Youth Hostels

So with all of these options, why is my bed of choice usually the lowly youth hostel? On my first trip to Japan, I was nearly driven crazy by the curfews and in some cases even a lights-out-at-ten rule. Years later, as a cyclist, I realized that hostels are the perfect crash pad for cyclists who are on a budget but don't want to lug camping gear along with them. Hostels are cheap, most no longer have the rules about having to clean toilets in the morning before you leave, and MOST importantly the curfew is no longer a problem: after a long day pedaling, you'll want to get a good night's sleep and head out early the next morning. Another advantage is location: wherever young Japanese students might want to travel, you can bet there's a youth hostel there, and in a prime location. And it might be something out of the ordinary: a shrine, a temple, a pension, a hot springs, you name it. Best of all for tired, thirsty cyclists: most not only allow alcohol but have beer vending machines or at least beer available right in the hostel! The meals vary in quality, but some hostels are famous among Japanese travelers for their above-average meals, which may include sashimi or other seafood in seacoast locations, steak in Hokkaido and so on. The proprietors (called "parents") are almost always great people who are a mine of knowledge about their particular area; often they can even recommend good places to cycle.

(Note: for a less flattering description of youth hostels, check out Suzanne Lee's review on pp. 85-9 of the Bicycling Japan book listed in the Resources (English Books) section.)

One caveat, however: as the prices have gradually crept upward over the years (hostels are now more than 3,000 yen per night without meals), you should know that in many cases a bed without meals in your own room in a minshuku would not be a great deal more... so take this into consideration when considering your options.

In the past (up to 1997-8) when you joined the JYH you got a nice pamphlet with detailed descriptions of each hostel. Now they include only a bare-bones pamphlet in the hopes that you'll buy their full-color (and HEAVY) tome instead. These days, of course, you can just check them out on the web:

Click on "Hostels" - a map will appear; click on each island and then on the name of the individual hostel. This English site is excellent, but if you read Japanese you might also check out the Japanese page (, since in some cases it seems to have a bit more information on individual hostels.

You should always call to make sure the hostel is open or to make a reservation, particularly during heavy travel seasons (Golden Week, in late April/early May, and from late July to the end of August when the students are out of school). Also note that many if not most hostels are closed for the New Year’s holiday season at the end of December and the first few days of January.

For other reference materials that you may find useful in route planning, see RESOURCES.