When I am traveling, I try to stay in guesthouses and hostels whenever I can.
To me, hotels are pretty much all the same, the only things that sets one hotel apart from another are prestige, location, amenities and price. These are things I don’t really care that much about.
Guesthouses and hostels on the other hand, differs greatly from one another. The interior design, the hospitality of the owners and the “feel at home” cosiness of a guesthouse is something you can’t get from any 5-star hotel.
Before August 2008, booking of homestays are scattered across the internet on websites such as hotels.com or booking.com. Nowadays, most of us associate homestays with Airbnb and it is also my go-to website when I want to book travel accommodations.
On my recent trip to Japan, my girlfriend and I stayed at 4 Airbnb accommodations in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. Let me give you a rundown (with lots of pictures) on the Airbnb places we stayed at so you have a rough idea what to expect when staying at Airbnb accommodations.
[use this referral link to get S$45 travel credit when you book your first homestay with Airbnb, this travel credit can be used to offset part of future Airbnb bookings]
Tokyo Airbnb: Mami and Her Restaurant-Standard Breakfast
Address: Sekibara 2-25-7 Four Seasons Room 6, Adachi-ku, Tokyo 123-0852
Listing: [this listing is no longer active at time of writing]
Mami Kamioka (you can just call her Mami-san) started listing her rooms on Airbnb after her daughter started attending university overseas to pass time. She enjoyed hosting so much that she is doing it full-time now and her hospitality has earned her Superhost status on Airbnb.
Mami-san’s house is a little far from the nearest metro station (Umejima Station) so she offers to fetch her guests to the nearest metro station every morning.
I fell in love with this Airbnb listing at first sight. The tasteful decorations, the beautiful blue-patterned bedsheet set and warm cosy lighting, what’s not to love? Plus, this room has a queen-sized bed and an additional single bed, we can each have a bed, so I don’t have to worry about waking up my girlfriend if I toss and turn in bed.
The room is very spacious, with lots of room to put our luggage. I like the use of the traditional Japanese sliding door which gives this room a more traditional Japanese feel. There is a small fridge too, with tea cups to make your morning coffee or tea.
This room has a good mix of traditional Japanese elements such as the sliding doors and modern comforts such as framed beds and the small fridge.
Our room is located on the second floor, the washing machine and washing basin is just outside our room which is really convenient. Laundry detergent and softener are provided.
The toilet is really clean, the walls are covered with blue-flower wallpaper. The toilet seat is fitted with an electronic bidet that cleans your gential area.
The bathroom is in a separate room, the interior is very clean with classy granite walls. You can use the shampoo and shower gel provided.
The dining room on the ground level is only open during the day time, where Mami-san serves breakfast and interacts with her guests.
The price that we paid includes breakfast (which is one of the reasons we chose this Airbnb) but we didn’t expect the breakfast to be so pretty and delicious. The following two pictures show the breakfast we enjoyed on the two days we stayed there, the breakfast is different everyday.
2 pieces of yaki onigiri (grilled rice balls), 2 pieces of tamagoyaki and a small bowl of Japanese bean salad is presented on a black lacquer hexagon tray with handle. The bright red table mat is anchored on the four corners by a ceramic plate, a glass (you can help yourself to the fruit juice), a bowl of miso soup and a bowl of cut apples and strawberries.
French toast, cut fruits of strawberries, banana and prunes are served on a small pan, garnished with mint leave and icing sugar. Accompanying the main dish is a small bowl of salad and a cup of fruit juice.
Mami-san’s house may be a little far from the center of Tokyo and all the tourist attractions, but she makes up for it by giving you a feel of what it is like to live like a local Japanese in a residential neighborhood. You will definitely enjoy Mami-san’s beautiful and delicious breakfast and her hospitality.
Kyoto Airbnb: Oguri’s 50 Years Old Classic House
Address: Yokomichi Hirakawa 8-18 Joyo-shi, Kyoto-fu 610-0101
Listing: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/11914532 [use this referral link to get S$45 travel credit when you book your first homestay with Airbnb, this travel credit can be used to offset part of future Airbnb bookings]
Hajimi Oguri was born in Kyoto, Japan and he lived in Los Angeles for 2.5 years so he can speak both Japanese and English. Oguri-San has been running his own company since 23 years old, selling fishing tackles and outdoor equipment that he designs himself. He likes to collect antique furniture, traveling around the world and riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Oguri-san has a small garden at the front of the house and a patio umbrella with tables and chairs, perfect for relaxing with a beer. Orugi-san loves to interact with his guests whenever he has time. His hospitality has earned him the Superhost status. Oguri-san even hosts barbecue when the weather permits, do ask him about it!
Oguri-san rents out the only two rooms in the house, while he stays in a makeshift room at the back of the house. Guests have access to all the facilities in and about the house. There are two bicycles outside the house that you can borrow.
The Japanese house with 50 years of history is filled with antique furniture and souvenirs that Oguri-san has collected from all around the world.
The “living room” is a small room with four wooden chairs and a wooden table that looks like it came straight out of a 90s Chinese movie set.
Even the staircase that leads up to the second level (where the guest rooms are) are made of wood.
The bathroom is equipped with Japanese shower with stool (shampoo and body wash provided). The washing machine is just outside the bathroom, besides the sink. The toilet is by itself in a separate room. Everything is spotlessly clean.
This is the first time I am sleeping in a tatami room, on a futon on the floor. I was worried that it will be very hard but it turned out to be so soft and comfortable! The futon is so thick and soft, I momentarily forgot that I am actually lying on the floor. It is such a wonderful experience, you should definitely try it!
We especially chose this place for its tatami rooms. Orugi-San offers 2 rooms, this big tatami room can accommodate a maximum of 5 people. Our futons were laid out at one side of the room, separated from the sitting area by a wooden sliding door. It was still a little chilly especially at night, the kotatsu (low wooden table covered by a futon) keeps us really cosy and warm.
Our room comes with a small wooden balcony complete with rattan table and chairs. There is not much of a view, but it’s nice to be able to seat outside in the crisp spring air and have a chat.
Although Oguri-san does not provide breakfast, you can use the microwave, oven and water boiler in the kitchen. There are many restaurants and shops just a short walk way. Oguri-San’s house is right smack in the middle of Kyoto and Nara, making this the perfect base to explore Kyoto and Nara.
Gen’s Cosy Tatami Room
Address: Sumiyoshi, Osaka-fu 558-0045
Listing: [this listing is no longer active at time of writing]
Gen-san, together with her friends, have traveled to many countries and stayed in many guesthouses and hotel. She has worked in a guesthouse for 2 years and now she wants to use her experiences and knowledge to spread the Japanese culture.
Gen-san has kindly prepared a table of snacks and drinks as well as 2-pin plug adaptor and charging cable, which is really sweet of her.
The room that we booked was supposed to be only one room, but Gen-san has kindly cleared out the other room for us as well, while she sleeps in the living room.
The two tatami rooms are separated by a wooden sliding door, each room is very spacious with more than enough room to move around after putting in our luggage.
The bathroom and toilet are small and compact, spotlessly clean. There is shampoo and body wash in the bathroom.
I have slept in a tatami room in Oguri-san’s house in Kyoto so I am not worried about sleeping on a futon at all. It is so comfortable!
Gen-san’s house is small but clean and Gen-san is very helpful. She brought us to her place from the station and walked us back to the station the next morning. Oh, Gen-san draws really well (many of her works are pasted on the wall in the living room) and she will gladly do a caricature for you.
Tokyo Airbnb: Wear Kimono, Cook Japanese Food, Learn Music and Green Tea Ceremony with Yuka and Masato
Address: Nishitokyo 1-8-12, Tokyo 202-0006
Listing: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/Chinatown Heritage Centre 牛车水原貌馆 13736938 [use this referral link to get S$45 travel credit when you book your first homestay with Airbnb, this travel credit can be used to offset part of future Airbnb bookings]
Yuka-san and Masato-san are a husband and wife duo who loves to travel. They have visited more than 50 countries in 2014-2016 as part of their honeymoon. Upon their return, they settled down in their hometown Tokyo. They decided to open up their home to travelers so that they can pass on the hospitality they have experienced during their travels.
Yuka-san and Masato-san’s house is situated right next to the train track. There is not much disturbance as the Japanese trains are so efficient, but even if you can hear a little rumbling as the train goes by, it makes the place even more special, don’t you think? How many times have you stayed in a house and get to see the train go by outside your window?
This is Yuka-san and Masato-san. They are very hospitable and knowledgeable so do not be afraid to ask them questions. Their hospitality has earned them the Superhost status on Airbnb.
This is the living room cum dining room. This is also the place where you can take cooking and music classes (Japanese harp (koto) and guitar (sanshin)), try on handmade kimonos, experience Japanese green tea ceremony and otaku room.
That’s a really beautiful kimono hanging on the wall, isn’t it?
There are many designs of kimonos to choose from.
Kimono, Japanese harp (koto) and Japanese samurai warrior armor replica.
Breakfast of toast with jam and boiled egg is available for free, but if you want something a little more fancy, there are many breakfast options available (additional payment).
Tea, green and coffee is available for all.
I opted for a Japanese breakfast of rice with shichimi togarashi and yuzu tea, accompanied with a plate containing kimchi (it’s a little weird having kimchi in a Japanese home but Yuma-san explains that she loves kimchi very much, and so do I), dried seaweed, pickled plum and pickled beans. I do have to pay a little extra, but the simple yet delicious breakfast is worth every penny (or Japanese yen in this case).
There are 3 rooms for rent in the house and we got this cute room on the second floor. It is much smaller than the previous three tatami rooms but it can comfortably fit two futons.
The washing machine cum dryer is just outside the bathroom, it is free to use with free laundry detergent. There is a small covered area at the side of the house where you can hang your clothes.
This is the bathroom, designed in traditional Japanese style with a low stool. Shampoo and body wash is provided. The bathtub is covered up for some reason but the whole bathroom is very clean and tidy, taking a shower here is such a pleasure.
The toilet is very clean with small ornaments that adds a touch of homeliness.
Yuka-san and Masato-san are excellent hosts and they are very helpful. Besides the cooking and musical classes, they can also help you to book sumo training (which is free, and you can take photographs with the sumo wrestlers after the training). They can also help you to get ticket to Ghibli Museum (the Ghibli Museum tickets are apparently pretty hard to get). Staying with Yuka-san and Masato-san is like undergoing a mini cultural immersion program!
I hope this post gives you the confidence to rent guesthouses from Airbnb. Now is your turn to embark on your first Airbnb adventure [use this referral link to get S$45 travel credit when you book your first homestay with Airbnb, this travel credit can be used to offset part of future Airbnb bookings]!”