A lot of people think that traveling to Japan can be costly. Before visiting the country, I myself thought that it would be extremely expensive if I ever planned on going there for a holiday. While it’s true that some things are indeed more expensive in Japan, there are also some things that are surprisingly cheap, and one of them is lodging.
For my Tokyo trip with Mike, Paula, and Eric, as soon as we got our visas, we decided to book two types of lodging: one hostel for our first 4 nights and one ryokan for the rest of our stay. For our first crash pad, we researched on good, reputable, and most of all, reasonably-priced hostels in Shibuya, and stumbled upon this pretty hostel called Shin-Ōkubo Sekitei. Being girls (though we don’t act like it sometimes), Paula and I instantly fell in love with the pretty pastel-colored website with images of pink cherry blossoms and the clean, minimalist, and dainty-looking rooms. (*Note to hostel owners: a beautiful website makes a HUGE difference. And having an English version really helps too.) Even the room names were pretty – Magnolia, Peach, Sakura, Bellflower, Lily, Sunflower… there was just one room called Adonis that kind of ruined everything. We were so excited to have found THE hostel, that we went straight to the Agoda website and booked it…
…only to realize later after we have already paid our deposit of PHP 20,000+ that we booked the wrong hostel!!!
Hey, don’t judge. Shit got confusing. Anyway, instead of booking Shin-Ōkubo Sekitei, we booked Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel. And if you’re a Japan virgin, this is a forgivable mix-up. But I guess it was a “happy accident” because Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel actually turned out to be a pretty good hostel.
But first, let me take you on a little tour of Shin-Ōkubo, which is a neighborhood within the Shinjuku district, and is more popularly known as Tokyo’s “Korea Town.” Here, you’ll find hundreds of Korean businesses, restaurants, and shops selling Korean goods and K-pop paraphernalia, some of them, with K-pop music blaring from inside the stores. Naturally, there is also a substantial Korean community in this area. In fact, Koreans represent the second largest ethnic minority in Japan (the largest being — you guessed it! — the Chinese). In the street where our hostel was located, it was pretty quiet so we got a lot of good sleeps in there.
Once you get out in the main road, however, that’s when the area becomes more alive and colorful. It’s a busy place with lots of pedestrians and vehicles passing by, and at night, the bright lights of the shops animate the streets.
Shin-Ōkubo Hotel is only 5 minutes away from the JR Shin-Ōkubo station and JR Ōkubo station south exit by foot. It is just one train ride from the Shinjuku station, which is where all the action is. Because it’s so close to the train station, it’s such a breeze getting around the city. If you can’t find a hostel that’s a few steps away from the Shinjuku station, find one in Shin-Okubo instead. There’s really not much of a difference.
The hotel is in Japan, and Japan is always in apple pie order, so bedbugs and microbes should be the least of your concerns. I understand if you’re a little paranoid though. Hostels do have a reputation of being the accommodation of choice of unkempt backpackers with sordid underwear (not always true, by the way). From my personal experience, though, Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel was immaculate. To maintain the cleanliness of the place, the hostel does not allow guests to wear shoes beyond the reception area. A shoe locker is provided as a stash for your smelly sneakers.
There are only 11 guest rooms available in the hotel, which is a good thing, because you don’t want too many people dawdling around in the common areas. There were no king-sized beds available when we booked so we settled for a twin room (a room with two separate beds) and just put the beds together (for easier snuggling). Our room was very simple in design and features, but it has all the essentials like a wooden bedside desk, a small fridge, an electric kettle, and of course, a bed to sleep on. A basic room is all you really need if you’re planning to explore the city anyway. Though the room wasn’t enormous, it was big enough for me and Mike, and spacious enough to store two huge pieces of luggage and lots and lots of shopping bags, while still giving us enough elbow room to move around. I have stayed in much, much smaller guest rooms before, and the extra space in the rooms of Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel was wonderful.
Our room also had its own bathroom (Yay!). For the rate we got the room for, I really wasn’t expecting much. I was prepared for the possibility that I could bathe and pee (among other things) in the same tiny nook. But Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel’s bathroom surprised me. Sure, it wasn’t massive but it was divided into three separate areas: a shower cubicle (with its own door), a wash area, and a toilet which also has a separate sliding door. Girls spend a lot of time in the bathroom, so I was pretty happy that our loo was sufficiently roomy! We also did not have to worry about shampoo, conditioners, soaps, toothbrushes, ear buds, towels, and a hair dryer because these were all provided by the hostel.
All guest rooms have internet connection, and wow, their internet is fast! When I was doing my research on the hostel, I read that their wi-fi is one of their best features. A fast internet connection is really important because after a long day of adventures in the city, you’ll want to go straight to your room and upload all your photos on Facebook and Instagram!
Because we were always out and about, and hardly in our hostel, we never really got to spend time in the common room. It looks like a nice place to hang out in though. It’s got everything a backpacker or traveler needs for a little R&R.
Shin-Ōkubo is very close to Kabukichō, an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku, a district regarded by many as unsafe. Because of its proximity to Kabukichō, people believe that Shin-Ōkubo is also not a safe neighborhood. However, we did not really have any problems with safety during the whole time we were there. I guess if you come from the Philippines where a day without crime is synonymous to April Fools, Shin-Ōkubo feels like Abraham’s bosom. People were either friendly or just minded their own business. We all felt very safe in Shin-Ōkubo, even when we were walking back to the hotel very late at night.
There is no security guard or a gate at the hotel, probably because they’ve never needed those. Their door is made of glass, and if you’re scared that someone can just easily break in, well, get over it. This is Japan, the land of astonishing technology. I wouldn’t be surprised if the glass door transforms into a giant cannibalistic robot that eats thieves alive. I hope that helped alleviate your fears.
The one thing I love most about Japan aside from their food? The people! They are all just so genuinely nice and helpful! The staff of Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel are no exception. They are always ready and willing to help you out with absolutely anything. They also have workers that speak Japanese, English, Korean, Chinese, and even Russian (because the owner is Russian).
And speaking of the owner, there was a little misunderstanding with our hotel payment. We made a little boo boo with our booking, which I will explain later. Instead of getting irritated at us, the owner politely and patiently explained everything to us, so we’re cool.
One thing you must know is that there are no elevators in the hostel. But don’t worry because if you need help in bringing your luggage up to your room, the staff can help you with that. But unless you’ve got arthritis or you’re the Queen, do it yourself and get some exercise!
This is something that could be useful to you: a coin laundry machine is located on the 1st floor, so you can just bring a few clothes, save on luggage space, wash your clothes in the hostel, and reuse them whenever you want. Now you don’t have to worry about being labeled as an unkempt backpacker with sordid underwear!
For a list of their room rates, you can check out this page. I can say that hands down, this hostel has good value. It has all you could want and need in a hostel for a very affordable price. Because Mike and I shared a room, we only paid JPY 5,250/night (PHP 1,936) or JPY 21,000/4 nights (PHP 7,741)! What a steal! Actually, I believe we paid even less than that because we booked through Agoda. See? Not everything is expensive in Japan!
Regarding that booking boo boo I was referring to, a word of advice: if you’re booking through Agoda, make sure that in the field that asks for your “Max Occupancy,” you indicate the TOTAL number of people in your group, and not the number of people staying in one room. So, say there are 4 of you, and you’re booking 2 rooms and there will be 2 persons in each room, your maximum occupancy is 4, and not 2. Uggghhh! Math! My head is exploding!
Overall, I would say that this swell hostel in the heart of Korea Town is a very good option for travelers.
Shin-Ōkubo International Hotel (新大久保国際ホテル)
Address: 1-1-10 Hyakunin-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo (For complete directions, check this page) http://license-kanren.com/internationalhotel/en/access