bit more thorough. But these sites are good resources for someone making a quick business trip without much time for sightseeing.

Moreover, many Tokyo places have their own Web sites as well (some are linked to Planet Tokyo). When I read about Hotel New Koyo, I was skeptical that it really had rooms for 2,500 yen. So I telephoned, and the clerk confirmed the price and referred me to its English language Web site:
HTTP://www.newkoyo.com
It popped out in a moment, with all the information I could want, including photos.


NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF is chief of the Tokyo bureau of The Times.
(bold text edited by webmaster)

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