I lived and worked in U-En Guesthouse, an old-fashioned Japanese-style ryokan in Osaka, for 6 weeks in 2022.
U-En features classic Japanese architecture and tatami mats featuring dorm rooms, double rooms, and single rooms. It’s clean and simple but with modern amenities you’d expect from Japan (including those famous Japanese toilets).
Downstairs is a cafe/spice curry restaurant called “Akutagawa Coffee.”
U-En Guesthouse Staff
First of all, the manager is amazing. Yoshio-san is empathetic, kind, and very funny. He can always read the room, and he does everything he can to make you feel comfortable, even if you don’t speak any Japanese.
Working at a Ryokan like U-En
As a live-in ryokan worker at U-En, I scrubbed the showers, toilets, sinks, and floors; I made the beds and vacuumed the tatami mats as well. And as someone who worked there, I can assure you that it really is a clean, welcoming place to stay.
Sometimes, when the cafe downstairs got busy, and if there weren’t too many check-ins, I helped out with orders. I’m telling you nothing smells as good as their coffee and spice curry. And the kitchen staff and baristas were all so much fun to be around. They helped me a lot with my Japanese, and I helped them translate some Instagram posts into English from time to time.
The best way to learn Japanese is really to immerse yourself. Aside from the friendly staff, that’s one practical reason I recommend working for Yoshio-San at U-En.
Another reason is its location.
U-En is Perfect for Osaka Travel!
In my case, I had never been to Osaka before. Staying in Tokyo was fine, but I didn’t fall in love with Japan until I came to Osaka. The people are friendly and hilarious. The architecture is interesting yet unpretentious. And U-En is nestled right next to Fukushima station, a neighborhood teeming with local izakayas (cheap and delicious!), takoyaki stands (same!) and standing bars (same-same!).
In fact, the three establishments I just mentioned are all located right on the same street as U-En. So go ahead: roll out of bed at 6 PM and grab yourself a juicy BBQ salmon on a stick and a 200 yen lemon sour, stand outside, and watch the local people pass by. I guarantee you that they’ll be more entertaining to watch than Tokyo people.