Calling All Travellers

“Calling All Airbnb Travellers in Tokyo” was an email subject line guaranteed to catch my attention the night we arrived in Japan. After a nine hour flight and 90 minutes of train travel we had just checked into our tiny yet beautifully appointed Airbnb apartment in Funabori. Our host Masakatsu had given us a warm welcome and some much needed dinner. Our vacation had begun.

Our accommodation, in a three storey building on a quiet side-street, suited our needs perfectly. The kitchen was compact and well-equipped and the living room, charmingly arranged for Tea Ceremony, fitted two futons perfectly. One of the benefits of booking with Airbnb is that travellers stay in real homes in local neighbourhoods. Our traditional Japanese apartment was in a typical Tokyo suburb, with a vending machine on every corner, a 7/11 store on the main street and a train station within walking distance.

P1010035

The email I received on our first night was from Wakana Ando, who works for Airbnb in Tokyo. It was a first for the online accommodation booking site – an invitation to meet up with other Airbnb travellers and an Airbnb hostess to explore Jiyugaoka, a suburb of Tokyo on the opposite side of the city from Funabori. We would never have thought of going there on our own and replied immediately; the opportunity to meet some kindred spirits and visit a different part of the city was too good to ignore.

Our hour long train journey across the city took us to the end of the Shibuya line and then on a local express train to Jiyugaoka Station where we met the rest of the group. Our 75 year old hostess, Haruko, has been an Airbnb hostess since it first started in Tokyo and has welcomed many people into her home. Her name means Spring Child and there was a spring in her step as she led us on a meandering walk away from the main streets to her favourite places in Jiyugaoka. We wandered along the indoor alleys of a local department store. We rang the bell at the small Buddhist temple after being instructed in the proper way to cleanse before praying. At La Vita, we admired the canals and posed on the little bridge. We peered through the gate of a traditional tea house set in a beautifully formed garden and we stopped to marvel at the enormous apples at a roadside fruit and vegetable stall, all the while listening to Haruko’s stories about her neighbourhood.

P1020291

P1020301

P1020320

P1020323

P1020336

As we wandered, we introduced ourselves to the other members of the group. We met Katrina from Miami, who, like us had only just arrived in Tokyo, but unlike the rest of us was planning to stay and work for several months. Fellow Australians, John and Susan, were using their Airbnb apartment as a home base for three weeks while exploring Tokyo on bicycles. Our lunch destination was La Boheme, an Italian restaurant serving tasty Italian food in Japanese style. Wakana had asked us to choose from the menu prior to the day so our delicious meals were ready when we arrived. As we sat together around the table more stories emerged, from the Canadian couple who had taken six months off to explore Asia and the American photographer hoping to build a new career with his photos.

P1020328

airbnbAfter lunch, we continued our gentle stroll until we arrived back to the train station, where Wakana and Haruko bid us farewell. We didn’t go straight back to central Tokyo though. Instead we ventured out again down the narrow streets of Jiyugaoka, this time on our own, to continue exploring. We had journeyed to the other side of Tokyo and we were going to make the most of it, thanks to that intriguing subject line from Wakana.

P1020289

Advertisements

28 thoughts on “Calling All Travellers

  1. I have not been to Japan and your beautiful photos make me wonder why! I am surprised by the number of street shots you have shown that are not teeming with people – as usually that is what one sees and my image of Japan is that it is over crowded and commercial and unattractive. Isn’t it interesting how you can build up an image which is only one aspect of a country! Haruko’s neighbourhood is very beautiful!

    • You know, that was my impression before I went there too and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was very wrong. The only places that were really crowded were that pedestrian crossing in Shibuya and the famous shopping street in Harajuku. And even then the novelty of where we were outweighed the people factor. I was constantly amazed by the fact that there weren’t more people around. Every morning and evening as we walked through our neighbourhood we saw very few people. I would highly recommend a visit to Japan to anyone.

  2. What a great experience! …and what a great idea! This never happened to us as we made our way around the world – staying at a number of AirBnBs. I’m glad you took the opportunity. Looks like it was a rewarding day.

    • We’ve used Airbnb several times and it had never happened to us before either. Wanaka said it was a new idea to get travellers together. It was amazing to hear what others were doing and where they had been. We enjoyed the day very much. I hope Airbnb continues with this practice.

  3. Your fellow Australians were going to cycle around Tokyo. I never had the impression that Tokyo was a city for cycling around. Do you know how they got on?

    • They’d been enjoying it so far when we talked with them. In Funabori where we were staying there were cycle paths and lots of people on bikes and every house had a bike or two parked out the front. There must be times when the traffic is incredibly busy but we didn’t see it, even in the city centre. Out of the centre it was just normal like any other place, no more than where I live in a city of 100 000. Most people do their daily travel on the trains I think.

      • Asakusa

        Denzil, this photo was taken on a Saturday afternoon from the first floor of a Starbucks in Asakusa, a busy tourist area with a famous temple and shopping streets. As you can see, plenty of people and lots of bicycles parked on the side but not many cars. This is what it was like everywhere. I had expected the streets to be much more busy.

  4. What an amazing experience, we always like to get away from the tourist areas and into the locals areas. I LOVE Airbnb and would recommend it to any one looking for accommodation. Wonderful photos and as others have commented so few people…

  5. Wow! What a wonderful way to meet new people and see a city – that’s such a great idea. We’ve never booked through AirBnB but when we hear stories like this, we just want to try it out next time.

    • You definitely should check it out. We’ve had great experiences through Airbnb. I would recommend it for sure, but as usual, make sure you read the reviews and look at the photos carefully. The good thing is that the reviews can only be written by people who have actually stayed in the place, so you know they are genuine.

  6. What a brilliant idea! I’ve never had any experience of Airbnb but I’ll have a look out of curiosity. The walk is delightful (love the canalside shot) and isn’t it amazing when travellers get together how easy it is to strike up friendships?
    NB. Italian ‘Japanese style’? You have me wondering what that might entail. Pasta and sushi? 🙂 Many thanks for sharing.

    • It was more like pasta and chopsticks! The Japanese style was in the presentation and the accompaniments. Very simple and very organised.

      My mother says you can only talk travel with travellers and I think she’s right. We always have so much in common. You should take a look at Airbnb. There are some lovely places to stay and they are a fraction of the cost of hotels and much nicer.

  7. Pingback: Shop Till You Drop! | The Eternal Traveller

  8. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Just boats! | restlessjo

Please share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s