I don’t have a lot of hostel experience, so I’m not sure how much a review written by someone like me would be worth. That being said, if anyone is planning on staying in Tokyo anytime soon, I’d like recommend Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel near Ueno.
A few weeks before heading out to Tokyo, I booked a bed in the female dorm at Toco for Saturday (8.17) and Sunday (8.18) night. On Saturday morning my friend Ai Melody and I dropped by Toco to see if I could store my suitcase and bag there while we went out exploring Tokyo. I had already checked out of my first hostel because, well, most hostels make you check out by 11am since they have to clean. Anyways the people at Toco were more than happy to hold my stuff in a huge locked closet. They didn’t charge me. In fact, they didn’t even let me carry my bags to the closet, instead a tiny Japanese girl took my heavy bag and suitcase from me and sent me on my way as I apologetically called after her, gomennasai! I know it’s heavy! (Side note: I don’t usually play the part of Helpless-Girl-Who-Has-Obviously-Overpacked so flawlessly, but I’m in the midst of an international move to South Korea and I thought I’d made good use of time by visiting friends in Japan before I starting my teaching contract. Maybe not the best idea since it has meant carrying my body weight worth of stuff all around Japan).
Anyways, later that evening when I came back to Toco I didn’t even have time to snap a romantic photo of the lounge/bar from the outside looking in before the staff was opening the door, checking me in, retrieving my bag from the locked closet, and carrying all my stuff for me up the narrow flight of wooden stair to the dorm. I protested, really I did, but it was weak, gaijin, sweat-soaked protests and I think they realized I wasn’t really serious. I needed serious help.
In short, the building is 93 years old (built in 1920) and it’s absolutely beautiful and vintage and Japanese and the owners have thrown in just a smattering of that etsy/hipster style that the Japanese do so well. The hostel is also super quiet. Probably that’s because, as the manager Hana mentioned to me this morning, it can only house about 25 guests a night.
But what sets Toco apart from other hostels (other than the fact that its gorgeous and historic and ah, safe) is the fact that I would say about 75% of the other patrons I met were Japanese nationals and they were perhaps some of the most friendly people I have ever met. I met nihonjin from all over Japan at Toco on my first night while sitting in the bar. I had originally come downstairs just to check the wifi situation but it turned into a social event and chatting for for almost two hours while other patrons/guests sifted through the room eating watermelon and drinking white wine (the bar gives each guest a free drink each night. I stuck with coffee from the kitchen since I was exhausted).
A day and a half later when I checked out, one of the girls/workers at Toco was so concerned about my bag/luggage situation that she literally walked me down down the street to the main road, hailed a taxi, and give the driver directions, and helped me put my stuff in the car. Even then, I could see apprehension in her eyes as she asked one more time if I would be okay on my own.
I insisted that I would be and I assured her that if I ever have friends that ask about places to stay in Tokyo, I’d be pointing them in her direction.