Youth Hostels

I’m now the wrong side of 30 years old, and the prospect of staying in a super-cheap dormitory in order to save more money for beer doesn’t appeal quite as much as it did 15 years ago. But, that said, I’ve come across a few excellent youth hostels in the Japanese countryside that I’d recommend above any nearby hotel.

Aso Base, Aso (Kyushu)

I stayed here in late 2013 while passing through central Kyushu – I wanted to visit Aso-san, the volcano that dominates the region. Aso Base is just a short walk from Aso JR railway station, and it’s a beautiful, modern building containing both dormitories and a couple of small rooms – I took one of those.
There’s a large lounge area with a kitchen, all spotlessly clean, and a multi-lingual library of manga if you need to while away a few hours in the evening. Personally I wandered down to the small onsen near the station. Buy a few beers from the nearby Lawson Station, put your feet up on the balcony and watch the stars over the countryside – it’s great.

Furano Youth Hostel, Naka-Furano (Hokkaido)

Just as Aso is in the middle of Kyushu, Furano is right in the middle of Hokkaido. And the Furano Youth Hostel, pictured above, is a great place to stay if you’re visiting. I arrived by car (the best way to get around the countryside, really), but the hostel is a walkable distance from Naka-Furano JR train station.
Run by a couple, the hostel is very welcoming and ridiculously cheap – especially when you consider that dinner and breakfast are included six nights out of seven. There are dormitories, and also a few rooms, but those were closed when I arrived out of season. The food was excellent, and there’s nothing like drinking a pot of coffee, freshly brewed on the woodburner, while looking out over the countryside from the decking outside. It’s a glorious place.
Website: (note: in this context, “service” means “included free”)