Retrometro Backpackers is—there’s no other word for it—the coolest hostel in Tokyo. Challenge the title, and I raise you a two-month renovation completed by a pair of carpenters with the help of the manager’s friends, in what seems to have been an improvisational marathon affair. With party breaks only.
Their efforts raised flawless wooden bunkbeds; faux-adobe walls and a reception desk that resembles a natural rocky outcropping; deep green and blue partition curtains of a rough woven material; a door made out of wood from manager Yamazaki-san’s home in Aomori-ken and glued and carved to resemble a topographical map of the town on one side. On the other side is a relief of Brisbane, where she spent a year abroad, and home to the thrift store that is the hostel’s namesake.
In a perfect world you could even make a reservation only to use the bathrooms.
One is covered in beer can-and-burlap coffee sack wallpaper and lit by a beer-can disco ball-like lamp (possibly I am not making this sound very elegant, but trust me). In another, the walls are decorated with vertical slats of pale wood, and yet another is bare–except for a shelf of plants built into the wall behind the toilet.
In addition to the reception area, where guests were sitting around (handmade, of course) wooden tables and enlisting Yamazaki-san’s help in making travel plans, the hostel offers a kitchen equipped with dishes and basic cooking ingredients, as well as a washer and dryer; shower rooms; handmade wooden valuables lockers; and comfortable chairs for stoop-sitting. It is a small hostel, with only two rooms (one mixed, one women-only dorm) and a maximum capacity of ten to thirteen guests at a time. A spring break Eurotrip-style party dorm this is not.
Instead, Yamazaki-san describes the quiet atmosphere as one where guests can pass the time comfortably—and, ideally, get to know one another. A traveler herself and no stranger to hostels, she decided to start Retrometro when upon realizing that “it didn’t seem to matter so much where I was; rather, it was the people I met that were important.” She emphasizes that many of the hostel guests are Japanese travelers making a Tokyo stopover while ‘tripping across the country. This presents a unique opportunity for international travelers to socialize with their in-country counterparts.
Beds in the mixed dormitory are 2,600yen per person per night. Each bed comes with power points, a reading light, and a clothes hanger. The women’s only dorm also has a private bathroom–although the beds are slightly more expensive at 2,700yen per person per night.
Tip: if you’re looking for a hostel with a similar vibe, check out Toco. It’s a larger hostel, but extremely popular—many guests at Retrometro are redirected from Toco because the latter has been fully booked—so get on that stat. Gogogo go!