Best Hostels in Japan: Stylish and Budget Friendly Options

Kochi no Ya - photo credit Kochi no Ya Hostel

While I had my share of hostel stays in my early 20s, I kept a decisive distance from the hostels all through my late 20s and 30s. My opinion about the hostel experience was shaped by my trips to Europe in the early 2000s – at a time when hostels were simply low-budget options where 6 to 20 people were packed in one room – where hygiene was optional – with a very small and often uninviting common area downstairs.

Most hostels also had a policy that banned you from going back to your room between 11 am-3 pm for cleaning/safety purposes. I also always disliked the feeling of getting back to a cramped and unkempt room after spending a day strolling through beautiful European cities. So as soon as I started earning my own money – I said goodbye to hostels with no intention of ever returning.

How I changed my view of hostels

Never say never. At 37, I quit my full-time lawyering job in Istanbul and switched to a part-time and freelance working model with substantially less pay but more freedom and time in my hands. This meant longer travel but less money to spend on accommodation. And when I say longer, I mean months-long travels at a time. So I had no option but to reconsider my relationship with the hostels. 

My growing interest in Asia also had a big impact on my newly developed outlook on hostels. I was by my mid-30s fully taken by the exquisite beauty of the Far East and almost entirely abandoned the West except for my beloved Scandinavia.

Among the Asian countries that I have visited, Thailand was the most influential one in terms of changing my view of the hostels. That is where I came across the concept of design hostels where you could stay for as low as USD 10-20/night with access to spacious and stylish common areas. Most hostels also had the option to upgrade to a single room without breaking the bank. I also have to mention the Dearly Hostel on Koh Tao Island in Thailand which is one of the best accommodation experiences that I ever had.

My favorite hostels in Japan

Now I live in Japan and I get to travel very often within the country both for leisure and travel writing gigs. During personal trips, I now find myself actively looking for hostels. If there is a single room option in the hostel, I will often still go for it. I love the youthful energy in most hostels, the common areas, and the color that they bring to the sleepy rural towns in Japan. I recently wrote an article for Gaijin Pot telling the stories of three hostel owners in rural Japan if you would like to read more about the impact of hostels on rural Japan.

Hostels in Japan tend to be a little more expensive than their Southeast Asian counterparts (ranging between USD 25-40 per night) but they usually offer hotel-level service quality. While there is an abundance of fine-quality hostel options in large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto – thanks to a recent movement, hostels are also becoming more and more common in smaller cities and even in rural Japan.

Here is a list of some of my favorite hostels in Japan. 

South Island Youth Hostel in Yakushima: enjoy a secluded island stay

If you have been following my blog, you may know that Yakushima is one of my favorite destinations in Japan. I have spent months on the island during three different tips. During those visits, I found the opportunity to stay at different corners of the island and test many of the accommodation options. As you will see in my main Yakushima posts, there are wonderful accommodation choices in Yakushima including private house rentals, Japanese-style guesthouses, and upscale hotels.

Among all those options, some of my most memorable stays were at the South Island Youth Hostel. The hostel is hidden in the woods on the south coast of the island and offers both dorm and private room options. The dorm rooms have just two bunk beds with enough space for even study desks and never feel crowded. They have large reading, dining, and cooking areas and I have met some amazing people during all my stays at South Island Youth Hostel in Yakushima. Last but not least, the hostel is also within walking distance of one of the best ocean-side onsen in Yakushima – Hirauchi Onsen.

Hostel Perch in Sado Island: when in Sado, look no further

Hostel Perch in Sado Island is a reason alone to visit Sado Island. Offering dorm, single, double, and triple rooms – Hostel Perch is possibly the most stylishly designed hostel listed in this post, which is already full of hostels where tasty design is a priority.

The hostel is located in a relatively happening town in Sado Island – Suwa Town, that has a very retro vibe while also featuring many amenities to assist independent travelers, not an easy find in rural Japan, that include a fully stocked grocery store, wide range of eateries, numerous bus stops and a beautiful coastline.

Three staff smiling in a hostel in Goto Islands
Te To Ba team in Fukue Island

Ta Bi To Hostel in Goto Islands: what an island, what a hostel

Located in the small village of Tomie in Fuku Island, the largest one among the Goto Islands – Ta Bi To Hostel felt like a destination on its own. Managed by the owners of the cafe right by the hostel, the hostel occupies a traditional Japanese house.

Offering one dorm and one private room, the immaculately clean hostel is a perfect place to base yourself to explore Fukue Island. I originally intended to stay in Fuku for three days and quickly changed my plans in favor of a longer stay as soon as I set foot in Ta Bi To Hostel.

Man paddling in ocean under rainbow in Okinawa
Early morning in Tokashiki Island

Kerama Backpackers in Tokashiki Island – Okinawa: enjoy the island life

In Tokashiki Island of Okinawa, which is easily accessible bv ferry from Naha, I always stay at Kerama Backpackers Hostel. The hostel occupies and old but well maintained building with all the amenities that a solo traveler will need. There is a common kitchen, multiple showers and a grocery store nearby. The owner also offers free shuttle service to the beaches. You can get a dorm bed for around 2500 Yen a night.  

Ise Guesthouse Kazami in Ise City: convenient location and great design

I do not think I would have made a stop at Ise City on my way to walk part of the Iseji Route of Kumano Kodo if I had not come across Ise Guesthouse Kazami when planning my trip. Their website immediately caught my attention and convinced me to stay the night in Ise and check out the famous Ise Shrine before heading down to my main destination – Owase.

Guesthouse Kazami is a wonderful hostel with a unique style and all the conveniences a solo traveler may need. The hostel has an interesting circular architecture and wood-based yet stylish decoration. The rooms are modestly sized eliminating the feeling of soulless dorm rooms. There are also common areas including a fully equipped kitchen. The most pleasant surprise for me was the morning mini-bread service (100 yen/a piece) in a country where breads do not come in interesting varieties. Kazami is a wonderful base for any trip to Ise and also very convenient if you only have a night to stay in the town.

Hatchi the Hostel in Kanazawa: stylish design in one of the finest cities in Japan

Hatchi the Hostel in Kanazawa belongs to the Share Hotels Group, which has a wonderful selection of design hotels/hostels in Japan. I stayed at Hatchi the Hostel during my December 2018 visit to Kanazawa. I originally booked for two nights but I loved the city and the hostel so much that I ended up staying for ten nights. 

The hostel has its own coffee shop on the first floor in addition to a breakfast and dining space. It also has one of the largest and best-designed common kitchens that I have seen with a big shared table. If you are heading to Kanazawa and looking for a budget option with a central location, look no further than Hatchi the Hostel.

J-Hoppers Kumano Yunomine: hostel with a private onsen

Hostel with a private indoor and outdoor onsen. I do not think I need to write any further to sell this hostel to you. Yunomine Onsen and J-Hoppers ia a great option for a stand-alone trip or as a few days rest stop during your walk on Nakahechi Route of Kumano Kodo

The hostel has its own private indoor and outdoor onsen. It also offers both dorm style and private rooms. This is a very professionally managed facility and the large common kitchen comes handy since the dining options in Yunomine are rather limited. Yunomine is home to one of Japan`s oldest onsen – Tsunoyu – that is minutes away from the hostel.

Kiyasato Ihatov Hostel near Shiretoko in Hokkaido: little house in the prairie

I stayed at Kiyasato Ihatov Hostel for three nights during my summer trip to Hokkaido. This is a wonderful hostel/hotel run by a couple. The dorm rooms each have two bunk beds. The dining area is very spacious and with excellent views of the endless greenery surrounding the house. The hosts will gladly pick you up from the nearby Kiyasato train station and also drive you to town for dinner or to the nearby onsen. They also offer an amazing breakfast set for 500 yen per person and I highly recommend that you sign up for it the evening before. They have a kitchen but do not serve dinner.

Kiyasato Ihatov is close to the wonderful Shiretoko Natural Park, which is unfortunately a little hard to get to unless you have your own private car. The owners can however also book a tour for you that daily departs from the hostel including guide and a round-trip transportation (for 5000 yen per person).

Hostel in Japan
Ichi the Hostel Common Area – photo credit Ichi the Hostel

Ichi the Hostel in Hiwasa – Shikoku: hostel with a pub

Located in beautiful Hiwasa town in Tokushima prefecture, Ichi the Hostel is a great base to explore the coastal towns of Tokushima Prefecture. In addition to the immaculately kept rooms, the hostel has a cozy common and very stylish pub occupying the adjacent shack.

Hiwasa town is also a great place to explore and it is rich very in terms of the dining choices. For more about the background story of Ichi the Hostel – Hostels Making a Difference in Rural Japan. For more about my time in Hiwasa and Ichi the Hostel: Walking Shikoku.

Kochi no Ya Hostel in Aki: wonderful town, wonderful host

I already wrote a separate post for Kochi no Ya Hostel located in Aki in Kochi prefecture. It was one of the best hostel experiences I had in Japan where the quality of most of the hostels is already very high. The owner and her attention to detail make this hostel almost too good to be true. The accommodation is not limited to dorm rooms and you can also book single or family rooms. The cafe area in the hostel becomes a bar three nights in the evening giving you a great opportunity to mingle with the friendly locals.

Aso Base Backpackers Hostel in Aso – Kyushu: in the footsteps of an active volcano

During my September 2021 visit to Aso National Park, I stayed at Aso Base Backpackers Hostel, which is a walking distance to Aso train station. The facilities are immaculately clean and the hostel has a very reasonable fee policy. The kitchen is very well equipped and there is all day free coffee service. The owners are very experienced in hostel management and will help you to get the best out of your stay in the area.

K`s Hostel in Daisetsuzan in Hokkaido: hikers heaven

K`s Hostel, like Aso Base Backpackers, mainly caters to hikers who want to explore the trails of Daisetsuzan National Park. The building is large and not as inspiring as some other hostels in the list but the hospitality of the staff and the outdoor onsen free to the guests more than make up for it.

K`s Hostel Daisetsuzan offers both private and dorm rooms. Free breakfast is also available and starts early to accommodate the hikers who want to hit the trails at sunrise. There is a spacious dining area along with a fully equipped kitchen. There are no grocery stores in the area so it is best to do your shopping beforehand. The hostel also has a small section selling packaged curries and some frozen foods.

These are some of my favorite hostels in Japan and the list is continuously growing. For more about my favorites in the accommodation department, you can check my post on my favorite hotels and hostels in the world.