Hostels in Tokyo and Kyoto
August 25, 2014 10:18 PM   Subscribe

What are some good hostels in Tokyo and Kyoto for a solo traveler?

Several years ago I stayed at Raise a Smile Hostel Berlin, and it made my visit to that city one of my best travel experiences. It was smaller, so they focused on solo travelers and pairs, and they made the task of connecting with other travelers in a strange city much easier and fun (e.g. the employees were friendly and would introduce people to each other, and take groups out to bars and stuff at night).

I'd like to find one or two places with a similar atmosphere to that if possible.

Also, what's the best tool for an English speaker for planning routes on Japan's rail network? Is Google Maps any good for this?
posted by cosmic.osmo to Travel & Transportation around Japan (11 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite was the website I used to look up routes but it helps to know the stations beforehand. I used my guidebook and asked around in the hostel to figure out what stations I needed to take etc.

I stayed at the Sakura hostel in Asakusa. . They might have had a few bar crawls in the evening but I do not recall any kind of introductions being made.

As for Kyoto, I stayed here. I missed their events because they all seem to be over the weekends.
posted by viramamunivar at 10:40 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I stayed in Guest Inn Chita in Kyoto. It's a short-ish walk from the main train station, and it's a family-run ryokan.

Also, what's the best tool for an English speaker for planning routes on Japan's rail network?

posted by sukeban at 10:42 PM on August 25, 2014

I stayed here in Kyoto: K's Backpackers Hostel. It's mid-sized (maybe on the big side for Japan), very clean, with very friendly staff. I rented a bike from them each day. There seemed to be plenty of socializing and events going on; I didn't actually join in on any, but that's just me. I quite enjoyed my stay there. They have a cool rooftop and a really nice and spacious lounge area.

In Tokyo I stayed at Anne in Asakusa, but that one was probably too quiet and basic for your preferences. It was fine for me though.
posted by bread-eater at 12:00 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I stayed at the Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel and was quite pleased. No organised activities, but despite being the least social person ever, I did find myself talking to people (which usually doesn't happen) and went to see fireworks with another guy travelling alone.
posted by hoyland at 4:37 AM on August 26, 2014

You might like K's House Tokyo too. No organized introductions, but when I stayed there it was very friendly and groups of guests often went out together.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:06 AM on August 26, 2014

Best answer: For Tokyo, I cannot help you. For hostels in Kyoto, I can't recommend any of the larger sized ones such as Khaosan or K's House. They are perfectly decent hostels, but they aren't really what you are looking for, since they are the biggest ones in Kyoto. They get squillions of people and don't have an atmosphere. This is pretty much to be expected from chain hostels. Recently I've seen a ton of families staying at these places, much more than single travellers or couples.

Hana Hostel would be my recommendation. It's much smaller than the others, and I've always been impressed by the atmosphere there. Met some great people during my stays, though I don't generally go to events. I've found that the mark of a good hostel in Japan is whether or not the staff makes me feel welcome hanging around in the lobby/reception area. When they do, you generally find yourself getting connected with people who are arriving or asking questions.

As mentioned above, Hyperdia is the place to go for planning trips by rail. However, since I expect there's a good chance you'll be using a JR Pass, you would do well to look at the fairly extensive railway section over at Japan Guide. If you really want to get the inside scoop on how to maximise the value of a JR Pass, JPRail astonishes even myself when it comes to the level of detail it provides. Google maps is fine for checking which station you will need, but I always find it useful to consult Japan Guide and find out their recommended routes.

You're welcome to memail me if you need any advice.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 5:49 AM on August 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not quite a hostel but in Tokyo, the Juyoh is cheap, with English-speaking staff, and popular with back-packers. Some may be put off by the lower-class San'ya location, but I like it, and there's other cheap hotels around if the Juyoh is full.
posted by Rash at 9:08 AM on August 26, 2014

Response by poster: No organized introductions

BTW, the kind of introductions I was talking about were pretty informal. It was just that the hostel staff knew who was staying there, and if a new guest came, they'd introduce them to the other guests that just happened to be around. I guess the place was just non-anonymous.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2014

I stayed at the Khaosan in Kyoto for 10 days and don't recommend it. They were a lot more cold and business like than some other hostels I stayed at (though not in Kyoto or Tokyo). I didn't get that warm, welcome feeling that some places have. Also, they have a lot of Japanese residents that stay there for free for doing the cleaning, and they seem to dominate the atmosphere of the lounge and common areas, and be cliquey so if you are not fluent in Japanese you can't tell easily who the residents are and who are the genuine travelers.
posted by Blitz at 12:56 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions! Unfortunately, I was too late to be able to book any of the positive ones, but I did avoid the Khaosan and K's House chains.

Tokyo: Retrometro Backpackers - This one was probably my favorite, as I made a couple of friends there, one who I spend the better part of my trip with. It's pretty small (I'd say less than 20 beds split between two rooms). However, in the evenings there were always at least a couple people in the common room, often more, and pretty diverse (Westerners, Japanese, other East Asians, all on the younger side). The staff was also pretty friendly.

Kyoto: Gion Ryokan Q-beh - It was a bit bigger, but the common room was usually about 3/4 full. The staff was also friendlier - they'd often be in the common room talking to guests.

I can recommend both of the above wholeheartedly based on my experiences.

Koyasan: Koyasan Guest House Kokuu - This one was good, but I was only in Koyasan one night and wanted to get up very early the next day, so I didn't socialize at all. I did see some people talking in the common room, but they looked to be 40-something European couples). I think this is also the only hostel in Koyasan right now.

Also, another traveler (who spend more time in Japan than me) said she tended to have better experiences in hostels that described themselves as "guest houses." I can't really confirm or deny that, though.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 5:28 PM on October 20, 2014

Response by poster: Also, Hyperdia, Google Maps, and a b-mobile Visitor SIM were godsends.

I generally used Hyperdia for when I knew which stations I wanted to travel between and Google for when I didn't. Hyperdia is also much more useful for deciding between alternate routes than Google is, since Japan's rail network is so complicated, and I considered it more authoritative. Hyperdia also has settings to exclude lines that are not covered by a JR Rail Pass.

This was the first time I traveled with a smartphone, and being able to double-check things when I feared I might have made a mistake (e.g. missed my stop or gotten on the wrong train/bus) saved me a lot of anxiety. Most of Tokyo also has cell coverage in the subway tunnels, so it's even useful there.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 5:41 PM on October 20, 2014

« Older Is it normal to miss an ex after 2 years?   |   Where can I buy sheets of glass that look like... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.