Tucked away in an inconspicuous neighborhood in South Central Tokyo are two girls – one German, one Japanese – chatting over some snacks on the bean bag chairs. They’ve just met, and I can tell, when the German girl says, “Wait, you’re not 32? Ugh, I wish I had your Japanese genes!” They laugh and continue to carry on the conversation, all while I’m taking off my shoes before walking into the dorms.
This is how I know I’ve truly arrived at my hostel in Tokyo.
ARTnSHELTER – Shinagawa, Tokyo
The first hint that my stay at ARTnSHELTER would be a friendly one was my interesting attempt at getting from Haneda Airport to the hostel, which required reading the hostel website’s directions.
Turn right at Family Mart, then a left at the Shrine, then a left at the narrow street.
As you’ll notice in Tokyo, street names and house numbers are pretty much nonexistent, and if they are listed, they’re most definitely not written in English. Directions like these are super necessary, and let’s be real, just cute.
You hear a lot about the Japanese being polite and helpful, and I can confirm – they 100% are. On my trip to the hostel, a guy got off his train to take me to my stop when the trains shut down due to an accident; a few days later he showed me cheap bars near Shinjuku. One day at the convenience store, when I was about to buy what I thought was milk, the cashier took me over to the dairy section to point out which were milk and which were…I don’t even know what? Upon arrival at the hostel, the manager, Yuki, gives you a tour of the hostel, and explains to you that the hostel is part art exhibition space, is completely brand new, and has a full-on bar and café downstairs.
Yuki was the man with all the answers. Why are you denied entrance to Japanese saunas if you have tattoos? Because it’s a sign of the Japanese mafia, Yakuza. Which metrocard should I buy? There are three train companies in Tokyo, so buy a PASSMO or SUICA card and put money on it so you don’t have to worry about how much each trip costs.
There was never not a time when I entered or left ARTnSHELTER when I didn’t see the manager at the entrance, which was comforting that even in the largest metropolis in the world, you’ll have a friendly face greeting you. Even one time, I came “home” and he said, “Checking in?” I laughed and said, “Haha, no, I’ve been here!” to which he sarcastically responded, “Oh right, I’m just used to saying that now.” And we laughed.
Choosing a hostel in Tokyo, much like anything in Tokyo, offers you a ton of choice. I thought we had choice in America, but that’s cuz I had never been to Japan. Do you want a hostel, or do you want a hostel that doubles as an art exhibition space, triples as a bar, and quadruples as a café? Do you want a bed, or do you want a double-sized pod with a curtain, reading light, and outlets? The options are surprisingly aplenty, yet keeping with Japanese culture, very simple.
It’s an ideal mix of modern and traditional Tokyo. I’ve witnessed some groovy lounge hip-hop remixes in the lobby, all while a Japanese couple came in for some lattés. The location of the hostel is pretty traditionally Japanese – in a smaller village-like neighborhood called Samezu, yet on the roster of upcoming art-centric events, they’re hosting an English artist’s live social experiment and also an upcoming exhibition called Creative Adventure. Clearly, I approve.
The location made it an absolute necessary get-away oasis after spending a day out in Tokyo’s bright flashing lights, busy streets, and subways that you have you mumbling to yourself,
WTF, it’s 8:32 pm! WHY is the train still jam packed?
30 minutes from Shibuya, you can get off at Samezu, and you’re in a quiet village, or you can get off at Oimachi and you’ve got 100 yen stores, a Starbucks (for those moments you seriously need Wi-Fi and plugs), and some of those humongous Japanese department stores – all of which I highly utilized, so when I come back home to the States and give everyone authentic, expensive-looking, Japanese chopsticks, now you’ll know that they were only 100 yen.
As usual, it’s exhilarating to be out traveling – not only by myself, but also on an entirely different continent, where 90% of what I see is incomprehensible. I may get lost on the Tokyo metro, or almost buy something that isn’t milk, or not understand some of the contemporary art that they may have at ARTnSHELTER, but it’s new and exciting and that’s the whole point of travel.
If you’re ever in Tokyo and want that cool artsy vibe, stay at ARTnSHELTER. I’m sure Yuki will be there to greet you. 🙂
〒140-0011 Tōkyō-to, Shinagawa-ku, Higashiōi, 1 Chome−19−10