Japan is an awesome destination for any kind of traveler, on virtually any budget. However, when on a trip where you have packed light, or are keeping costs down by sticking to the bare essentials, then there is nothing more important than knowing where laundry services are, and how to use them.
A laundromat or dry cleaners isn’t exactly a place that stands out when you are marveling at all the wonders that Japan has to offer, but actually they are fairly easy to find! Besides these, there are other options, all of which we will explore here.
What laundry services can you find in Japan?
Japan has a number of options available when looking for laundry services, which includes in-hotel services, coin operated machines (at laundromats, hostels, and ryokans), dry cleaners and washing machines within apartment rentals (such as Airbnb).
Using laundry services in a hotel or at a dry cleaner tends to cost the most, but are the most convenient and require little effort on the part of the customer. (Dry cleaners in Japan can take some time however – something to keep in mind.) However, for anyone wanting the cheapest way to get their laundry done, DIY will always be a winner, and all you need to do is find a coin-operated washing machine.
Finding a coin laundry near you in Japan
If you are staying in a hostel or ryokan that has coin-operated washing machines, then you are in luck! (And if this is a concern, you may wish to ask in advance whether your accommodations indeed have laundry services or not.) However, if you are staying somewhere which doesn’t have any then you may perhaps be wondering how to find a laundromat.
You can search online for “laundromat” and get some hits. A better search term, especially in a maps app, is “coin laundry” or “コインランドリー”.
However, another option is to search for a public hot spring (sento, or 銭湯 in Japanese) as laundromats are often located near them as people like to drop their laundry off and then go enjoy a hot bath! Most laundromats are open 24 hours, so you usually don’t need to worry about opening times.
Doing laundry in Japan
Before going ahead and throwing your laundry in an empty washing machine, first you need detergent! Often you can buy detergent at the laundromat, but it can be more expensive then what you can buy elsewhere, which is an important consideration if you are on a budget.
Supermarkets and drug stores are options, but convenience stores are the easiest to find and are open 24 hours if you are doing your laundry late at night. They also stock detergent in a smaller size, which is perfect when you don’t need much.
Bleach or suds? Buying laundry detergent in Japan
1. Buying detergent
If in doubt whether a store stocks detergent or not, or where it is, you can ask: Sentaku senzai ga arimasu ka? (洗濯洗剤がありますか？)
However, once you have found the detergents you might be wondering what exactly you are buying! Luckily there are some international brands which you can easily recognize because of their brand logo, but in general when looking at detergent there are some key things to watch out for.
2. Standard detergent or bleach?
You may be curious whether the detergent has bleach or not, in this case you need to look for: 漂白剤 (Hyouhakuzai) which means it contains bleach.
Regular detergents can come in powder, liquid and capsule form, and popular brands besides Ariel includeアタック (Attack) and Nanox (in English). If in doubt, ask the staff: Kore wa hyouhakuzai desu ka? / Does this contain bleach?
Tip: If the detergent has something like 香り (kaori) then most likely it has a special scent or fragrance, so if you want non-scented then avoid these. In addition the brand おしゃれ着 (Osharegi) is usually scented too so you will want to avoid this one if you want unscented.
How to use the washing machines in Japan
Once you have got your detergent, but again before going to the laundromat, make sure you have change. Washing machines accept 100 yen coins, so make sure you have enough for how many washes you want to do. The price can vary, and can be as low as 200 yen for one wash. To be safe, carry ten 100 yen coins with you.
1. First of all look out for machines with baskets on top of them; this indicates that someone is using the machine. If the washing machines come in different sizes then be sure to select the correct size for the laundry that you want to wash.
2. Unless there are instructions in English, or pictures, indicating otherwise, you normally just add the detergent with the clothes.
3. You now just need to close the lid or door.
4. In the coin slot put in the correct number of coins. The machine will then start.
5. Unless you have happened across a particularly old washing machine a timer should be displayed showing how long it will take. One thing to keep in mind, especially if you are from a country where washing machines can take a long time, is that in Japan it only takes 20 to 40 minutes. In addition they may not always wash with hot water.
Japan Laundry Tip: Handy laundry nets
Laundry nets are very convenient to have. Clothes with a zipper might damage other clothes during the wash. To avoid this, you can put these clothes into a laundry net before washing. They are also useful when washing clothes made from delicate materials. You can often find these at 100 yen shops.
Operating a clothes dryer in Japan
Unless you want to take a pile of wet clothing back to your accommodation you will need to use a dryer. Though, it is possible to find a washer dryer which can do everything.
Using a dryer is fairly straightforward. However, costs can vary from 100 yen for 10 minutes to 30 minutes.
1. Find an empty dryer – make sure you don’t fill it up too much.
2. Insert coins.
3. Close door.
Keep in mind that Japanese dryers aren’t always as powerful as Western ones, and doing multiple cycles can add up.
If you are staying in a flat then you will probably find the washing machine in the bathroom, but no dryer. Many modern apartments will have a clothes rack in the bath room – and a dryer in there as well. (If you will be staying at an apartment, be sure to ask ahead of time!)
Many Japanese also air-dry their clothes on the balcony. If you don’t have time for this, or space, then you may want to look for a laundromat to use a dryer.
Dryer sheets are also not common in Japan, so if you want to use these then it is best to bring them with you to Japan.
Rules at a coin laundry
Please remember to be considerate to other people at a communal coin laundry. Once in a while, there may be a machine where the washing and drying have already finished, but the clothes still remain inside. In this case, someone who wants to use the machine may take out these clothes and put them into a basket inside the shop.
A laundry for sneakers
Some coin laundries are equipped with a special washing machine and dryer for sneakers. You can fully enjoy sightseeing without worrying about your shoes getting dirty.
FAQ: Doing laundry in Japan
Q: Do hotels in Japan typically have laundry service?
A: Most have laundry services; with charges varying, but 1,000+ yen per item is quite typical. Budget hotels, hostels and ryokans are more likely to have coin-operated washing machines.
Hotel rooms usually have a clothesline in the bathroom so you can use that to dry your clothes if there is no dryer or you want to minimize your dry user. Sometimes coin-operated washing machines are in use a lot during the day, so you may have to wait until late to do your washing.
•My hotel has coin-operated washing machines. Will they have detergent?
This can be a bit hit and miss depending on where you stay. Some hotel receptions will give small packets of detergents for free, other hotels will have machines from which you can buy detergent (but this can be overpriced).
Convenience stores can be found almost everywhere and are a good alternative for finding detergent.
•I am visiting during the summer. It is quite hot, so can I just wash my clothes and hang them up to dry?
While it is true that it can be very hot in the summer, it is also very humid. So if you are hanging clothes up inside it can take time to dry, and there is a risk of mold.
It is best to run your clothes through the dryer at least once, and then hang them up. Make sure the dehumidifier is turned on if hanging up in the bathroom.
•Can I wash my sneakers?
Some laundromats have special sneaker washing and drying machines. You can try searching using the term “コインランドリー スニーカー” (coin laundry sneaker) to find one that is close by.
Instructions may or may not be in English, but generally you put the sneakers into the washing machine, close the door and put in the coins (200 yen for 20 minutes is normal). The dryer is usually above the washing machine, and you just need to hang your shoes on the specially installed hangers, close the door and put in the coins (ranges from 100 yen for 20 minutes).
•My hotel/apartment’s washing machine is a bit complicated. Which buttons should I press?
When you don’t understand Japanese and you don’t want to ruin your clothes, then it can be a bit nerve-racking to use a machine. However, there are a lot of guides on YouTube which explain how to use Japanese washing machines. You can also check out the "Remote Controls" link below which offers basic guidance.
Also, if you are staying at an apartment like an Airbnb, then be sure to ask the host for washing machine instructions.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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