Photo credit: Chambres-Hotes.fr
A cozy little house tucked into the Hiroshima suburbs, complete with soaking tub and delightfully mismatched teacups. But Guest House Carpe also has some problems that make it less than ideal for all travelers.
Reservations: You can make reservations online through TripAdvisor or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org in English or Japanese. Beware the English on site, however; although it advertises private rooms, what that means is that you and/or your group can choose to rent one entire dormitory room; there’s no room without bunk beds.
Access: Good—Guest House Carpe is a three-minute walk from Nishi-Hiroshima Station (San’yo Main Line), which is about 10 minutes from Hiroshima Station. It’s also a five-minute walk from the Nishi-Hiroshima streetcar stop, which is about 30 minutes from Hiroshima Station and 15 minutes from the Atomic Dome. The guest house is buried in behind several other houses, so it can be a little hard to find, but there are several videos on YouTube that give you directions.
Neighborhood: Uptown residential. Although I couldn’t find a single attraction in the neighborhood, there were plenty of little izakaya, okonomiyaki, and yakiniku joints scattered around the station that make good dinner spots.
Checking in: Easy—Kayo confirmed our reservation and collected the fee around the kotatsu (!) after serving tea. She speaks good English, so there’s no language barrier to worry about.
Staff: Kayo runs the guest house alone. She’s welcoming and kind, but a little distant for my taste. We hardly saw her during our time at Guest House Carpe, which made me a little sad after the genial atmosphere at Guest House Hennka Kyoto. Still, you can’t really complain about a host who doesn’t pester you.
Security: Middling. Guest House Carpe is nothing more than Kayo’s personal residence, which she opens to travelers. As a result, there are only two rooms other than her own, both hostel-style dorm rooms. Although there are separate female and co-ed dorms, neither has a locking door as far as I could tell. The website claims there are lockers, though I didn’t see any when I was there. (To be fair, we were the only people staying those two nights, so I didn’t press hard to find them.) The door to the street also remains unlocked late into the night so guests can come and go, with the last person in bearing the responsibility of locking it behind them, meaning that for much of the night you’re still sleeping behind nothing more than a series of unlocked doors (unless you’re the last one in, I suppose). Although this is a sleepy neighborhood in the suburbs of a Japanese town, I could see how this might make some people nervous.
Size: Because of the hostel-style setup, there’s very little in the way of personal space. That said, Kayo gives you full run of the house so it’s not too bad as long as you’re okay hanging with other travelers. If you want true alone time, you’ll have to go for a walk.
Comfort: Decent. The beds are a little hard, as thin hostel mattresses are wont to be, but they’re lump-free and the blankets are warm. It’s also nice being able to just walk downstairs into a big kitchen to fix yourself a cup of tea in the middle of the night. Other small touches that come with a traditional Japanese house (can anyone say Japanese soaking tub?) make it homey and relaxing. Be careful on the stairs, though—they’re steep and slick.
Amenities: Kotatsu! Japanese tub! These are truly rarities in the Japanese budget accommodation world, and worth their weight in gold when it’s cold outside. There’s also a washing machine available for 200 yen (~$2 USD), though bear in mind that it has a small load size. Linens, wi-fi and bath towels (changed bi-daily) are included. No meals are included, but you do have run of the kitchen and complimentary tea and coffee.
Price: The base price is 2500 yen (~$25 USD) per person per night, although discounted rates are available for travelers staying over 3, 6, and 30 nights, as well as for groups of 4 wanting to rent an entire room.
TL;DR: It’s fun staying in a Japanese house and getting a look at the little things Japanese find homey—deep tubs, smooth wood, and the entryway crowded with shoes. Unfortunately, the low security makes Carpe less suitable for families and the lack of privacy makes it less suitable for couples. Because of the steeps stairs, Carpe also isn’t a good option for people with disabilities. With the low price, though, Carpe can be a decent place for solo or group travelers who don’t mind getting cozy with their fellow travelers. For my part, I’d stay again, if only for the kotatsu.[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m14!1m8!1m3!1d3292.111569873623!2d132.427243!3d34.39851!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x355aa28c169f3cd7%3A0x9b4ff62a15489b87!2sGuest+House+Carpe+Hiroshima+Koi!5e0!3m2!1sen!2sus!4v1428418145822]