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Tokyo is a huge city. Sure you can look at a map and it doesn’t look too bad, but once you’re there and you’re hopping on the metro to get from Point A or Point B or you’re walking across neighbourhoods do you truly appreciate the sheer size of this metropolis. It takes forever to get across the city and each area of the city is so unique.
On this trip to Japan, I was in and out of Tokyo a handful of times as I wandered up and down the country. To switch it up, I stayed in different areas and hostels so I could explore the different parts of the city and help reduce travel time to the sights I wanted to see and explore.
One hostel that stood out to me when I was looking for a place to stay was Unplan Kagurazaka. I was drawn to the clean, modern aesthetic. I liked the privacy of each of the bunks which came with their own curtain. It seemed like it would be a comfortable place to end my time in Tokyo and I was right.
Unplan Kagurazaka advertises themselves as the place for rest and relaxation for your unplanned travels in Tokyo. Everything in the hostel does reflect that goal. From the quiet neighbourhood to the concierge.
Walking into the hostel, you might not feel like it’s actually a hostel. That’s because Unplan is also home to a cafe and lounge on the first floor. It serves a selection of food, coffee and operates as a bar in the evening. The area is also occasionally used for special or corporate events so don’t be surprised if you walk in one day to a room full of businessmen in suits as I did one morning.
The lounge also provides a free breakfast in the mornings from 8 – 10 AM. Available to you are hard boiled eggs, bread, a selection of spreads and a drink. It’s not a huge spread, but it’s enough to keep your stomach happy until the restaurants open at 11 or 11:30. If you prefer something more substantial, the hostel also has a common room equipped with a microwave, electric kettle and fridge where you can heat up meals from a convenience store. There is also a couch and TV in the room to relax with.
For those on long trips, the hostel also has laundry and dryer machines available. It’s 300 JPY per laundry load and 100 JPY for 15 minutes in the dryer. I found these prices to be fairly standard across the country and you’ll likely need to put your clothes in the dryer twice at the high setting.
Otherwise, if you need anything for your stay or if you have any questions, the reception is more than happy to help point you in the right direction. Everyone is really friendly and helpful whenever I approached them.
Unplan is located in the Kagurazaka neighbourhood, a quiet area in the middle of the city. While technically in the Shinjuku ward, it’s not near the main area of Shinjuku that tourists flock to. Instead, the area is quiet and quaint. It’s full of houses and I often found myself on the metro with locals as they commuted to and from work. In such a busy city as Tokyo, it was amazing to me how quiet it was on the streets. It was like I was in another city altogether. It was a wonderful refuge from the craziness of Tokyo. I really enjoyed exploring this quieter area that the average visitor to the city wouldn’t see.
It’s a very quick walk from the Kagurazaka metro station to the hostel. There are three other stations nearby on different lines, but they require a further walk – anywhere from 10 – 15 minutes away depending on how fast you walk. To save money and time on metro transfers, I ended up going to two of the three. It may sound far away, but you end up walking a lot in Tokyo so, in the big scheme of things, it really isn’t too bad.
The hostel has four different rooms available: 2 female dorms with 14 beds, a mixed dorm with 16 or 24 beds, a private family room with 4 beds and a double private room for up to 3 people. With over a month out when I booked, the female and private rooms were booked so I booked a bed in a mixed dorm for 4,500 JPY.
One thing I learned through my adventures this month is to check in as soon as you can so you can have your pick of beds and in this case rooms. I had booked the mixed dorm and I wanted to make sure that I was in the smaller room to lessen the number of people making noise. I also wanted a bottom bunk. I had hurt my knees climbing in and out of the top bunk of too many dorm beds with their wooden frames. Upon request, I was able to secure a bottom bunk in the smaller room which made my stay so much more comfortable. You can also make this request ahead of time via email.
As previously mentioned, my bunk comes with a privacy curtain which helped to reduce surrounding light and muffle noise from others. Plus privacy! My bunk became a change room. There was enough room in the bunk for me to store my day bag as well as my packing cubes with all my clothing.
There is also a locker at the head of your bed where you can store valuables. I could fit my laptop and other documents in there, but not my camera. Even if I took off my lens, it wasn’t wide enough to fit which was a bit disappointing. I often found myself not wanting to carry my camera but having to because I didn’t have a secure place to keep it. Note that you will need your own lock or you can buy one from the front desk.
Down the hall, bathrooms are split by gender, however, the shower area is communal. It was a bit strange coming out of the shower to see men at the sink or mirror brushing their teeth though. The showers are equipped with shampoo, conditioner, and body soap. While I didn’t use it, they even have a bath tub!
Any other considerations?
The bunk was made with wood which echoed any noise made by my pod mates as they shuffled their belongings around. Like in any hostel situation, sharing a room with 15 others can make it difficult to manage noise. There were people unpacking and packing at odd hours of the night, blatantly ignoring posted signs for quiet hours, which made it difficult to sleep even with earplugs in. While not the fault of Unplan, it’s something to consider if you’re a light sleeper like me.
It may be easy to baulk at the price per night (especially at a hostel!) and move on to the next listing, however for Tokyo, 4500 JPY for a bed really isn’t all that bad. While you can find cheaper accommodation in the city, you’ll definitely suffer for it. Unplan manages to strike a balance between being affordable and being comfortable which I can appreciate.
That said, even though this is a hostel, it felt more like a hotel with dorm rooms. I found it difficult to make friends with other travelers especially since people were spending long days out exploring the city (and rightly so!). However, the international team behind Unplan were super friendly and I talked to a handful of them which was really nice. They all seemed genuinely interested in where I was from and what brought me to the hostel. I do wish that there were more hostel activities to bring together solo travelers. They did have a noodle cooking night while I was there, but I had booked myself already for a food tour that night so I missed out, unfortunately.
While easily accessible to the Tokyo metro, I found the location to be a bit inconvenient. Because it is only on one metro line, it takes a lot more time to get around. It took me about 30 minutes to get to Shibuya or Shinjuku for example. Slightly less to Akihabara and Ginza and you have to almost always transfer regardless of where you’re going which adds commute time.
The Final Verdict
I had a really pleasant stay at Unplan Kagurazaka. The comfort and service I received were definitely worth the price. I enjoyed the quieter space and always looked forward to retreating into my bunk after a long day of wandering and eating my way through Tokyo. I’d recommend any traveler passing through Tokyo to consider staying here.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Unplan Kagurazaka. However, all opinions, pros, and cons discussed in this post are mine.