By Hoyee Tse
When you were growing up, did you dream about sleeping in a toy shop, where you can play all you like? How about staying in a former fashion boutique, where you can try on all the clothes you want!
J-Hoppers Hostel in Kyoto is housed in a former boutique, and traces of its fashionable past still remains. With its shop window like exterior, you could be dreaming about being a clothes model. Inside, there is a neat collection of yukatas (cotton kimonos for summer) that you can try on for free. It is a great idea to try on what suits you, and take a few modeling photos, as a souvenir of your visit. You can also get an idea of what you like to hire, should you want to go to a kimono dressing shop and fully immerse yourself in Kyoto life.
It is said that in Osaka, the kitchen of Japan, they would spend their last penny on food. In Kyoto, they would spend it on kimonos. You can certainly see that from the beautiful kimonos in Gion and Higashiyama.
Speaking of these scenic spots, it is only a ten minute direct bus ride from J Hoppers to both Gion and Higashiyama. And being in the quieter south side of Kyoto station, it is easy to secure a seat on these buses at day or night.
When you step in to the Kyoto J Hoppers Hostel you will soon find yourself at home, as if you are in a homestay with lots of Japanese friends. As most of the staff are from Kyoto and the guests are Japanese (especially outside the cherry blossom viewing season in March), you will feel the calm and beauty of Kyoto from the moment you step in.
At the front desk I am greeted by Yukari and as she has provided a welcome card on the counter listing her hobbies and travel history it is easy to break the ice, and soon we feel like we are friends with some uncanny connections. Being a small hostel you soon get to know everyone, and they have handwritten some wonderful recommendations around the hostel on what treasures I should discover I should go to in Kyoto. I ask her what is the best way to get around, and whether I want to feel the breeze using their rental bikes (at 500 yen a day is the cheapest in Kyoto) or go further with a one day Kyoto bus pass (she sells them too at the counter from 500 yen), meeting Yukari and her front desk team is like meeting a human Doraemon (A magical character in Japanese anime) with all the goodies you need in her yōjigen-pocket! There is also an extensive library of travel books in the lounge next to reception, so help yourself and discover all there is to know about Japan.
Even though it is a hostel, you can forget about your images of Spartan industrial sized kitchens and shower blocks that you find in many other countries. Instead it is very homely and super clean at the same time.
J Hoppers Hostel prides itself in bring Japan to the world, so whether you want to converse in Japanese or English with the Japanese guests and staff, or cheer for your favorite football team at one of the many parties they have each month (they are especially famous for their yaki soba and takoyaki parties), even single travelers will not feel lonely here, being like a home away from home.
As you can imagine this place gets booked out early, otherwise they have a slightly more upscale sister guesthouse called Hana Hostel on the other side of JR Kyoto station. At both hostels you can get a stamp card where you can get a coupon after four nights stay, starting from 200 yen off. They also have sister hostels in Osaka, Hiroshima and Takayama.
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I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from JapanTravel.com. Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us.