Friday, March 23, 2018

Centurion Ladies Ueno Hostel, Tokyo

I have stayed basically all over Tokyo at this point from Asakusa to Shinjuku to Ikebukuro to even Shibuya and no area has enticed me as much as Ueno. With a park, a zoo, a shopping arcade that was bustling from day to night, a plethora of food and multiple stations to get around, Ueno easily became my favourite part of Tokyo after picking it to set up my base for one week after my adventures in Hokkaido.

After much research, I ended up picking Centurion Ladies Ueno Hostel to stay at. In case you didn't know, Centurion hotel and hostel group is kind of like the budget Hilton group in Japan. They have hotel and hostel chains under their name all over Japan and Ueno alone has three hotels and one hostel, Centurion Ladies Ueno Hostel.

I picked Centurion Ladies Ueno Hostel for several main reasons: 1) it was right at the Shinobazu entrance to Ueno park, 2) walking distance to several train stations and 3) reasonable. For seven nights, I paid less than RM700 which was hard to find in Tokyo. The location was its prime asset.

Check-in was seamless although that was the only time I actually interacted with the front desk staff. The reception was designed in such a way that guests were dissuaded from hanging out on that floor. The hostel shares the building with Handroll, a spa service on the second floor. Upon check-in, I was allocated to the dormitory on the third floor and rode the tight lift to the floor. Shoes were to be removed and kept in assigned lockers inside the dorm. What I liked about the security was that they used a digital security code at the entrance to each dorm so we didn't need to bother with keys. However, during cleaning hours often from 10am to 2pm, the doors would be left open for the cleaning staff to come and go and that left me a little worried for my belongings. But then again, it's Japan.

Upon my request during booking, I got the lower bunk and immediately realised that the bunk space was too narrow to keep my luggage with me. Space around the dorm was limited to tight corners and if you're lucky, you might be able to get a corner slot to store your suitcase. Hanging space was also limited and the girl in the bunk above mine often resorted to hanging her jacket on the stair railing, often blocking half my bed entrance. But I tolerated it, knowing that there was no where else to hang the heavy winter jackets. A heavy curtain ensured privacy in each bed. The bunk also came with a television set and headphones which I never used.

For some reason, I always find the girl's dormitory noisier than the mixed dormitory due to girls grabbing their many makeup kits and rustling about with their shopping bags. Thankfully, save for  a few Thai girls who got the bunks around me, my roommates were relatively quiet. Light out were at midnight and there would be snorers. If you have trouble sleeping, the hostel sells ear plugs.

Toilets and showers were plentiful and I only had to queue for the shower on the first night there. Amenities such as hairdryer, facial wash, body wash and so on were provided in the showers. Towels too were provided for each guests and we had the option of having our beds made each morning and our towels changed free of charge.

While the first floor reception area may not be hospitable, the hostel has a community area and shared kitchen on the seventh floor along with vending machines, washing machines and dryers. The kitchen area had a shared fridge and cabinet where we had to label our bags with our name and check out date. It had basic cooking facilities, a electric kettle, microwave and an induction cooker. I spent quite a fair bit of time here in the evenings. Seating space was limited though and it was often a rush to get the best seats in the space. Otherwise, it was relatively comfortable, unless some auntie decided it would be a great place to paint her fingernails and stink up the space with nail polish.

Free wifi is available all around the hostel and is quite fast considering how many people are on it. The hostel offers two kinds of bunk beds, one offering more space at a higher price but seeing as those superior bunks are often in the high traffic area near the dormitory entrance and toilet, I would opt for the standard beds.

Centurion Ladies Ueno Hostel feels more like a business hostel rather than one where you meet people and mingle with the staff. It was more of a place for you to keep your luggage, shower, eat and sleep. If you're really friendly, you can try talking to other guests in the common area but most of the time, the ladies would keep to themselves. The staff can speak basic English and are welcoming each time I return. However location wise, this hostel was just great. Walking distance to everything, ample combinis around the corner, the Chiyoda line a minute's walk away, a beautiful park in front and Ameyoko shopping area a ten minutes walk away.

In spring and autumn, this hostel would be just the perfect place to stay to see the sakura blossom and autumn leaves in Ueno Park. Would I stay here again? Absolutely but it would be more for the location than anything else.

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