Co-living Review: Chapter 2 Hostel, Tokyo

31 May – 17 June; Rate: ¥3,100 per night (2 week+ stay)

In a classic case of cart-before-horse planning travel planning that I so love, I let flight prices substantially dictate my destination. I couldn’t refuse a fare I found on Swiss to Tokyo. As you might expect, that led to the consequential issue of where I’d say in Tokyo. There wasn’t much of a question of staying there (versus traveling around). I wanted some locational stability, and my friends are in Tokyo. The latter consideration has grown more important to me in recent years.

 

On the surface, Tokyo isn’t a cheap city for accommodation. Hotels are quite expensive for the space you get. The Airbnb properties I looked at were quite peripheral to anywhere I wanted to be. That worked out, given the booking chaos that came to pass during my visit.

 

At some point, my digital nomad research took me to coliving.com. Naturally, I had a look at the offerings in Tokyo. One option was Roam, which was quite expensive (US$2,600/mo). The other was Chapter Two, which was remarkably inexpensive (US$30-ish/nt). As always, I had a look at their website to check the rate of booking direct. As it turned out, I saved a few yen with a direct booking. Yay!

 

Chapter Two’s vibe is part-guesthouse, part-hostel, part-coworking. The pictures on the website exhibited some ingenious design features to maximize space. I decided to gamble on “pod” life (a less sterile take on capsules, which I was curious about trying if only for their quintessential Japanese-ness). The owners, Hiro and Erika, had just opened Chapter Two in March, so I was eager to try a relatively new business.

 

In a fit of flippancy, I did little research into the immediate area. Chapter Two was right above a train station, fairly central, and near numerous food options. Check, check, check.

 

When I arrived at the front door circa noon on May 31, we handled the essential check-in formalities. I had pre-paid via Paypal, but I had to shorten my booking. I was delighted to get a full refund for those five days, which Erika paid in cash. Hiro also surprised me by knowing all the details of my booking. I am so accustomed to Generic Hotel Front Desk that this personal touch had a disarmingly sentimental quality to it.

 

My pod wouldn’t be available until 4 pm, which is fine by me. I just wanted to unburden myself of my baggage and stretch my legs with a stroll around the neighborhood. The 24 hour itinerary from Miami to Tokyo via Zurich gave me a week’s worth of sitting down.

 

After a wee wander around the Sensoji temple, the surrounding area, and a restorative coffee, it was time to settle in. The pod was very private and more spacious than I expected. With a bit of imagination, I was able to unpack my backpack and small roll-aboard with the clothing and personal effects needed for my time in Tokyo. My large bag was stowed in a garage next to the front door.

 

Hiro and Erika have extensive experience in hospitality via Chapter Two’s predecessor and time spent working at a location of the Khaosan hostel chain (where they first met). I found Chapter Two interesting, as the vibe was extremely sedate. This is not a party place (evidenced by the lack of drunk/hungover Australians usually found at hostels). Noise levels at night were zero (yay for sleep).

 

In a conversation in the living room, Hiro told me that he wanted to build a community. I can believe it.  During dinner hours, Hiro and Erika frequently had guests and friends from all over.  The most memorable during my visit was Masa-san, who was the “founder of the feast” on one glorious night, and then on another plied me with fermented sardines. The taste was interesting, but the smell was horrific. That said, I won’t forget it! Any guest is welcome to join them for chat and (frequently) treats.

Hiro displaying a bottle of Chapter 2 sake
Hiro-san and the Chapter 2 sake

The master at work!

 

Various salient info:

The Pod is difficult to describe, so I hope my video + the pictures on their site do it justice. There was a power outlet + usb outlet & a lock box.

 

The cleanliness throughout was stereotypically Japanese – spotless. You would not find a cleaner bathroom at a Conrad or Waldorf (speaking from experience here). The kitchen and common area was also kept similarly perfect.  I noted to Hiro and Erika that coasters would be a great idea, as cold beverages would leave a ring (which I fastidiously tried to wipe up when I had a drink). In 48 hours, coasters materialized. In my observation, this cleanliness is a collective effort.

 

The travelers coming through are really interesting. Masa-san is heavily involved in Ted-X Japan, a Finnish couple were long term travelers – the guy was a walking info-bank of SE Asia travel tips, a Malay-Australian engineer who helped fill in the gaps concerning my knowledge of the Mahathir-Razak relationship, a Tata employee who furnished a bottle of (delicious) Indian chenin blanc, and a blockchain entrepreneur.

 

Coffee & tea are free; a light breakfast (boiled egg, toast, jam) is available in the morning; other beverages are available for purchase (water for ¥100, soda for ¥200, beer for ¥300)

 

Laundry is available onsite. ¥200 to wash; ¥100 per 10 min of drying

 

Wifi is excellent.

 

Hiro and Erika live onsite, and the care they invest in running the place is what you’d expect for someone’s home. This is reflected in the thoughtfulness and quality – recycling wood from the building’s prior business (a party hostel) into the new hostel’s table, quality of kitchen supplies, furniture comfort, etc. I’ve stayed in enough lodging to know what “cheapest stuff from Home Depot” turns out to be, and they opted for the good stuff.

Picture of the chapter 2 living room
Note the alcoves on the right. There is space to sit and work there.

Runners will appreciate the riverside location, as there is a promenade along the river popular with runners and walkers. I found it a great way to start the day. Say hi to the local cats and shiba inu dogs. 😀

picture of a white cat

Any questions about Tokyo life, including the train system, food, bars, interesting places, culture etc will be answered thoroughly and patiently by Hiro and Erika.

 

Asakusa isn’t a famous Tokyo location in the West, but there is a lot to appreciate. You’re within walking distance to awesome cultural sites, great food, and museums. The train connections are solid.

 

Summary: This exceeded my expectations on all fronts. I would not be shocked if this hostel becomes famous to some degree in a short time. You’re getting ryokan-level care for hostel prices in a great location.