Last August, Nikkei Business magazine reported the travails of a businessman from a regional city on a sales trip to Tokyo. His company's accommodation allowance covered a maximum of ¥8,000 per night, but he couldn't find a centrally located hotel room for under ¥20,000.

After much Googling and mouse-clicking, he finally found affordable overnight lodgings and booked a room. Several sales calls, a dinner and drinks later, he was ready to sack out when he learned to his dismay that in his unfamiliarity with Tokyo's geography he'd confused Akishima with Showajima (the two are written using similar but not identical characters). The latter, close to Haneda Airport, is served by the Tokyo Monorail line, with good access to the city center. But Akishima, where his hotel happened to be located, required a 90-minute train trip in each direction. Since he'd arranged for an early appointment the next morning, he got very little sleep that night.

The aforementioned gentleman was the victim of the skewed supply-demand situation for hotel accommodations, which is by no means limited to Japan's capital. Occupancy rates at business hotels in Osaka, for instance, soared from 78.6 percent in 2013 to 85.4 percent by May 2015. As a result, finding affordable rooms on short notice has become much more difficult. Travelers to Fukuoka and Sapporo are also feeling the pinch.