Staying at hostels in Japan is something else. Be warned…
In Japan, all demographics use them, not just backpackers. They’re seen as “cheap” places to stay. At some of the ones in Kyoto I’ve regularly met elderly people, families with screaming little kids running around, and housewives on vacation. The really touristy crowds will come here.
In some of the big hostels, tour groups from Taiwan, China, South Korea, or groups from other parts of Japan will offload busloads of tourists to stay in several rooms at once. Japanese High School baseball teams will stay at them.
If you want to avoid those crowds, you better make sure it’s a smaller hostel incapable of handling that many people or that it’s one that is very, very popular with backpackers.
The worst thing you can face if you are stuck sharing a room with others at a hostel in Japan is the dreaded “Plastic Bag People”.
It’s not like this:
The plastic bag women is an all-too-common-horror of the hostels I’ve stayed at in Japan. 60% of the time she strikes when I get a shared room with strangers. She’s that person who gets up at 5 am to turn on her bed light and spend the next two hours re-packing her entire suitcase. That wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t for the fact that every single item in her suitcase is wrapped in plastic bags.
I swear these women do it just to torture their bunkmates. By the end you and your bunkmates will want to strangle her with those plastic bags. There was a survey a few years ago about what people in Japan dislike the most about hostel and plastic bags came at the top of the list.
The plastic-bag-packer is the reason. They are the terror of the Hostels. Every room seems to get one, especially in the womens’ dorm room. You know you’re in for a treat when you see your bunkmates open suitcase and every item is individually wrapped in plastic.
Every. single. item.
Even her socks are separately wrapped at times instead of in pairs (okay that was one time, but still…)
They also insist on re-packing at the butt crack of dawn. Perhaps this nonsense doesn’t seem to go on in the mens’ shared room as much because they’d just toss the jerk out in the hall. I don’t know.
All I know is they are the bane of any hostel experience in Japan.
Snorers are not unique to Japan so I didn’t count them. I’ve never experienced South Korean hostels enough to know if they suffer the plastic-bag-**tch as I call her.
Other than that issue, hostels in Japan are quite nice and clean. If you don’t mind the families with small children and the elderly folks and the plastic bag packers, they’re affordable, clean, and very comfortable.
Just make sure you pack a pair of really good ear plugs.
And maybe hang a a sign on your bunk that reads:
IF YOU PACKED EVERYTHING IN PLASTIC, I’LL PACK YOU IN PLASTIC.
Just to be a friendly bunkmate.