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My friends stayed in Ueno at the Taito Ryokan in Oct., 2002. This is listed in Lonely Planet's Tokyo guide as a ryokan and as a "great value". The location is very good since it is 3 minutes from Ueno station and a short walk to Asakusa. The cost was 3000 yen for two people in a room, 3000 yen each. However, if you are looking to experience a true Japanese ryokan then you will be disappointed. This is a youth hostel not a ryokan. My friends were disappointed and stayed the last of three nights at my ryokan with me even though they had paid for theirs in advance. I went with them to pick up their luggage the next day and saw the place for myself. The room was previously a large room divided into smaller rooms. But at the top of the wall for about a foot there is nothing but a wooden screen, so you can hear everything from the room next door. The futon were not prepared and stowed for you during your meals like at a ryokan. There was no closet so the futon were always laying in the corner of the room. There was no yukata, slippers, or tea in the room and the hallway banister was used to air out futon. All these things are characteristics of youth hotels or mountain huts, not a ryokan. I am not sure how this got classified as a ryokan. Lonely Planet happens to be my guide book of choice, and although discrepancies like these are rare, it sucks if it happens to you.
There are lots of good ryokan in Tokyo to choose from. But if your looking for a place, I can highly recommend Sawanoya Ryokan. This is where I stayed to meet my friends in Tokyo in Oct., 2002. It was 5000 yen for 1 person or 4000 yen each more than 1 person in the same room. So for 1000 yen more my friends were able to experience a true ryokan. The room was very clean. As all ryokan, yukata, slippers, and tea were in the room. There was even a bilingual TV. The staff sets the futon up during dinner and puts them away during breakfast. There are two common shower/bath rooms which were also very clean. There were lots of nice touches not necessarily common to ryokan like a fan in the shower changing room, which is common for sento or onsen. There was a large common room for breakfast. And there was free coffee, tea, and ice water 24 hours. There was even free Internet access via the common room computer. The common room is clean and decorated with in Japanese-style including the owners shishimai (lion dance) mask on display. The owner performs shishimai at weddings and even at the ryokan sometimes, although no guarantees. He speaks English and says that 80% of the ryokan business is from foreigners. Getting there is a little more difficult that the Taito which is a straight shot from Narita to Ueno station. You will need to make a couple of transfers. When you do, the ryokan is only a few minutes walk from Nezu station. Don't expect any wild Tokyo night life around the area. If this in your plan, you will need to catch the subway or train into a busier section of Tokyo. We bought beer at the nearby convenience store and made good use of the common room.
Sawanoya Ryokan Home Page
Room at the Shigetsu
Another very nice ryokan with a great location. This ryokan is located directly next to Sensoji Temple. The ryokan seems new, rooms are clean, there was Internet access, and the staff was very nice. The phone number is 03-3843-2345