On my most recent visit to Japan (March 2013), I reached out to Kentaro on Couchsurfing for a casual coffee meetup and instead, ended up getting invited to his house party with my other host, Daichi. I am introducing Kentaro to you because I am impressed and inspired by how active he has become on Couchsurfing. More than that, he co-created Japanize which stemmed from the main Japan CS group and focuses on connecting foreigners with a more local experience during their visit. He recently quit his job at IBM to pursue his own business and is one of the most personable, genuine, and good humored people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. So without further adieu…
Favorite Food: Curry
Favorite Place(s) Traveled: Medan, Indonesia, Varanasi, India, Nice, France
Drink of Choice (alcoholic or non): Beer
Favorite Movie or Song: Momoiro Clover (a Japanese idol group)
Why do you travel? Why do you think it’s important for people to travel?
I just wanna know what I don’t know, and I wish more people would travel abroad because travel removes our barriers and stereotypes and makes my world more open. This might lead us to a peaceful world.
Why should people visit Japan?
Mmm…I don’t think foreign people should visit Japan, but if there are people who think Japan is a nice country and Japanese people are nice, I want them to come to Japan and see the reality. Japanese people don’t have dreams and are not interested in others. It’s a very cold country, and I’m happy if they can find out how warm their countries are from us.
Tell us a bit about Japanize. What inspired you to start Japanize? What can people expect from the events?
Since I started hosting people via Couchsurfing, I found that our differences are amazing, and I want more people to start hosting. Actually, Japanize started from another group named “CouchSurfing.jp”, a group aimed to make more hosts in Japan.
However, we failed at this project because it’s so hard for Japanese people to host foreign strangers. On the other hand, we found that there are many Japanese people who are really interested in communicating with foreign people. So we changed the concept to introduce Japanese culture and Japanese people via offline communication.
People can expect real Japanese experiences and find Japanese friends who create our culture.
You recently left Japanize and your job at IBM to start your own business. What are you hoping to accomplish with your new project? What is one thing you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
I wan to connect the world and erase all discrimination and stereotypes from the world. So I want more people to travel, to make new friends all around the world, and to start enjoying our differences. I want to create a way for people in developed countries to enjoy traveling more and provide ways to earn money for people in developing countries to travel abroad. Through these accomplishments, I wanna generate more communications between people across the border.
Tell us about your involvement in CS. How did you discover the community? What was one of your first experiences with CS?
I knew CS from a book named “SHARE,” and now, I’m mainly hosting in Tokyo.
My first experience in CS was surfing in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was so impressed by the host then, and my image of traveling totally changed. At the same time, I decided to be a host dedicated to the CS community.
To you, what are the major benefits of CS? Why should people sign up for the site/get involved?
For me, the reason for hosting people is just to expand my world.
Of course some people are just looking for places to stay for free via CS, but the rest are in the CS community for the same reason, and it’s my pleasure to spend my time with those kind of people.
Craziest/strangest story or experience from a meetup/hosting/surfing?
Hard to answer, but the first experience in CS (surfing in Jakarta, same as above) was the most amazing experience. It changed my whole life.
Most valuable lesson learned from Couchsurfing?
The fact that I noticed that “differences” are something enjoy and not to hate.
Anything upcoming you’re excited about that you’d like to share? Any last words?
Look forward to my website! It will lead more people to the culture of Couchsurfing and change the world.