Tuesday Tip: 4 TRUSTED HOSTEL GROUPS To Check When Looking For AFFORDABLE ACCOMMODATION in JAPAN

We can’t deny the fact that Japan accommodation prices are very high compared to those of our neighboring countries. From someone who’s been to a number of countries, I can vouch that it actually has one of the most expensive per night rates (both in hotels & hostels) in Asia.

I’ve been flying to Japan every year since 2015 & believe it or not, I’ve never stayed in a hotel. I always go for the cheaper & comfortable option of staying in hostels. I have the tendency to be very picky on which hostel to choose & what time of room or dormitory configuration to book but so far, I’ve never made a bad decision. All rooms & bed types I got in the past are decent, secured, comfortable, some are a little bit over the usual price but totally worth every yen.

In the last 5 years of flying to & travelling around Japan, I discovered 4 trusted hostel groups that offer affordable & over-the-top services to its guests. Note that I’ve stayed in at least one property of these hostel groups in the past. If you’ve been following my Hostel Of The Day posts in the past, you’ll see some of featured hostels coming from these hostel groups. These hostels are located in places or cities where most foreigners go or visit.

The aim of these hostel groups is to provide the best quality of hospitality in the most affordable price or rate. I can assure you that all hostels under these hostel groups provide the best comfort they can at such low prices. Allow me to share with you which hostel groups you should check for your next Japan trip.

Have you read the article I posted about the pattern in getting the best travel accommodation deals online? If not, better check out this post.

Oak Hotel Group

Oak Hotel Group is a hostel group owned & managed by Oakhouse Co Ltd. The group started in 1992 as living spaces for foreigners in Japan. It has transformed into share houses for both foreigners & locals. A few years after, the hostel is operating in 6 locations in Tokyo & 1 in Nara. The hostel group’s concept is ‘enjoyable living.’ True enough, all their properties are equipped with facilities that provide comfortable & enjoyable experience.

Here are the current Oak Hotel properties: Oak Hostel Sakura in Oshiage, Oak Hotel Edo in Morishita, Oak Hostel Fuji in Asakusa, Oak Hostel Zen in Ueno, Oak Hostel Cabin in Tokyo, Oak Hotel Ikebukuro in Ikebukuro & Oak Hostel Nara in Nara.

Check out these photos of Oak Hostel Zen’s common lounge, wash, kitchen & dining areas. Neat!

My favorite Tokyo hostel is under this hostel group – Oak Hostel Zen. In fact, I already stayed in this property for 3 times (2015, 2017 & 2018) & I am planning to go back in the future. Check out the hostel of the day feature of Oak Hostel Zen.

J-Hoppers & Hana Hostels Group

J-Hoppers & Hana Hostels Group is a combination of 2 smaller hostel groups – J-Hoppers & Hana Hostels. J-Hoppers started in 2002 in Kyoto, Japan in a small building near Kyoto Station. Different branches have been added since then. The owner’s vision in creating this hostel group is to give foreigners a ‘home’ during their ‘Japan-hopping’ trips.

This hostel group also operates J-Stay, a shared-house business for those who want to stay in Kyoto for a longer time, J-Hop Tour, a bus-tour that runs from Osaka or Kyoto to Shirkawa-go & Hida Takayama & hana SAKE bar, a sake bar located on the ground floor of the Osaka property.

The hostel group currently has 12 properties across different locations: J-Hoppers Kyoto, J-Hoppers Hida Takayama, J-Hoppers Lake Biwa, J-Hoppers Kumano Yunomine, J-Hoppers Osaka, J-Hoppers Osaka Universal, J-Hoppers Hiroshima, Kyoto Hana Hostel, Osaka Hana Hostel, Hiroshima Hana Hostel, Fukuoka Hana Hostel & Gion Ryokan Q-Beh.

This is how a bed in a Hana Hostel dormitory bed looks like. It’s spacious, clean & comfortable. 🙂

One of my recent hostel of the day features is that of Fukuoka Hana Hostel where I came back for the second time. I stayed in the same property (& same room) last November 2016 when I went hopping around different cities. I also stayed in Osaka Hana Hostel & Hiroshima Hana Hostel in November 2016.

K’s House Quality Hostels

K’s House Quality Hostels is a multi-awarded hostel chain that started business in 2003 in Kyoto. As per the company’s website, their group’s concept is to provide ‘inexpensive, convenient & comfortable accommodation for travelers.’ They aim to be true to this concept by providing all guests with quality service, spacious communal areas & comfortable bedding be it in private or dormitory rooms. The group currently operates 12 properties & plans to expand to more locations in the coming years.

The hostel group also operates an affordable Mount Fuji One Day Tour & another accommodation branch, K’s Villa which offers affordable vacation rentals in various locations.

The operating hostels of K’s House are the following: K’s House Kyoto, K’s House Tokyo, K’s House Tokyo Oasis, K’s House Hiroshima, K’s House Mt Fuji, K’s House Fuji View, K’s House Hakone, K’s House Ito Onsen, K’s House Takayama, K’s House Takayama Oasis, K’s House Kanazawa & K’s House Hakuba Alps.

K’s House Kyoto’s spacious common area. This area is the best place to meet people traveling Japan.
K’s House Mt Fuji’s 8-bed dormitory room. Stayed in this dormitory room last November 2017.

I’ve always been a fan of K’s House. I stayed in K’s House Kyoto in 2015 when I flew to Japan with my high school friends. I went back to K’s House Kyoto following year with another friend from work. In 2017, I stayed in K’s House Mt Fuji & K’s House Takayama Oasis when I visited Kawaguchiko & Hida Takayama for a few days.

Khaosan Hostel Group

The last of my 4 trusted hostel groups is Japan is Khaosan Hostel Group. The group is owned by Manryo Co Ltd which started business in January 2004. The owners of the group have transformed old buildings, love hotels & restaurants into shared accommodation & now have 9 operating properties in Tokyo, Kyoto & Osaka. The company’s goal is to create a community of travelers having a great time together regardless of nationality, background & companions.

Khaosan Group currently operates & maintains the following 9 properties: Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel, Khaosan Tokyo Samurai, Khaosan World Ryogoku Hostel, Khaosan Tokyo Laboratory, Khaosan Tokyo Origami, Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki in Tokyo, Khaosan Kyoto Guesthouse in Kyoto & Khaosan World Tennoji Hostel & Khaosan World Namba Hostel in Osaka.

The family deluxe room with tatami-style beds we got at Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel.

I stayed in one of their love hotel turned accommodation in Asakusa – Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel – last February with my family. We enjoyed our stay in a Japanese (tatami) style spacious room. My high school friends also had nice reviews about their stay at the Namba property last November 2018.


The hostels may be operating under different hostel groups but bear in mind that their goals are one & the same – to provide comfortable, affordable & quality accommodation when travelling around Japan. I’ve stayed in at least one property of each hostel group & I recommend all of them to you my readers. It will now depend on your room choice, price difference & preferences on which hostel group or property you’ll book your next stay. Good luck in making those decisions.

Look how super spacious & clean this dormitory room. Took this when I stayed with Oak Hostel Zen

Have you stayed in one of the properties mentioned above? How was your stay? Are you planning to go back in one of those accommodations? Are there other Japanese hostel groups that I need to know & try in the future? Feel free to mention those properties or groups in the comments below. You can also send the details to me via e-mail to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Don’t forget to follow me & please please please also help me in promoting my social media channels – FacebookInstagram or Twitter.

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC Re & HTC U11.

Japan Highlights 2019: NARA – A Morning Visit To The Deer Park

After 36 hours in Tokyo, 48 hours in Nagano, a day being a kid at Universal Studios Japan & a lovely day around Kyoto, I accompanied my sisters to spend their last morning in Japan with the deer in Nara. This is the last city my sisters & I visited before they flew back to Manila the same evening. I’ve been to Nara in 2016 & I was delighted to go back & bring my sisters this time.

Our main reason for visiting Nara was to see & play with the deer. We really go there to explore everything Nara has to offer. I’ll probably put that as something to do in a future Nara trip. Let me share with you some details about this short but fun morning trip to Nara Deer Park.

Transportation & Access

As discussed in my previous Nara post, the city is accessible by trains from Osaka. The JR Yamatoji & Kintetsu Nara Lines connect the city to various points in Osaka. We took the JR Yamatoji line train from JR Shin Imamiya Station to Nara Station. I forgot how much the train fare costs because we used our IC cards in the trip. Journey takes about an hour per way.

We got off at JR Nara Station & walked towards Sanjo-Dori Street. This walking street full of souvenir shops, restaurants & cafes takes the visitors to the deer park. We dropped by a temple along this street before heading off to the park premises.

Applying for a Japan tourist visa soon? Let me help you. Check out these 4 easy steps on how to get your Japan tourist visa.

Kōfuku-ji

Kōfuku-ji is a Buddhist temple found along Sanjo-Dori Street & is one of the must-see places in the city. It is also one of Nara’s Seven Great Temples that played an important role in the history of the city, especially during the time of the Fujiwara clan. Make sure to check out the 5-storey pagoda within the temple grounds plus the various halls around it.

Tōdai-ji

Tōdai-ji is the most famous temple in the city. It is located just by the deer park & it houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue. This temple also has a large wooden gate at its entrance called Nandaimon Gate. Entrance to the main hall of this temple costs ¥600 per person. My sisters & I opted not to go inside the temple because of time constraints.

Nara Deer Park

Nara Deer Park is the place to see & play with the deer. These deer are considered sacred creatures in the Shinto Religion & are allowed to freely roam around the park. The deer do not bite or hurt the tourists but they tend to become really playful. The deer know how to ask for crackers from the visitors & know how to bow. They also know how to pose for selfies.

My sisters & I spent about an hour going around the park, feeding & playing with the deer. There were moments when we ran around the park because these deer don’t stop asking for food. Some of them, maybe those who are already full, just sit or lie down in one area & ignore all the people around.

Japanese Street Food

Right outside Tōdai-ji is a long row of stalls offering street food for reasonable prices. They have takoyaki (octopus balls), pork & beef sticks, yakisoba, ice cream sundae, chicken tenders, etc. My sisters & I dropped by for a snack. I got myself a pack of freshly-cooked takoyaki for ¥500.


This pretty much sums up our short but fun morning visit to the small city of Nara in Japan. It was a perfect morning side trip to see & play with the sacred deer. We rushed back to Osaka, had lunch in Ichiran, got our stuff from New World Inn Osaka & went straight to Kansai International Airport. My sisters flew back to Manila the same night while I flew to Fukuoka for an overnight stopover.

Have you been to Nara in the past? How was your visit? Did you enjoy feeding & playing with the deer? Are there other interesting places I should visit when I go back in the future? Let me know in the comments below & let’s engage in a discussion. If you want to be anonymous or if you have a question, you can also send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. Don’t forget to follow me & please please please also help me in promoting my social media channels – FacebookInstagram or Twitter.  Many thanks!

Watch out for my next post about the short stopovers in Matsumoto & Fukuoka I had for this trip plus the post about the last hostel I stayed with in this trip – Fukuoka Hana Hostel. Thank you for reading & see you next time!

PS. Photos were taken using my HTC U11.

Going Solo in Japan Series: NARA & KOBE

A week ago, I posted a blog about my stay in Kyoto & Osaka. I mentioned in my post that I went to Nara & Kobe for 2 separate day trips. These 2 cities, plus Himeji, are usually visited by tourists taking day tours from Osaka.

I was with my friend, Rona when I went to Nara while I was all by myself when I walked around Kobe. Let me discuss below how both day trips went.

With Rona on the way to Nara

NARA

The last time I went to Osaka, I didn’t have enough time to visit Nara. I felt bad I haven’t interacted with the roaming deer in Nara Park. I promised to myself that when I go back to Osaka, Nara will be number 1 in my list. And so it happened…

1, 2, 3, say Nara! 📷

Disclaimer: We did not spend the entire day in Nara. We had to go back to Osaka because Rona needs to get her bags for Tokyo plus we already have tickets for the Umeda Sky Building Floating Observatory.

How we went to Nara

Using our IC cards, Rona & I took the Midōsuji Line from Shinsaibashi Station (nearest station to our hostel) to Tennoji Station. From the red subway line, we transferred to the JR Yamatoji Line to Nara. This line to Nara starts in JR Tennoji Station so you can choose your seats inside the train.

One random walkway somewhere in Nara Park 😍 🍂

Journey takes around an hour & you pay ¥790 per way (¥230 from Shinsaibashi Station to Tennoji Station & ¥560 from Tennoji Station to JR Nara Station). An alternative route to Nara would be through the Kintetsu Nara Line from Osaka Namba Station. IC cards can also be used in this train line.

What to see in Nara

Upon arrival at Nara Station, Rona & I immediately went to the tourist information center to get maps & coffee. The walking adventure begins…

Tip: The best way to explore Nara is by foot. Yes, most sites are walkable from the main train stations.

Sanjo-Dori Street

Sanjo-Dori Street is the long, busy street that you take going to the temples & the deer park (if you are coming from JR Nara Station). It is full of restaurants, cafes, hotels & local souvenir shops. You will find almost everything you need on this street. The street has a very wide sidewalk which makes it very safe for everyone to walk.

Jokyoji Temple

Jokyoji Temple – too bad it was closed when we passed by

Jokyoji Temple – we saw this small Buddhist Temple while on our way to Kōfuku-ji. The temple had beautiful flower displays near its gate. Too bad it was closed when we dropped by.

Kōfuku-ji

Kōfuku-ji is one of the ‘Big 3’ must see temples of Nara. It was once part of the powerful 7 Great Temples in Nara. There are a number of buildings & structures around the temple grounds, but the notable ones are the following: the 5-level pagoda (one of the tallest pagodas in Japan), the National Treasure Museum & the Eastern & Central Golden Halls.

Kōfuku-ji’s Eastern Golden Hall & the 5-level pagoda 

Note: The Central Golden Hall is undergoing a major renovation. It is expected to be completed sometime in 2018.

Tōdai-ji

Tōdai-ji is Nara’s iconic & most famous Buddhist temple. The temple is also part of the 7 Great Temples of Nara. Its main hall houses the world’s largest bronze Buddha statue.

Entrance to Tōdai-ji Temple via the Nandaimon Gate

You know you are already inside the Tōdai-ji Temple grounds when you pass by the large wooden gate structure called Nandaimon Gate. Don’t forget to make friends with the tame deer roaming around the temple grounds.

Nara Park

Nara Park is the end point of the Sanjo-Dori Street if you are coming from the JR Nara Station. This park is home of the hundreds of freely roaming deer. This animal is considered sacred in Shinto religion.

The deer sittin’ like a boss 🦌

One funny thing you’ll notice is each deer knows how to bow. That also means they’re asking for food (you can buy deer crackers for ¥150 in the nearby shops). The interaction with the deer was the highlight of that day. I was also impressed that these deer know how to pose for a photo.

The autumn colors of Nara Park 😍 🍂

Aside from the deer, the park also offered beautiful autumn views. I wonder how it looks like during spring; could also be lovely. There were other halls & places to visit around the park like the Kasuga-Taisha & the Nara National Museum, but we had to rush back to Osaka. We also missed visiting Hōryū-ji (the temple to complete Nara’s Big 3 Temples) in Ikaruga. This gives me a reason to go back in the future & explore more.

What a view from Nara Park! 😍 🍂

KOBE

It was my last day in Osaka. At 9:30 pm on that same day, I will board a night bus to my last destination in Japan, Fukuoka. It was around 7:30 in the morning, I was contemplating on whether I should just stay & walk around Osaka for the last time or I go for another day trip to either Kobe or Himeji.

I didn’t want to waste another day lying in my bed or walking around Shinsaibashi, Dōtonbori & Osaka (this happened the day before – I was really lazy that day!) so I decided to go for a day trip. Himeji was a bit far from Kobe so I went for the latter.

How I went to Kobe

Random beautiful park in Kobe 🍂

Since I only have an IC card (and not the JR Pass), the only station I can arrive in Kobe is Kobe-sannomiya Station. JR Pass holders usually get off at Shin-Kōbe station. The 2 stations are about 2 kilometers away from each other. Later I found out, getting off at Kobe-sannomiya Station was actually a better idea because everything was near the area.

From Shinsaibashi Station, I took the Midōsuji Line to Umeda Station (¥230) then transferred to Hankyu-Kobe Line to Hankyu Kobe-sannomiya Station (¥320). You can also board the Hanshin Line to Hansin Kobe-sannomiya Station for the same price of ¥320. Journey from Umeda to Kobe is roughly 40 minutes.

What to see & do in Kobe

I went to Kobe with no itinerary or anything. I only have my phone & pocket Wi-Fi with me. I also had the mindset that I need to be back in Osaka by 4:00 pm to prepare for my night bus to Fukuoka. What I did was just to walk from one street to another & visit the places along the way. Luckily, I came across the following places:

Ikuta Jinja

Ikuta Jinja’s main shrine

Ikuta Jinja is a Shinto shrine located in the middle of the very busy Sannomiya area. This shrine is believed to be one of the oldest shrines in Japan. The shrine has torii gates in all entrance & exit points & even has a small garden at the back of the main temple.

View from the outside of the shrine grounds

I just accidentally saw this shrine in Google Maps while I was looking for a place to go from the train station. Beautiful shrine!

Kobe Motomachi Centre Gai Shopping Street

In my previous posts about Nagoya & Osaka, I said something about Japanese cities having a shopping street / arcade. If Nagoya has Osu Shopping Street & Osaka has Shinsaibashi Shopping Street, Kobe has its own – it’s called Kobe Motomachi Center Gai Shopping Street.

Inside Kobe Motomachi Shopping Street~

You will find all sorts of goods in this place – from clothing, to shoes, bags & even food. I found the cheapest dark chocolate & strawberry Kit Kats in one of the tax free shops here.

Meriken Park

Meriken Park is Kobe’s most famous waterfront park. It is the home of the Kobe Port Tower, Kobe Maritime Museum & the Earthquake Memorial Park. It also features a big public open space where events & special functions are held. On an ordinary day, visitors & locals normally walk or run around the park.

Meriken Park from the other side of the port

Note: There were significant improvement works being done with the Meriken Park when I visited last November. These works are in preparation for Port of Kobe’s 150th Anniversary this year.

Port of Kobe Earthquake Memorial Park

In 1995, Kobe was devastated by the Hanshin Awaji Great Earthquake. It made significant damages to both public & private infrastructure & even to houses of the locals. The pier was also severely damaged.

The government has decided to preserve a part of the pier’s damage to remind the people (both locals & visitors) of the damages caused by the strong earthquake.

Note: This earthquake memorial park is different from the Kobe Earthquake Memorial Museum. The museum is near the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.

Kobe Port Tower

Kobe Port Tower

Located within Meriken Park, the Kobe Port Tower is considered as one of Kobe’s iconic landmarks. This 108-meter uniquely shaped structure is made of red-painted steel structure. Just like any tower, it has an observation deck which I didn’t go into. It also has souvenir shops & restaurants / cafes in some of the levels.

Kobe Beef

Kobe Beef is the most famous regional specialty food in Japan. The branding came from where the cattle are bred & raised – in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture. The Wagyu beef is known for its tenderness & unique flavor.

The oh-so-good Kobe Beef for lunch!~ 😋

Kobe beef is expensive. Yes, expensive. I had second thoughts of not trying it because of the price. A few minutes after, I decided to make the most out of my visit & have Kobe beef for late lunch. Who cares about the price, eh? Kidding.

The chef prepared preparing our food~

I went to Steak Land & ordered their Kobegyu Steak Lunch Set. I forgot how many ounces of Kobe beef were in the meal, but the set also included salad, miso soup, a cup of rice, grilled vegetables & a glass of juice (can be changed to coffee or tea). The chef cooked the beef in the hibachi table in front of me. I tell you, the beef was so good it melts in your mouth. It was so tender & the flavor was something I haven’t tasted in my life.

Steak Land’s Kobegyu Lunch Set 😋

I paid around ¥3,000 (₱1,300++) for whole Kobegyu Steak Lunch Set. I believe the price was reasonable. Honestly, I don’t mind spending that amount for such a good meal. This was definitely the highlight of my Kobe day trip. It’s definitely something one should try when visiting the city.

This pretty much sums up my quick day trip to Kobe. There were still a lot of nice places to visit but I had to go back to Osaka to prepare for my night bus to Fukuoka.


To be fair, I actually had really memorable times in Nara & Kobe. The day trips were definitely worth-taking. Going around these 2 cities, even just in the centers, gave me basically the idea of how beautiful these places are. I wish I had more time, but I won’t mind going back to explore more.

Before going to Nara & Kobe, I went to Nagoya, Hiroshima, Kyoto & Osaka. Make sure to check out the individual posts linked above. The final installment of this blog series will be about my last 3 days in Fukuoka. Watch out for it!

This lovely deer knows how to pose for a photo 🦌 😍

Did you know that I only spent less than ₱50,000 for this 13-day trip in 7 Japan cities? Click here to know more. If you are planning to apply for a Japan tourist visa soon, I also posted a blog about the 4 easy steps in applying for it.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? Feel free to comment below or send me an email to contact@thewkndtravel.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.

Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) 🇯🇵 😃

PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re & HTC One M8.