Thursday, December 28, 2017

Ditch the Hotels, Try Homestay in Japan!

        I was traumatized by the expensive room rate and the lack of space in Tokyo hotel rooms during my last visit. Bearing in mind that I will be traveling with my family this time, I searched high and low on the internet for an alternative that I can deem the “Perfect Place to stay”...
Japan homestay
        Couchsurfing? It is out of the picture since finding a couch is a difficult task to start with and most hosts only accept 1-2 person. Airbnb? I’ve encountered enough nightmares to recommend it’s usage in Japan. So what is left?

        Homestay.com was introduced to me a while back by a friend that had used it in Seoul and vouched for it. The website reads "Experience more with those who call it home" and the concept of staying with a local always appeal to me.
Homestay in Japan

Step 1: Finding a host

        Finding a host on Homestay.com isn’t that difficult at all. I spent some time looking for a good place to stay and hosts on the website are quite accommodating. I was accepted by one of the top hosts in Tokyo, Yoko in 12 hours and we started chatting on the using the website messenger. Her house looked great to us, not only that it is quite close to the buzzing town of Shinjuku, it is conveniently located near to a bus and metro station.    

         And seriously, RM160 (about 40 USD) per night for a spacious room in Tokyo, so close to Shinjuku? That is a STEAL!!!
Homestay in Japan

Step 2: Schedule add-ons or amend your bookings

        With the website messaging function, I was able to send 2 free 7-days tourist sim cards to my host so that I could use them during our visit. Yoko was very quick in replying messages… that really helps when you are an overly-anxious traveler like me. Everything seemed to fall right into place, I had a good feeling about it.  

Step 3: Communicate about arrival time

        Communication between us was efficient. I got to know all the available methods to reach their house so I was pretty well prepared for any situation.

        I am not kidding when I say Tokyo subway system can be really confusing to first-timers. Although I thought I was well-prepared, we still missed the last metro and got stranded at Shinjuku station.

        It was already 1 am when we hopped in a taxi. I initially told Yoko that we will arrive by 10 pm, however, we didn’t expect ourselves to got lost in the transit, missed the limousine bus, stopped off at the wrong station, missed another train, change to Yamanouchi line and finally missed the last metro. Fuh… "not bad" for the first night in Tokyo!
Homestay in Japan

Step 4: Arrival

        It was almost 1.30am when we arrived at our host’s house.
        I first thought we were doomed and I told my mum we might have to sleep on the street because this would be regarded logically as a “No Show” since I did not have data to tell the hosts that we were coming late. To our surprise, Yoko opened the door and rushed out to our taxi when we arrived. She stayed up all night waiting for us! Oh God, I almost cried

        Yoko led us into our room, a spacious Japanese style room with freshly made beds laying on top. The room is bright, airy and homey, with plenty of shelves and a wardrobe to put our stuff. At the corner of the room, there is a fridge that proved to be super handy, a water boiler, and a television and bed side table in another corner. In short, the room is huge for Japanese standard and everything we might need was provided. Neatly arranged on the side table were my tourist sim cards sent to them a week earlier.
Tokyo homestay
Tokyo homestay
Tokyo homestay
Homestay in Japan

Beautiful arrangement in the living room.
        Yoko carefully explained how to use the highly modernized toilets (like whats the deal with all the buttons on the toilet bowl?) and bathroom and dropped a sudden question “Have you gotten dinner?” We thought it is a courtesy question like in Malaysia we often greet each other with “dah makan? or Chiak liao boi? (have you eaten)” so we casually answered yea we had some snacks… “You must be hungry from all the transiting, I’ll cook you something real quick.” Oh God? We were already apologetic for arriving late and now this, You can imagine how thankful we were… the truth was we haven’t eaten anything since we got on the “Promo” Air Asia flight (no meals included) and were starving. I guess you can’t hide a starving face (or growling stomach)! The offer was just god-sent!

        Over the (way too late) “dinner", we chatted a little and get to know each other better. But we were too tired and our host needed to work early in the morning so we agreed to continue our stories the next day. Yoko is very friendly and lively, speaks good Japanese, English as well as Chinese, not to mention her way-to-awesome cooking skills. As we gobbled down the delicious Yakisoba and Miso Soup she made us, we know the next few days in their house is gonna be great. We can’t wait to meet Mr. Yokohama too.
Homestay in Japan

        We sleepily took turns showering at 2 am (Its a norm to shower before bed). Laying on the bed, we realized that our dreams are getting real. We are now in Tokyo, sleeping in a comfortable room… my mum and I talked about the day, how we probably would never experience such amazing Japanese hospitality if we were to book accommodation elsewhere until we fallen asleep.

Step 5: Spending Quality time together and become friends

        Breakfast was cooked and served by Mr. Yokohama, a serious-looking Japanese man who bring out the dishes one by one like a high-end course meal. As for the breakfast, we were surprised at the variety of choices he showered us with… apple pie, fluffy omelet, grape, ham, some salad, breads with butter and cheese… along with juices, coffee and tea!
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

        After he was done with cooking, he played with their cat and jokingly told us “Imagine, this is a cat cafe”. The way he smiled from ear to ear while playing with Gin immediately made us more comfortable and conversations kept on rolling. So, serious-looking Japanese man might have serious sense of humor as well!
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

        We started addressing our hosts by their first names. Aki and Yoko are simply delightful. We could literally sit down and laugh the whole evening away! For the next 3 days, we had dinners at their place and met other travelers at the dinner table. Yoko and Aki prepared the most amazing dishes hand in hand, I could easily say that dinners at their place are the most satisfying meals I had throughout my days in Japan. Of course, what else can top food prepared with love and the good will to share?
Homestay in Japan

        Here are the variety of dishes laid on the table: We tried fresh sashimi don, hot bowls of Udon, lovely Kimbaps, Japanese style Kimchi and more. Yoko has great taste in food and she seems to have some sort of Magic dust that can turn any food delicious, she also makes sure that everyone gets second or even third servings of their favorite dishes.
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

       After meals, Aki always serves beautifully plated fresh fruits and desserts. Thought things couldn’t get better? You’ve seen nothing yet. The party only starts after the meal. Turned out, Language wasn’t a problem, Aki has such natural talent of a great comedian and his spontaneous bilingual standup was hilarious! We even got to dress up in Japanese traditional clothes.
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

        Yoko and Aki told us so many stories about their wonderful experiences hosting people from around the globe, my mum got all hyped up at the thought of starting our own homestay host account. Our home isn’t ready yet at the moment, but soon enough, there will be a new host in Georgetown, Penang, so stay tuned!
        We even made plans to meet Yoko again in Penang and bring her around in search of Musang King Durian! Of course, while doing all these, we always got served with their favorite tit-bits, and beers! They just LOVE sharing food!
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

        Apart from our human hosts, our cat hosts were lovely to us as well! Yuki was the first feline host to welcome us on our first night in Tokyo and we were greeted by Gin-chan on the second day. Yoko told us that normally Gin doesn’t interact much with guests and preferred to stay in the room but he seemed more energetic during our visit, so we were probably very lucky. Well, thank God!    
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

        During our stay, Yoko and Aki helped us so much in every way possible. Whether it is buying highway tickets online, recommendations on where to go, the right way to wear a kimono, dealing with our broken backpack, learning Japanese culture, norm or stigma… and special communication skills with cats, they got us covered.
Homestay in Japan

        Yoko even showed us a supermarket that sells half priced Bento at night and we had a great time shopping for food!
Half priced bento Japan
Half priced bento Japan

The Verdict

        All in all, it was fun staying with Aki and Yoko. No matter you are in Japan to travel, study or work, don’t miss the opportunity to experience a homestay in Tokyo.

        Not only that it is a much cheaper alternative to cramped-up hotel rooms, Homestay is a great way to immerse in Japanese culture and the Japanese way of living. Here, you’ll be granted the front row seat to the daily life of a typical Japanese family, try delicious home cooked food, alcoholic beverages and more. I found hosts on Homestay.com usually offer breakfast (some include dinner) in the room rate and that is great for travelers wanting to stay on a small budget.

        I found the Japanese to be very nice, polite, kind and they are all about respecting others. Besides, Japanese culture is really vibrant and although I am born and raised in an Asian family, Japanese culture and norms still seem a little foreign to me… that being said, I can imagine how bewildered a westerner can be in this land. It certainly helps to get some insights and guidance from a local family.


Last but Not Least

        I wish to thank Aki and Yoko here (I know you guys are reading!) for all the wonderful time we spent together and the precious memories. I couldn't have asked for a better family to homestay with!!! If I am lucky enough to set foot in the capital of Japan once again, I would choose to stay with my new friends again! 😘❤️❤️❤️
Homestay in Japan
Homestay in Japan

        If you're interested to stay with Yoko and Aki, and experience Tokyo hospitality in a similar way I did (experience varies), click here to check the rates and availability.
🎁 Here is a RM96 ($24 USD) discount credit to use on Homestay.com!  πŸŽ

Click HERE for the list of hosts in Japan nationwide

Interested in other posts in the Homestay series? Read: 

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Thank You for Reading! This post is made possible by Homestay.com, based solely on my honest opinion or personal experience. Feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below!

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