In Tokyo, bedding down for the night doesn’t have to be boring. If you’re hostel-hopping on your travels then we have some interesting alternatives to your standard dorm-room dens.
Sometimes falling into a bed at the end of the day is all you need, but you can easily make it part of the adventure. From the traditional ryokan experience to a trendy hipster hostel to a samurai-themed base, Tokyo—unsurprisingly—has it all, and at travel-friendly prices to boot. Hostels may have a reputation for being noisy, scruffy and all-round a bit grim, but Japan does things differently (aside from some unfortunate exceptions of course). With cheaper alternatives already available like manga cafes and capsules, hostels are striving to offer an experience along with a place to stay. So, here are our top 5 picks for hostels that are more than just a place to rest your head:
Beds for Bookworms: The Book and Bed Tokyo Hostel
The idea of curling up with a good book before bed is heaven to some—and this hostel will let you do just that, with over 1700 books to choose from, stacked on shelves and even hanging from the ceiling. The recently opened Book and Bed Hostel has found space on its shelves for a few bunks, so you can doze off among your favorites when the page turning gets too much. However, they warn that this is not the place of fluffy pillows and down-duvets—this is a an accommodation bookshop. Rather than relying on expensive luxuries and to help you sleep, Book and Bed trust in the power of a good read to help you reach that ‘blissful instant of falling asleep’.
Bunks are available between 3,500 and 4,500 yen depending on bunk size. You can also spend the day there, with access to the wifi but not beds or showers, for 1,500 yen. Unlike most of Japan however, this is a no-cash site, so you can only pay with credit card or, with your IC card (a very handy option). Right next to Ikebukuro Station, the hostel has free wifi and shared bathrooms, with 30 beds available—and more than enough books to go around.
Ryokan Experience at Toco Heritage Hotel
If your hostel-booking sessions involved staring longingly at beautiful ryokan before the cold truth of budgets shook you back to reality, look no further. Toco Heritage House is the perfect combination of a traditional 1920s guesthouse and friendly hipster hostel which you’ll never want to leave (the rainbow stairs in the first picture are theirs). With a combination of spacious and simple bunk-bed dorm rooms starting at 2,800 yen, with a female-only room too, the traditional look is balanced nicely with comfort. Couples or groups, however, can opt for traditional tatami rooms which open out into the beautiful Japanese garden—yep, it’s pretty ideal. And it gets better: not only do you have the lovely setting combined with the modern comforts of air-con and wifi, etc., but to top it off, there’s a lovely bar where you can meet other guests and locals.
Tatami rooms start at 6,800 yen for a double, lots of amenities are provided in the shared bathrooms and there’s a kitchen you can use during your stay.
Location: Shitaya (Iriya Station)
From Samurai to Laboratory: Khaosan Hostels
Dotted around Asakusa, the Khaosan Group offer affordable hostels which will brighten up your stay with a variety of Japanese themes. You can take your pick from the Origami, Laboratory, Kabuki and Samurai hostels as well as the original. They are all on the decent end of regular hostels, with wifi, kitchens, washing facilities and more, but with a little flair. They also have the benefit of being located in Asakusa, near the Sensoji Temple and other sightseeing spots which is great for anyone trying to see as much of Tokyo as possible. Khaosan hostels pride themselves on their friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere, so they are particularly good if you like meeting people on your travels.
The hostels offer a variety of dorm rooms and privates, with prices starting at 3,100 yen and going up to around 20,000 yen, the cheapest is Samurai dorms with Ryokan and Kabuki private room being the highest. They also have hostels across Japan including Sapporo, Kyoto and Osaka as well as an onsen ryokan in Atami, if you’re traveling further afield!
Location: Asakusa (and other cities in Japan)
Style and Substance: Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge
The Nui. Hostel is pure hipster heaven, and it’s beautiful. With a focus on the handmade, craftsmen and carpenters renovated a warehouse (previously home to a toy business operating since the Edo period) and created Nui. With a cafe and bar open to guests as well as passersby, it’s the perfect hostel if you need some space for work or travel-planning. The menu is extensive and tempting; including local specialty drip and aeropress coffee, mains and snacks (including breakfast): it has all you need for a break from your travels. Turning into a bar that’s open until 1am, the beer menu includes four on tap and a host of friendly bartenders ready to advise from their bottled selections. The hostel itself is large and continues the focus on the handmade crafts.
Spots in the handmade wooden bunks start at 3,100 yen with a female-only dorm available. Twins are 7,400 and private doubles start from 8,000 yen, getting higher if you opt for a river view (watching traditional yakatabune boats sail downstream may well be worth it though).
Get Cooking at Irori Hostel and Kitchen
Centered around the irori, a traditional Japanese fireplace, this friendly little hostel encourages guests to cook together and bond while enjoying great food. If you’re a foodie looking for a more chilled night in, this is the place for you. Food-related events are held regularly to allow guests to try Japanese cuisine including workshops, and izakaya and hotpot nights. There is also a selection of drinks from across Japan available including sake and local beers. The cooking times (6pm to 11:30pm) are open to guests and others, so you can bring friends along to join in the fun. Events are listed on the Facebook page so you can see if any make your stomach rumble!
Bunks range from between 3,000 and 3,500 yen each with a female-only floor available. Bathrooms are shared but are gender divided.
Location: Nihonbashi (Bakurocho Station)
If you like the sound of a capsule hotel for your stay, we have a guide for those here as well as our list of cheapo-approved accommodation if these don’t tickle your fancy!