By Peter Lin
A quick train ride from Shinjuku or Shibuya, the Shimo-kitazawa district has long been a draw for Tokyo's youth and for tourists, with an abundance of second-hand clothing stores and hip cafes, bars and restaurants on its narrow, mostly pedestrian streets. Until recently, though, there have been very few places to stay there, but now there are not one but two hostels, of which the appositely named Shimokita Hostel is one.
It's up on the fourth floor, well insulated from the noise of the busy streets below. It's a nice, sociable place, with friendly English-speaking staff, and a little lounge by reception to hang out and chat in. The aesthetic is modern but low-key, easy on the eye, with plenty of wood and pastel colours.
The dorm pods are compact, but well fitted out; the bedding is nice and comfortable, and you have a mirror, a safe box, outlets and a USB port to charge your devices, so you can take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. The safe box might be useful, because there's limited space in the hostel for storing luggage; there are no lockers, just a rail that you can lock your cases or bags to. (If you're worried, the door is locked overnight, with entrance by card key.)
There are five room types: superior, standard and bunk private rooms, or double pods and single pods in the dorm. The website gives rates of 8500 or 7500 for private rooms, 4800 for double pods and 3800 for single pods, but you may be able to find better deals on reservation apps. One point to note is that you can't pay with cash: they accept only credit cards or Japanese smart cards such as Suica or Pasmo.
There's not much sightseeing nearby, just one temple and one shrine, but it's easy to get to the rest of Tokyo on the very frequent trains. What you do have is a myriad of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes; supermarkets and family restaurants serve the local residents, while quirky cafes and hip bars make up the nightlife. For travelers, there's also an exchange counter and a coin laundry within easy reach.
The hostel is just a minute's walk from the south-west exit of Shimo-kitazawa station, on the Odakyu line from Shinjuku or the Keio Inokashira line from Shibuya.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.