Jul 14, 2017
“Take your love” to the inspirational WeBase Hostel! Redefining the hostelling experience in Japan
I have always been very impressed by the standard of guest accommodation in Japan. Between the professionalism and the perfectionism, the cleanliness and the convenience, and the little extras most accommodation like to provide, there is little to fault about the hoteliers in Japan, apart from the cost. The higher prices are justified with the level of service, facilities and supplies that come as standard in Japanese accommodation. However, I have always felt there was something missing, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on; until I stayed in the hotel-esque budget accommodation WeBase Hostel in Kamakura that is.
Like the instant awakening of being doused in a cold bucket of water, it dawned on me with forceful clarity while staying in WeBase Hostel. What has been missing from my travel experiences in Japan has been social interaction. Sure staff and guests at hotels, pensions, hostels and B&Bs are friendly, but it is coated in that level of professionalism that stifles any opportunity for relaxed and genuine friendly interaction. Encounters rarely pry into the personal and skim the level of acceptable. But in WeBase, for the first time in my seventeen years in Japan, I had an experience with both staff and guests that was truly social and engaging, and added to the overall experience of an already memorable stay. The staff members, most of whom speak fluent English, are not only professional to a tee, but also helpful, friendly and personable. It is just one of the many je ne sais quoi of this gem of an accommodation in the beach resort area of Yuguihama in Kamakura, Kanagawa.
In the reception area there is an expressive mural used as a photo spot for guests of the hostel. The message at the top of the mural is an evocative pun on a Beetles song The End: “And on your travels The love you take Is equal to the love you make”. I think it is very reflective of, and speaks volumes about, the philosophy of WeBase. The friendly reminder on the mural in reception reminds all travellers of the need to put in to your holiday what you want to get out of it. The mural’s message, like the staff, encourages a relaxed and open ambiance. Meanwhile, the layout of the hostel contributes to and facilitates the opportunities to interact with other guests. That and the many activities they offer such as regular yoga classes in their yoga studio Another World on site.
As you would expect from a hostel, sleeping quarters are for the most part shared. As it turned out there were only three from my family in our dorm room and no-one in the fourth bunk, so we didn’t have a sleeping buddy. But thanks to the communal areas we still had plenty of encounters with our fellow hostel-mates. We met people from all over the world. It was so wonderful to hear all the different languages; at least seven different languages were spoken during my stay. I talked to people from Japan, China, the United States and Spain. I also talked to other guests from other countries around the world, we just never broached the “Where are you from?” topic. Despite visiting more than twenty of Japan’s prefectures and staying in a variety of accommodation over the years, the only other time I have encountered this level of interaction is in a Shared House in Tokyo. Shared Houses are usually for long term visitors and by and large occupied by foreigners. WeBase is suitable for a one night stay to a long term stay and has as many native Japanese people staying as it does foreigners. The visitors were such a mixed bunch. There were other families like us, who were touring all the area has to offer and enjoying the beach. There were some guests staying to enjoy some of the many activities offered by the hostel, such as the “Yoga including Female Dorm” package or rental bikes or culture classes. There was a group of mixed gender friends and a couple of pairs of friends too, some from overseas, some from Japan. And there were plenty of solo travellers of all ages, one of whom seemed to be a long term guest in the hostel using it as his base as he explored the Kanto region.
On the lower floor of the architecturally stunning modern building of concrete and wood, there is a lounge area where you can relax and eat. It has a fridge, kettles, microwaves, crockery and cutlery, a sink and rubbish disposable. There is a vending machine in the area that sells instant noodles. You can use the kettles in the area to add hot water for an instant quick and light meal. There are other vending machines selling soft drinks and alcohol. There are computers here that are free to use. There is a spacious and comfortable seating area, with warm furnishings contrasting beautifully against the natural wood and concrete of the impressively designed building. It is in this area that most guests congregated in the evening during our stay and a bubble of chatter filled the airy space with personality and jovialness. Down a corridor from this shared space is the communal bath, or if you would prefer them; private shower rooms. I have lived in Japan long enough that I embrace the public bath, but I was impressed by the number of short term overseas visitors that were keen to enjoy this quintessential Japanese experience. There are instructions written in English of how to use the bath. In fact, the hostel has instructions on how to use everything in the hostel in at least English (and Japanese) and often Chinese and Korean also. There are other facilities on this floor including the very popular yoga studio Another World. As much as WeBase pumps conviviality there is plenty of space for solitude and tranquillity, such as their Meiso Garden or the decking in the breakfast room / restaurant. WeBase is as much for introverts as extroverts… or anyone in between. You can even book a private (double) room, if you would prefer your own privacy. Each dorm bed comes with its own curtain for privacy, but you still have a personal light to use in your space. The dorm beds reminded me quite a bit of a capsule hotel bed, only more comfortable and spacious.
Another of the many appeals of WeBase Hostel is that it takes the sting out of the cost, which I mentioned above as being the only thing I can normally fault about Japanese accommodation. Although it is a hostel, the term does not do it any justice as that conjures up an image of a basic no frills accommodation. This couldn’t be further from the truth. WeBase has many of the trimmings of a hotel, but at an affordable and appealing cost. Unlike a lot of hostels, the beds are actually made up for you. The rooms and the hostel in general is pristine despite being right by the sea. The hostel provides towels for you to use during your stay. They even give you a free pair of (disposable) slippers! And while you don’t have a personal toilet if staying in the tatami and dorm rooms, they have plenty of toilets and vanity sinks per dorm units and tatami rooms.
Apart from the hospitality of the staff, the friendliness of the guests, the attractiveness of the facilities, amenities and services, the striking architecture, the affordability, comfort and accessibility of the hostel there are lots of little extras that add to the enjoyment of staying in WeBase Hostel in Kamakura. It is very unusual to find a hostel that mimics the comfort and convenience of a hotel, but with add-ons that are lacking in their more expensive counterparts. And given WeBase’s prime location just a minute walk from the beautiful Yuigahama beach, it is even more unusual for a bed to cost so little. But more than all of this is the little touches you find throughout the hostel, such as the large painted wall map with Polaroids of the attractions added to it. Or the beach access entrance where you can take a shower to rid yourself of sand before you enter the hostel. They have locker rooms beside the shower which I found very convenient; enjoy a swim at the beach, come back have a quick shower and put on a fresh pair of clothes sans sand before entering the hostel. The locker rooms here and in the communal bath have pin code locks meaning they are free and convenient to use; no need for money or a key. Generally, I got the overwhelming impression that a lot of thought and consideration was put into the design of the whole building, which is as artistic as it is practical.
First impressions, last: as I first walked into WeBase Hostel it was hard to believe that it was a hostel and not a trendy modern hotel. After exploring it further inside and indeed taking stock of its grandiose design both inside and out, my lasting impression is that a new term needs to be coined for this type of sojourn. All things considered, hostel doesn’t quite fit the bill for this unique and attractive temporary lodging. If glamping is glamorous camping, WeBase may very well redefine the experience of hostelling … glamorous backpacking “glampacking” to the max!
THANK YOU WEBASE AND CITY-COST FOR A MEMORABLE GLAMPACKING EXPERIENCE!
Name: WeBase Hostel
Address: 4 Chome, Yuigahama, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture
Budget: Approximately ￥3,800 per person, light breakfast included in the Gent Brasserie restaurant
Social Media Accounts:
Staff Blog http://we-base.jp/kamakura/blog/
By train: WeBase Hostel is an approximate three minute walk, toward the beach, from the Yuigahama station on the very quaint Enoden line. You can get the Enoden line from the larger Kamakura station to the East or Enoshima station to the West. From Kamakura station to Yuigahama station takes only a couple of minutes and from Enoshima station it takes only 20 minutes. You can actually walk from Kamakura station to the hostel too. It takes approximately twenty minutes on foot.
By car: there is no parking for guest’s use, but there is a large car park a few minutes away that you can use at your own cost. Yuigahama Underground Parking is beside Kamakura Seaside Park.
This post is a special report for which City-Cost gives bloggers in Japan the chance to engage in new experiences in Japan to create posts about.
Level 7 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.