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When I first came to Japan in the 1980s, this was one of the first places I stayed in; I'm happy to report that it has only gotten better over the years and remains one of my favorites. A family-run affair since 1949, the smoke-free inn is now in the capable hands of the original proprietress' grandson, though the elder Sawa-san still pours his heart and soul into the business and even wrote a book about the history of Sawanoya and his experiences as an innkeeper. Located about a 15-minute walk from Ueno Park and only 5 minutes from Nezu Shrine, it's nestled in a residential area known for its shitamachi (old downtown) atmosphere and traditional architecture. Upon arrival, guests are given a short tour of the establishment, which includes two public baths with views of a garden (which can be locked for privacy), before being led upstairs to their tatami room on the second or third floor (there's no elevator). Guests also receive a hand-drawn map outlining restaurants and other nearby facilities. The large lobby offers free coffee and tea, Wi-Fi plus a communal computer, and a huge selection of brochures from throughout Japan. A traditional Japanese lion dance is staged free of charge several times a month, and the inn even donates ¥100 of every room charge towards the Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund. In short, Sawanoya has a long history of making travelers feel welcome in Tokyo and thus comes highly recommended.