This is an ode to my wonderful hosts in Japan. In a land where couchsurfing isn’t that common, it can be a bit challenging to find a host, especially at the last minute. On the upside, however, it can turn out to be an even more rewarding experience. With a sturdy language barrier in place, couchsurfing is a great option because the locals are able to show you the ropes and even help you learn Japanese. Because couchsurfing is not yet a mainstream concept in the land of the rising sun, all the more reason I encourage you to try it out, open the doors to cultural exchange, and help build Japan’s confidence to use their foreign language skills.
Daichi & Kentaro – Tokyo
Just hours after landing at Narita airport and making my way to Daichi’s home (my first host), we promptly shuffled out the door to, what would be, the first of 3 house parties that weekend, hosted by Kentaro (1/2 host). When I say house party, I don’t mean fraternity style, everyone getting drunk in a rowdy environment type of party. I’m talking good company and conversation, having food babies at the end of the night type of party. A potluck dinner, if you will. With these potluck parties turning into nearly all-day affairs, I hardly slept at night, just taking 4-5 hour power naps. I don’t have one complaint though because I had A LOT of different, mouth-watering Japanese cuisine. When I wasn’t blacked out in a food coma, the only other memory I have from being peacefully immersed in Japanese all weekend was taking a brief break, sun bathing in a park with a view of the Tokyo Skytree in the distance. What a way to kick off my time in Japan!
Mengshan – Yokohama
After my side trip to Nikko, I returned to the Tokyo area, this time choosing to stay in Yokohama. I stayed the weekend at my host’s, Mengshan’s, cozy apartment where the laughter did not stop for 48 hours. On the first night, we ate dinner in Chinatown and went for a walk along the harbor. The next morning, she made her specialty, fried eggs, for breakfast before we went off in search of sakura (cherry blossoms). In between chasing cherry blossoms, the day included shopping in Motomachi, a lot of walking, trying sushi for the first time, and homemade curry udon for dinner. Mengshan was my best host to date. It was like crashing with a long lost sister, and little did I know, she would turn out to be one of my greatest friends and hiking companions in Japan.
Satoshi – Kyoto
I talked a bit about Satoshi in my AirBnB post. In true Japanese form, he was shy, reserved, and at times, it was like pulling teeth trying to have a conversation, until you got him talking about travel that is. He currently works for a company called Rakuten Travel and dreams of traveling the world in a couple of years, once he has enough money saved. It is there that we met on common ground and shared our own wanderlust filled dreams. I came to adore him, as he revealed more of his adventurous spirit through story. We didn’t spend much time together because he worked long hours and most nights, by the time he got home, we were both too exhausted to say or do anything but pass out.
He lives in a clean, quaint apartment smack in the middle of Kyoto, making it easy to come and go wherever and whenever I please. It was relaxing to have the apartment to myself during the day to work and have his company in the evening. Renting the apartment for a week was like a homey sanctuary in the center of Japan’s most traditional city. Every day I woke up, I forgot that I was in Japan. It was pure bliss.
Norimasa – Nagoya
At the last minute, I received an opportunity to couchsurf one last time in Nagoya with Norimasa-san. I met him after he got off of work at 7pm, on a rainy Tuesday evening, but that didn’t stop us from going out. We promptly headed to dinner at a small joint tucked away in the back streets near his house where we chatted like old friends over rice, fried chicken, and an endless supply of green tea. We took a stroll over to Osu Kannon temple and spent the remainder of the evening in conversation where I learned of his passion and love for Africa. The following day, I spent the entire day running around Nagoya on my own, visiting different areas such as Sakae, Nagoya Port, and Jingu Nishi, and even though we didn’t get to hang out much, we managed to, at least, have dinner together at the end of the day: home cooked nabe. Mmmmmm!
Norimasa is such a gentleman, very respectful, a real sweetheart, and fellow travel bug victim. His home reminds me a lot of my old apartment in NYC: small, full of personality, and in the center of everything. If you ever get the chance to stay with him, I hope you do.
Couchsurfing in Japan was, hands down, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The people, not just my hosts, are so wonderful, and I felt incredibly safe and comfortable. I was really fortunate and spoiled to find hosts who felt like long lost family. So, I owe a HUGE どうもありがとうございます to Daichi, Kentaro, Mengshan, Satoshi, and Norimasa for welcoming me into their homes, taking me under their wings, and teaching more than I could’ve hoped for about their lives and Japanese culture.
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