Hi, my name is Shannon from the Australian National University and I’m currently participating in the PRIMO exchange program at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan.  In this blog post I’m going to outline some information about the accommodation I’ve been staying at for the program.  The host university gave students two choices of accommodation, one being the university-run International House Taishogun with four-bed dormitories, and the second being Kyoto Uraraka Guest House.  I opted for Uraraka Guest House, which Ritsumeikan University recommends and cooperates with to provide accommodation for the program.

Upon arrival at Uraraka I was greeted warmly by the staff, who expected my arrival and provided me with helpful information in English about the accommodation, bus routes to the university and information about Kyoto.  The staff are all lovely and kind people who clearly want you to feel at home.  They’ll greet you by name, enquire about your studies at Ritsumeikan, and will help with any issues you might have. 

Next to the check-in counter is a cosy common room with a microwave, coffee machine, tea, milk and sugar available free of charge, 24/7.  Not only that, but every morning between 7.30 and 10 you can help yourself to the complementary fresh bread provided for guests – free! I’ve popped in once or twice for breakfast to sample the array of sweet and savoury baked goods, all sliced into small pieces to eat there or take away with you. 

As for the accommodation itself, the room is surprisingly spacious by Japanese standards, and a comfortable size by Australian ones.  I was immediately struck by the freshness and lightness of the room, with two windows letting in plenty of light and a generous double bed.  Behind the privacy curtains is a door that opens out onto a balcony outside.  The walls of the rooms are fairly thin, with anything more than a low murmur audible from the rooms next door.  However, most guests are conscientious about not bothering others and you will most likely never hear a peep from the opposite room. It will mean, though, that you’ll need to keep your TV volume quite low and/or use headphones.

The room also has a heater that effortlessly keeps the room toasty through Kyoto winter nights, a large flat screen TV, desk, bar fridge, storage rack and clothes hangers.  The bathroom is typically cramped as with most Japanese hotels but is again very clean and nice.  The bathtub is narrow but deep, and the shower has plenty of hot water at all times.  Uraraka provides body wash, shampoo and conditioner – but if your hair is a bit delicate, you may want to bring your own just in case!  The room is cleaned daily including mopping the wood floor, making the bed and providing fresh towels. 

One disadvantage of Uraraka Guest House is the lack of a kitchenette in the rooms.  However, there are multiple restaurants, supermarkets and convenience stores right nearby selling fresh, inexpensive meals that can be heated up for you in-store or in the microwave in the common room.  (Convenience stores in Japan are very different to the ones in Australia, more like a mini supermarket.) In addition, you can borrow a kettle and cutlery free of charge from Uraraka’s front desk for the length of your stay and you can make delicious noodles, instant soup and anything else made with just adding water, as well as cereal, sandwiches, fruit, fresh veggies, etc. 

Compared to Australian hotel prices, Uraraka Guest House is extremely reasonably priced at 116,950 Japanese yen for a five week stay (about 3,440 yen or AUD$45.33 per night as at the time of writing).  That said, a room at Uraraka is almost double the cost of a Taishogun student dormitory bed, but the entire month’s accommodation fee didn’t have to be paid at once.  Instead, an initial deposit of 60,900 yen was payable in mid-November when we nominated our preferred accommodation option (Taishogun or Uraraka). Around a week later Ritsumeikan informed us of our assigned accommodation, and any extra amount needed for Uraraka was to be paid in cash on check-in. 

Thanks to this, I was able to budget for the accommodation payment in two halves, with around a month and a half between payments.  As an introvert who values quiet time to recharge after a long day of fun, study and socialising, I considered it worth the extra cost to have my own space at Uraraka rather than a dorm room with up to four people in bunk beds.  However, if you’re an extrovert who can be energised and on the go 24/7, you may enjoy the more intense social aspects of a shared dorm room.