♫Access to sushi and night clubs and gardens / Good transportation and beds for a bargain / Locking my room up at night with a key / These are a few of my favorite things…♫
First things first: Yadoya for Backpackers is not a guest house. I let the definition slip for Guest House Carpe since it’s also a personal residence, but Yadoya for Backpackers is a hostel. And
there’s nothing wrong with that! I have no problem with hostels! But if you jumped on this article hoping for a guest house, sorry to disappoint. (There is Yadoya Guest House “Not for Backpackers,” which I haven’t stayed at but which is more like a guest house. If you’ve stayed at one of those locations, please leave a comment sharing your experience!)
Reservations: You can make reservations on sites like TripAdvisor, but I’d actually suggest Yadoya’s website instead. You’ll get a better idea of the exact options, and the English is easy to understand.
Access: This is where Yadoya really shines. The hostel is a five-minute walk from Nakano Station (check here for directions), which is itself only one stop from Shinjuku. (Okay, two stops if you get on the slow train.) The hostel is so close to Shinjuku you can walk there in about 45 minutes, just like Jason, Shannon, Jeremy, and Yu did. Shinjuku is one of the busiest parts of Tokyo, home to the best free view of the city, the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, world-class food, Takashimaya Times Square, and a lot of what people think of when they think “Tokyo.”
Neighborhood: Yadoya is on a quiet residential street, but is within easy walking distance of many great little neighborhood restaurants and karaoke joints, as well Mandarake, one of the best known anime/manga/otaku superstores. It’s also about a 30-minute walk from Koenji, which is home to much of Tokyo’s underground and indies music scene. There’s a 7-11 right across the street, which is very helpful in terms of breakfast/snacks/ATM access, and there’s a public bath down the street if you’re interested in trying one out. (Note that Japanese public baths aren’t a euphemism; they are indeed places open to the public for the purpose of bathing. You will be thrown out if you try to have sex there.)
Checking in: Easy. We confirmed our reservation, got the keys to our respective dorm rooms, took the tour of the kitchen and common area, and were shown to our rooms.
Staff: Very helpful, and everyone speaks good English. They also advertise Chinese and Spanish-speaking staff, though I can’t comment on how many staffers speak those languages, or how well. Some of the staff are expats from various countries and some are local Japanese, but all of them have good stories, know Tokyo well, and are quick with the maps and directions.
Security: Good. There are two entrances: the front doors where you go to check in and the back door. The front door is locked each night when reception closes. The back door is accessible with a key code that’s changed periodically. The path to the back door is well-lit and has security cameras. All rooms are on the second and third floors, and there are no windows on the bottom floor. Each room has a seperate key, which only those staying in that room get. (For example, I stayed in the all-female dorm and the guys stayed in the mixed dorm, so we each got a separate key to our respective rooms, but not vice versa.) The shower is shared and locks from the inside. Lavatories are shared but seperated by sex. There is one unisex toilet, but it’s adjoined with the shower room and locked when the shower is being used. Unfortunately, there are only lockers in the mixed dorm room, and you need to bring your own lock.
Size: I can’t comment on the size of the private rooms, but the dorms are smallish and packed pretty tight. There are two bunk beds in the female dorm and a small walkway to let you through; in the mixed dorm there are four bunk beds with similar small walkways. I didn’t have trouble fitting my backpack in my area, but anyone with larger luggage or more than two bags would struggle. I believe Yadoya used to be a personal residence, so it has the same narrow features that most traditional Japanese houses have: small shower, narrow hallways, steep stairs. It’s definitely not wheelchair friendly, and would probably also be tough for anyone using crutches, a walker, or a cane. The beds appeared to be twin-size, which in Japan is 77 inches long.
Comfort: Good overall. The bed was a little on the hard side, but nothing beyond how I usually find hotel beds. Although I slept in a dorm, my roommates were very quiet and respectful; the guys tell me their roommates were the same in the mixed dorm. Although Yadoya feels a little rundown and rough around the edges, and although the clutter in the office can be overwhelming, it’s clean. Though small, the shower has deliciously hot water.
Amenities: Free internet, linens, clothes irons, and hair dryers. Towels are available for 100 to 200 yen (~$1-2 USD), and you can also use the internet-capable PC (100 yen for 30 minutes), print pages (10 yen per page), or rent a bike (500 yen per day). They’ll also store your bags before your check-in or after your check-out at a rate of 200 yen per bag per day. Staff can help you book tickets for events or attractions and, as previously mentioned, are quick with the maps. The entire hostel is non-smoking. Note that there are no washing machines or dryers; you need to go to the laundromat down the street to wash clothes. No meals are included, but you have run of the kitchen.
Price: Pertty damn cheap. The price sheet says it all: there are both dorm rooms and private rooms, but nothing goes over 2,800 yen (~$25 USD) per person per night unless you want a private room to yourself. Even then, no room goes over 4,100 yen (~$35 USD) per night. If you plan to stay a month or longer, you can stay at one of the three Yadoya Guest Houses (not “for Backpackers”) around Nakano for a little cheaper still. I haven’t stayed at any of them, but if they over the same no-frills, clean and basic space as Yadoya for Backpackers, I’d say they’re more than worth the price. Bear in mind that room prices are to be paid in full in cash at check-in; credit cards are not accepted. You can use the ATM at the 7-11 across the street if you’re worried about carrying that much cash over a long distance.
TL;DR: Overall, I was happy with my stay at Yadoya. First-class digs it is not, but as far as a clean, safe, cheap place to sleep, it’s got it locked down. I especially liked that there was a lock on the dorm room door, which I’ve found not all hostels have. My biggest complaint is that there are no lockers in the female dorm, which is the only major security issue. Also, like many things with such a low price point, it’s not ideal for people with disabilities. Still, I enjoyed my stay and would probably stay again.