By JJ Walsh
I was greeted by a chorus of warm welcomes as soon as I stepped into Guest House Roku, a short walk away from the JR Shin-Hakushima station in Hiroshima city. I happen to be there on an evening where they had a barbeque planned, so the first level bar area was absolutely bustling with a mix of fellow travellers from all over the world and some local Japanese folk who live around Hiroshima who love the buzz of the place.
Perhaps Guest House Roku is not the most centrally located place compared to other hostels, but the quaint two-storey house is like a beacon of warmth in a quiet residential neighborhood. You may need to take a short five minute ride from the main Hiroshima JR station if most of your exploration happens in downtown Hiroshima or you take the shinkansen. But you can still visit popular surrounding locations like Miyajima and Iwakuni easily as the local trains do stop at Shin-Hakushima station. I think travelers with a JR pass will find it most convenient as they will not incur any additional costs. You can walk about 20 minutes to Hiroshima castle, or rent a bicycle from the hostel if you prefer.
But if the atmosphere in a hostel is what is most important to you, then Guest House Roku has that in spades. The staff are young, friendly, and vibrant, and go out of their way to welcome you to their little house. Roku offers each guest a free alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink which they can redeem from the bar area every day, which is one easy way to break the ice with fellow guests as you sit down at the common tables to have a chitchat while you finish your drink.
Facilities wise, the house is cozy, housing just 18 people with two dormitory-style rooms equipped with bunk beds and a small two-person private room. The beds are spacious and are outfitted with very large lockers that can fit a large backpack or small suitcase, even in the top bunk. You have your own power outlets and some curtains for privacy, always nice when in a shared space. The two showers on the lower level are also quite roomy and not cramped unlike most Japanese-style bathrooms where elbows hit if you so much as twitch. With dormitory prices ranging from ¥2,800 - ¥3,000, it is great value for money indeed.
This is a hostel I was sad to leave and look forward to returning to some day!
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