Arriving late in the evening to a grinning Satoshi, I took out my travel documents and placed them on the counter. When it is suggested that registration and check-in can be finalised but only after I joined them for dinner (a Takoyaki-party no less), I knew that I was onto a winner. Very seldom does life deal the “kill-three-birds-with-one-stone card”, so I jumped at the opportunity to feed the black hole in my belly, meet fresh faces, and have a crack at some home-cooked local cuisine.
I greeted the assembled cast in the cosy living area; San-chan the ball of energy from Jeju island, Delphine of Brussels the voice of reason with an edge, Lauren from down under with the quick wits and taste for art, Akita-san the matronly, and Satoshi the humble. Ice-breakers can always be tricky with an international audience, but here in this room we were all under the same banner as travellers, making introductions pretty straightforward.
Initial awkwardness leaves us the moment we realised that we needed to learn how to cook the Takoyaki balls, for those who don’t cook don’t eat. The Korean master chef passed on some pearls of wisdom; the secret was to pay attention to timing and to maintain one’s confidence.
I quickly learnt not to trust any foreigners in the room as my Takoyaki ended up looking like a grotesque scene from a horror movie. Tentacles slipping out of a broken shape that was once its egg. Eventually though, we got handy with the wooden skewers and we all had our fill notwithstanding the many failures.
Alas dinner came to an end. The rest of the evening was spent in front of fresh fragrant cups of roasted tea for I was too spent this night for inebriation. Stories and trinkets and cameras were bandied around the table, as were snacks acquired on each person’s travels.
Hours go by as bards and storytellers took centre stage in an evening of discovery, comedy and goodwill. Knowing only two Japanese words, “doko”(where) and “toire”(restroom), I had no chance of keeping up with some conversations, but quite evidently laughter is contagious as I found myself cracking up for seemingly no reason whatsoever.
After messing about with the in-house guitar for a bit, the clock on the counter read “Time to Hit the Sack” so I washed up and prepared to test the futons provided. Curled up beneath the warmth of a thick quilt and satisfied with the events of the evening, I overheard San-chan and Satoshi discussing what to have for dinner tomorrow.
I allowed myself a chuckle as slumber embraced me. Apparently dinner would be Kani Nabe (Crab Hotpot), and the key to successfully cooking the crab to perfection is to pay attention to timing and to maintain one’s confidence.
Tomorrow is going to be great.
Here are some tips on choosing the right hostel
- Location – Pick a hostel that is in line with your tolerance for commuting. Take into account sights that you are interested in, as well as proximity to transport lines. Also keep in mind where you will be arriving, and departing from, as these are the routes where you will be carrying your full load of luggage.
- Character – Read reviews on the hostel website, or portals like Hostelworld, Hostelbookers or AirBnB to get a feel of the hostel vibe. If you want a quiet and peaceful atmosphere, you’ll be well served not choosing one with an in-house bar, nor one that caters specially to pub crawling.
- Cleanliness – If you know that you are sensitive to cleanliness, make sure you look out for reviews and rating regarding cleanliness, as a misfit can mean a very uncomfortable stay. Look out especially for reviews regarding bed bugs as they are the worst problems to encounter as they remain with you through your ENTIRE journey as they can survive in your clothes even after doing conventional laundry. In general, accommodations in Japan have a very high standard of cleanliness.
- Internet facilities – These days, the internet can solve any travel problems, so having internet facilities is very helpful and can save you a lot of time (and money if you need to get to an internet cafe).
- Air conditioning/hot water – If air-conditioning is a deal breaker for you, make sure the hostel advertises air-conditioning in its dormitories or rooms. The same goes for hot water showers. Many travelers fail to check beforehand and end up with a nasty surprise.
- Read low-rating reviews and decide for yourself if they are fair or not. For example, one reviewer may complain that there is no personal mini-refrigerator when such luxuries are not expected. Know the difference between “there is no air conditioning” (usually stated on the website) vs. “the air conditioning is faulty” (uh-oh).