Michael Taylor was never one for backpacking – nor had he ever stayed at a youth hostel before.
So it was up to his teenage travel guide to make all the arrangements and buy all the tickets.
Michael just did what he was told – in halting Engish – as the two of them tentatively made their ways around the Land of the Rising Sun.
For one thing, I don’t like carrying things on my back. I find it very uncomfortable. The few backpacks that I’ve bought over the years were quickly offloaded to backpacking friends.
For another, I associate backpackers with here today, gone tomorrow. I prefer to rent rooms by the week – preferably by the month. I like to unpack things, put them away, and pretend that I live in a place. I like to find a favourite cafe or restaurant or bar and make it my hangout.
I also find it tedious eating out three meals a day. I prefer accommodation that comes with an efficiency kitchen so that I can go to the neighbhorhood market, buy things, and cook them myself. Eating out is fun – but not every meal, every day.
So backpacking my way around Japan with a Japanese teenager was a unique – and very eye opening – experience. Staying at Japanese youth hostels added to the sense of adventure. And I must add, it was a lot of fun.
Youth Hostels in Japan
Japan Youth Hostels, Inc., is part of a global network of 5,500 youth hostels around the world. There are about 350 of them in Japan. The cost per night is 3,000 yen, or 5,000 yen on a “half board” basis (that means breakfast and dinner, but not lunch).
A unique feature of Japanese youth hostels is that they all have communal bathing facilities, and the steaming hot tubs are very, very relaxing after a hard day’s sightseeing.
Rooms sleep between four and eight people, and many of them have bunkbeds. Western beds are the norm, but some hostels have Japanese style tatamis. Guests are expected to help out with chores, which means making your own bed and cleaning up in the kitchen.
Youth hostels close between 10 am and 3 pm. They reopen at 3 pm and remain open until 8 pm. Guests wanting to have dinner there should arrive before 6.30 pm
If I remember correctly, you are not allowed to leave your things in the room. Also, you could not stay more than two or three few days.
Sometimes everyone minded their own business, failing to even make eye contact with the others in the room. Other times, there was a great sense of community. I remember that the group I shared a room with in Kyoto was very, very convivial.
I was one of two foreigners sharing a room with six Japanese teenagers. They all wanted to know our nationalities. When I told them I was American, they cheered and enthusiastically hummed the “Star Spangled Banner” – much to the amusement of the other foreigner, a German university student, that was sharing the room.
Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: Tokyo Tower Photo Credits: Pyzhou (via Wikipedia Commons)
To Be Continued
Sunday Travel Comics