Well, since there’s a Part 1 of this series, there has to be a Part 2. With 5 more beds I slept in around Japan. Enjoy!
#5 Kyoto – Hostel Niniroom
This hostel was very cute but also very lonely again. When I first found it on Hostelworld, I was hooked because oft he common area downstairs with a café and bar included. It somehow reminded me of Citan Hostel in Tokyo. So it must be good. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet any people there. During my stay, there were only Asians and like mentioned before, they are more a quiet and reserved bunch.
But since Kyoto was such a cool city, I didn’t spend much time around the hostel anyways. The first night I arrived, it was dark already so I only had a little glimpse of the beauty that’s Kyoto. We walked around the little allies and had some dinner and I was amazed by the hustle and bustle around the streets and the river.
What else is there to do around Kyoto?
- Fushimi-Inari: One of the most famous sight around Kyoto – the orange gate path. It’s obviously not called that but it might give you an idea on what it is. You have to take a train there and then walk for about 5-10 minutes. When we got there around 7, the amount of people was just right – and the light was perfect for photographs! So try to get there early, by the time we got back down around 10am, the place was packed. And who doesn’t want a nice photo underneath the gates.
- Nishiki Market: If you want to try another fish market, head here to have some delicious snacks that aren’t too pricy! But don’t go here on a weekend, it’s too crowded and definitely not enjoyable.
- Tea Ceremony: I love Matcha (in case you haven’t noticed), so one of my plan for Japan was to take part at a traditional Tea Ceremony – which I did at Ju-an Tearoom in Kyoto. I really love the atmosphere and enjoyed getting to know about the ritual behind my favourite hot drink!
- Higashi Hongan-ji: A temple that I discovered on my way to the Tea Ceremony – and it was beautiful!
- Kinkaku-ji: This is probably one of the most famous temples around Kyoto but I was a bit bumped when I got there. The area around it is so crowded that you literally get pushed through it and barely have the opportunity to take any nice photos. So if you have enough mornings, maybe do this as early as possible as well.
- Philosopher’s Walk: Just a little walk along the canal, lined with trees. It might not sound very interesting (and it isn’t really) but it was a pretty good way to relax. And if you feel like drinking a coffee or having some food, you will find whatever you desire here!
- Arashiyama: Who doesn’t know about the bamboo forest in Japan? And yes, it’s in Kyoto. We tried to go there at night first but trust me, not a great idea. I mean, it was fun but it was more of a Blair Witch Project experience than what Google images might suggest. So I decided to give it another try on my last morning – definitely worth it! The forest isn’t big and taking photos without anyone in it is almost impossible (even at 7am in the morning) but the park around it was pretty nice to walk around in as well!
#6 Nara – G is Good (1 night)
One of the coolest places I stayed in around Japan. I was lucky with the people I met as well, but there were a few things I enjoyed about it. Not only the interior was cool, laid back and very rock’n’roll, they also had a bar downstairs that offered one free drink per night to all their guests. The nice thing about it was, that they invited everyone downstairs for it at the same time, so we all met in the lobby at 7pm to „have the cheers“ as they called it. After we all introduced ourselves, we were able to drink and chat away. It sounds a bit like summer camp (and it felt like it as well) but it made it easy to start a conversation. And the best thing about the hostel: It has a roof top!
Nara itself was pretty cool too – and probably one of the places I walked the most. It’s famous for its deers that walk and lie around all the temples and the whole area around them. So all I basically did was walk around, take photographs and walk some more. For me, the deers weren’t THAT exciting because we have them at home in Germany as well, but I liked the whole feel and look of deers walking around temples. If you want to, you can also buy some crackers for 150 yen to feed to the animals – a perfect photo opportunity.
#3 Osaka – Ark Hostel (2 nights)
Ark Hostel was one of the few hostels in Japan that offered free breakfast. Just like expected, it was toast, jam, cereals and tea or coffee, but after eating 7Eleven food for breakfast every day, it was a good alternative. The hostel was pretty clean and even though on my booking it said something about a 18bed dorm or so, I only had 6 beds in my dorm – win! They also had a bar and restaurant downstairs but since it was in a rather quiet street of Osaka, I barely saw people there.
Osaka was one of the two places (besides Tokyo) that I split up into two parts, separated by a night in Koya-san.
I was pretty tired on my (almost) last stop in Japan and all I wanted was to just relax and not having to take in too many new sights. So the first day I got there, I just spent with a friend I met in Tokyo, sitting by the water, drinking cans, eating 7 Eleven food and chatting. We then ended up at a pretty cool Izakaya called Waramasa which I would totally recommend to anyone (It’s located around Namba, so pretty central)! The only obstacle was, that there was no english menu and the waiters didn’t know a word of English either. We managed to order through photos and didn’t get disappointed at all!
Another thing I just did around Osaka: Shopping. It has all the cool stores, mixed with little Japanese shops and loads of souvenirs. So don’t fill your bags up in Tokyo if Osaka is your last stop – you can find some treasures here as well.
#4 Koya-san – Hongaku-in (1 night)
Koya-san was truly special. It’s a little town full of temples and one of the coolest cemetery I’ve ever seen! (Another pretty cool one is down in Australia along the Coastal Walk btw.) Through a friend who lived in Japan, I found out that there was an opportunity to sleep at an actual temple for a night (or more) here. You just have to apply at shukubo.net and they find the right temple for you. I paid around 100€ for the night, but it was really worth it! Not only did the temple serve delicious vegan breakfast and dinner, but it also offered the opportunity to join the monks’ morning ceremony at 6am. It was such a cool experience to see them chant and pray and just follow their rituals. I would totally do it again!
The room was once again a very typical Japanese room with a futon, that was set up while we had dinner. Dinner started around 5pm, which made this the earliest night I had during my trip. It was really relaxing to just stay in and listen to some podcasts, read, write my diary. The next morning I joined the ritual, which took around 45 minutes, followed by breakfast. We all had our meals in a joined room, facing each other (at this point there were 3 other people staying at the temple) and it offered a really nice atmosphere to chat to each other. I then headed out to explore. Unfortunately this was the first (and only) day we had rain during my trip so I had to seek shelter in a café to have some tea and cake while the thunderstorm happened outside. But once the sun came out, I had a blast. Exploring all the temples, walking around the cemetery (Okunoin) for ages – it all had such a cool vibe to it. Even though there were a lot of people around.
Some people tend to do Koya-san as a day trip from Osaka, but since it takes over 2 hours to actually get to the center of everything (and it’s really worth exploring), I would recommend to just stay there for a night. Even if it’s only because of the inspiring morning rituals you can be a part of.
#5 Osaka – Bike & Bed (2 nights)
Another pretty cool hostel in Japan. Since I only stayed the for two nights and the second night I had to get to bed early to catch my plane in the morning, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as you probably could. The staff was really cool and the common area seemed crowded most of the time. So probably a pretty good hostel to meet people, I reckon! And the best thing: You can rent bikes to explore Osaka – for free!
The last day I spent in Osaka (and in Japan), I visited a few things that were still on my list.
- Osaka Castle. The Castle is another impressive piece of architecture in Japan. I didn’t want to spend any more money on entrance fees, so I decided to just stroll around the park surrounding it and taking a few photographs. I’d say it was enough.
- Fish Market. Apparently there are different ones around Osaka, but the one I went to was close to Namba Station. It had all the deliciousness a fish market has to offer minus all the people that crowded the Tokyo fish market for example. Definitely a relaxed way to try some new things.
- Cup Noodle Museum. The last thing on the list was Cup Noodle Museum. Weirdly enough, I couldn’t find ANY backpacker that hadn’t been there – so I had to go as well. The museum itself is a room, with all the different cup noodle flavours displayed on one wall and the hut, where the whole concept was invented in it. The coolest part about the museum is, though, that you can make your own cup! You can draw on it, you can choose the flavor and ingredients you like.. and all that for only around 2,50€. Perfection!
All in total, I have to say that my two favourite places in Japan are Tokyo and Koya-san. They couldn’t be more different but they both made me feel like I was in the real “Japan” – in their own way. And if anyone’s wondering: I’d go back to Japan in a heartbeat. So much more to explore!
I know all the beds somehow look the same. Hostels in Japan all have similar concepts, inspired by capsule hotels. Every bed has its own curtain with enough room in it to take your personal belongings with you. Definitely one of the countries with the best equipped and cleanest hostels around.