Regulations and membership
It is possible to stay at a youth hostel even if you aren’t a member, but it will cost you approximately 600 yen more per night at the privately owned ones (the government run youth hostels charge you the same regardless of whether you are a member or not). At the privately run youth hostels, if you are staying more than 5 days you are better off becoming a member because as a non-member it will cost you 3,600 yen for 6 days. In fact, if you stay for 6 nights as a non-member you automatically receive a member’s card.
Membership prices vary according to age. If you are over 19 it is 2,500 yen with an annual renewal fee of 2,000 yen. If you are under 19 it is 1,500 yen and an annual renewal fee of 1,000 yen. You must be over 4 years old to use the Youth Hostels. To become a member is fairly easy to do by going to one of the youth hostels prefectural offices. If you are already a member of a youth hostel in your own country you can use that membership. There are 60 locations in Tokyo and 800 in Japan where you can register. When you go there you are required to have a license or something which identifies you such as a health insurance card. Once you become a member it entitles you to receive discounts (usually 10-20%) on train travel, plane fares, museums and other public facilities. You can also get cheap rent-a-car from Orix (10%) or Nissan rent-a-car (5%).
Most bunk bed rooms are in western style, but there are some rooms with Tatami Mats. Although youth hostels are gender separated, private rooms can also be made available to families or groups.
Average pricing for accommodation at a Youth hostel with 2 square meals is about 4,500 yen/day, although pricing varies between 3,000 yen to 5,000 yen per night. If you pay 5,000 yen you can often get a room with a bath.
When you stay at a youth hostel in Japan you are required to clean your own table and put your sheets on the bed. Although the food is pretty good the prices are comparatively low.
You can book a room 90 days in advance by phone. Generally, cancellation fees don’t apply if you cancel at least 4-6 days in advance. If you cancel one day prior to your stay it costs 50% of the accommodation fee.
Alternatives to Youth Hostels
In addition to youth hostels, there are youth guest houses which are a grade up from youth hostels which are explained in a separate article. Youth Guest Houses are a great alternative for people who don’t want to ‘rough it’ and for those travelling in groups who are looking for decent accommodation. According to some industry insiders, one reason why youth guest houses have come about is because the number of people using youth hostels dropped in recent years. According to one of the youth guest hostel owners there used to be over 600 youth hostels with over 600,000 members but now there are only about 350 youth hostels with 100,000 members. This drop is possibly due to the poor state of the facilities and comparatively low standard of service.
Richie Johns is a long term resident of Japan.