Before Japan I would never have entertained the idea of staying in a hostel. It's not (just) that I'm a snob, it's that hostel means a very different thing in this neck of the woods.
The first time we stayed in Kyoto (see our itinerary), we had a great time in another boutique hotel which was also called a hostel, and again nothing like you might imagine. But friends pointed us towards Len for coffee and we loved it from the moment we walked through the door.
Len is one of those places where the staff hang out when they knock off, because, where would you rather be? The ground floor is a cafe and bar, which serves a light breakfast and lunch and a wider range of dinner options. Choose from coffee (Onibus!), craft beer, wine or a very wide range of cocktails. You'll find a mix of tourists and locals hanging out at any time of the day or night. The bar is also the only place I've spotted a Geisha, and it was a magical experience.
The lift at the bar is only accessible to guests. The each of the floors holds a mixture of dorms and private rooms, each floor has a shared bathroom, and there's also a kitchen, laundry and commonroom.
So, the bathroom is shared, which isn't the big deal it could be. The floors aren't large and the facilities are good. Plus the larger rooms (we choose the King Double) have a washstand so you don't have to shuffle down the hall to brush your teeth.
The location is great, and you can walk around easily, or catch a bus.
You can make bookings four months before you stay- and reservations seem to open on the 1st of that month. So be prepared and book early, as it's a popular spot. Like so much Japanese accommodation, you pay in cash on arrival, and they'll also take a copy of your passport, which is Government-mandated.
Rates are reasonable, ranging from the downright cheap 6-person dorms, to our fave King Double which is usually ¥10800 (about AU$120) a night. Rates vary slightly depending on the night, and rise slightly at weekends and on holidays.
The staff tend to speak English, and have great recommendations for places you might like to eat and drink. Make sure you dine there one or twice. The steak and chips is a favourite, but there are always nightly specials on offer. Breakfast is perfectly simple, and not the easiest thing to find in Japan, you might find that a boiled egg and a bowl of granola is what you've been craving.
Whether it's to stay or just to soak up the atmosphere, don't miss the chance to visit Len. It's a place we love.