Airbnb Japan: 4 Non-Obvious Things

The coldest shower I ever took was at an Airbnb in Japan. It was in a tiny, freezing apartment in Fukuoka, in the dead of winter, as I was getting ready to go meet some girls.

“Maybe if I just wait a while,” I thought, “it’ll warm up.” You know how if you let cold water run long enough, it starts to feel a little warmer? Yeah, that didn’t happen. I searched for an invisible panel or switch to turn on. Nothing. I wrapped a towel around my waist and padded outside in bare feet to stare through the darkness at a rusted hot water heater hanging off the wall. I’d have about as much chance of fixing that as debugging R2D2. Snow flurries swirled through the night sky. Back inside, the jet stream was blowing them through an open vent in the tile wall. Japanese apartments have zero insulation.

I’ve read that cold showers are invigorating and good for one’s immune system. Pretty sure whoever wrote that’s never showered in Fukuoka. There’s not a lot of time for mysticism and health when your feet are turning blue. The next day, an unkempt Japanese guy with tattoos reeking of cigarette smoke apologetically drove me to another apartment.

That surprised me, because Airbnb listed the place as offered by “Mika and Miho,” with the photo of a smiling Japanese lady holding the hand of a child. But then I’m kinda naive about stuff.

“How many apartments have you got?” I asked.

“Six, right now,” he coughed.

To his credit, the next place was a lot nicer, and I can confidently say that the hottest shower I’ve ever taken was at an Airbnb in Japan.

4 Non-Obvious Things About Airbnb Japan

At this point, I’ve rented about twenty places through Airbnb Japan, and here are some things I’ve concluded:

1. Many Airbnb in Japan are run by companies, not individuals

Forget that cheery-looking guy or gal advertising their cozy place for rent. Sometimes that’s the case, but quite often, it’s a front for a company managing blocks of currently unoccupied homes and apartments. Sometimes this is easy to spot, because you can see the same images and verbiage used at multiple locations in the same region. It seems to enable a sort of price fixing, especially during high seasons. After the lower-priced places have been rented, the company can jack up the prices of the remaining properties, since they manage all of them.

2. Your Japanese Airbnb host Might not be Japanese

A surprising number of Airbnb hosts I’ve met or communicated with haven’t been Japanese. Now, I don’t mean to imply anything conspiratorial or untoward, only that it’s worth noting that your kind and polite “Japanese” host may well be a friendly Korean, Taiwanese, or Chinese person. I suspect that, just like the world over, immigrants have limited opportunities in regular industries and corresponding incentives to pursue more entrepreneurial ventures.

3. You Mostly get What you pay for

An Airbnb in Japan is generally cheaper than staying at the Ritz-Carlton, but not necessarily a better deal than a private room at a hostel or minshuku (rooming house). I’ve spent about 30 bucks on rock-bottom Airbnb’s and gotten just that—-icy little boxes in poor neighborhoods. I’ve also gone the other way, blowing over 100 bucks a night on decent places that might’ve been better spent on hotels.

One thing’s for sure—-with a hotel, you pretty much know what you’re getting. With Airbnb, it’s always a surprise. Sometimes it’s good; the place is clean and quiet. But sometimes getting the key involves waiting in the rain outside a suburban train station for half an hour, or the directions have you walking in circles cursing Google Maps, or you wonder how the host managed to capture such bright, spacious photos in that cramped, dingy hovel. Beware hosts with photography skills, is what I’ve learned.

4. With Airbnb Japan, you Might Actually be Staying in a Japanese Apartment

My aunt recently came to visit me, so I got her a Japanese Airbnb on the sixth floor of a residential building. I’m still not sure this was a good idea.

It was eleven at night when we arrived, and the first thing she did was walk straight through the apartment, onto the balcony, and lift the hatch to the escape ladder. Safety first and all that, I guess. The whole thing happened in slow motion, with me vainly diving to catch her arm in mid-lift. I pictured six floors of ladders instantly crashing to the ground, waking the entire neighborhood and causing a newspaper-worthy incident.

“What’s this?” she asked quizzically.

“Yeah, let’s just close that quietly.” I whispered.

A couple of minutes later she was making a phone call on the balcony.

“Maybe you should talk inside,” I suggested.

“Why?” she shouted.

And it occurred to me that visitors to Japan may not realize the importance silence at home. Listening to the TV with the windows open, or even talking excitedly, could result in a nasty letter from a neighbor or landlord. Forget about playing the stereo.

Then there was the trash. Plastic bottles go here, but not their plastic labels. Aluminum cans go here, but not aluminum foil. And the intercom—-push this button, then this button, but never, ever this button. Same thing with the bathtub. Don’t ever push this button.

“What’s this string?” said wondered, wrapping it around her finger.

“Uh yeah, don’t pull that.”

“Why not?”

“You should probably avoid randomly pushing and pulling on things.”

“How’s a person supposed to know?”

That’s a pretty great question, actually. The stove, microwave, and hot water pot were mysteries. The TV remote was a jumble of stick figures. Forget about the heater and AC controls. We spent 10 minutes on Skype while she showed me video of laundry detergent, hair conditioner, and the washing machine before concluding she hadn’t turned on the water spigot.

“What if I want to do a delicate cycle?” she asked. “Can I just press some of these other buttons?”

“Maybe you should just wash them in the sink,” I suggested.

Airbnb Japan, Who’s it Right for?

I really wish I’d stop asking questions I can’t answer. Whenever I travel with Japanese people, they seem infinitely able to find good deals on hotels or cute, traditional ryokans. There’s nothing even remotely appealing about sleeping in someone else’s abandoned condo. Even poor college students seem better off with fifteen-dollar internet cafes.

For foreign guests, hotels and hostels are almost certainly easier. You might want to reexamine conventional lodging options before going the whole Airbnb Japan route. But still…

You see them in every train station. Wavy-haired tourists, strapped with enormous backpacks, wearing shorts and hiking boots, spinning in circles, orienting iPads, trying to determine which line will take them into the countryside, where they’ll meet a Japanese-looking host who’ll patiently guide them the final mile to a dark, three-story walk-up and spend half an hour explaining the house rules. I mean, hey, we’ve all been there; just not sure I’d recommend it. And yet, like a casino, I’m consistently drawn back to Airbnb Japan. I just know next time I’ll get lucky. Baby needs a new pair o’ shoes . . . come on, snake eyes.

52 Replies to “Airbnb Japan: 4 Non-Obvious Things”

  1. I arrived in Tokyo today. I‘ve been here many times, but this is the first time I am using Airbnb. Guess what: The young Japanese mother with a boy in her arms (judging from her user name and user photo) turned out to be an old Chinese guy. So, by my extensive empirical evidence, you are absolutely right.

    1. Then it’s confirmed—our combined experiences add up to a statistically significant sample size. Glad to know it’s not just me.

  2. Haha great article and yeah I did come to the same conclusion and just stopped doing AirBNB in Japan, you can do pretty well with just regular minshuku, hotels, and hostels…but occasionally, especially in the 田舎, it did turn out to be the best (and sometimes only) option.

    1. Good point. And now I’m thinking not just of 田舎 (countryside), but really the suburbs. Like maybe when you have a friend living there and want to be close by. (Can’t imagine any other reason a person would want to stay in the suburbs of Japan.) Airbnb’s probably a good fit for that.

  3. I was curious,…what about the “reviews” section on Airbnb? Usually, after reading the general description of a room/apartment, I read the reviews of the people who (at least have claimed to) have stayed there. I am having a hard time believing that they are all fake.

    1. That’s a really good question. I’ve become a lot more skeptical of online reviews, everywhere on the internet.

      I tend to believe most reviews are real, although anywhere money’s involved you’ve got a reason for people to stack the deck in their favor.

      It’s also worth questioning the credentials of the reviewers. How well do they know Japan, and how aware are they of what’s going on around them? Had the hot water heater not broken, I’d likely never have known who I was dealing with. And who gives a bad review to a mother raising a child? Then, if I didn’t speak Japanese, I’d certainly have thought that all the owners were Japanese. And if I didn’t live here, I wouldn’t know what the standards are for good and bad apartments. Oooh, futons…sitting on the floor at tiny tables…a rice cooker…how very…exotic.

      Finally, the reviews aren’t anonymous. To some extent, a bad review might reflect negatively on the writer, or even get them reported (whatever that means). I think the notion that “we’re all one big, happy community getting along” limits people from being too critical.

  4. Hi Ken
    Just a a test to check
    Maybe my last long email was lost 🙁 I type it on my iPhone and submit and it was lost, and the captcha said i submitted twice.

    1. This one certainly got through. If you can, please save what you wrote before submitting it. Sorry the captcha doesn’t work better.

      1. i tried again, hope this time work.
        Hi Ken,
        Great to be back on your blog and reading your writing again :). You made my day. Been so busy with business and work so I haven’t had time to read your blog for ages. So couple of random questions. 1/what are Japanese people/ especially Japanese men attitude towards money?. Reason asking and when I said you made my day. I mean it. As just coming off a fight with my Japanese ex-boyfriend. We share business rent space and I am behind the business rent ( I just don’t have the money as heaps of unexpected shits happens and my other part time job, I won’t get paid til next week). Anyway, He basically gave me a long lecture of how I should manage my money better, my future and my business direction. Which is all good as he is lot older than me, more matured, and more responsible with money. But he said he doesn’t want to hear any stories of reason why and he went on about money and I should be this/that. Well, if I was like that, I would be standing here talking to him right? I would be him talking to himself. Maybe our attitude about money are different. Maybe grow up in New Zealand makes my attitude about money is very chilled vs him grow up in Japan. Second question, since you are an expert in Japanese women. Can you help me with this problem of this Japanese lady? So after my Japanese ex broke up , he quickly got together with this Japanese woman. I think she left her kiwi husband for him. Don’t know and don’t care. But I care is I know ( for a fact) that she hated my guts. I meant it. If I were to die, she would be happily watching me ( which was a fact, as I was submitting in emergency hospital end of last year, I was dying litterrally , and she apparently throw by ex clothes out of the door and kicked him out and went real psycho for him seeing me in hospital ( for seeing me ( one of his best friends) in emergency hospital ???).anyway, we ended up decided to stop being friends with each other for her, well, seeing him so stressed from seeing me in hopital and after I been announced undead by the doctors. I decided not be friends for his relationship’s sake with that Japanese woman. Anyway, but some unforeseen circumstances forced us in to share business space together( my old shop space rent was too high, heaps of problems like road work). And sharing space helped his cafe and my shop etc in the end. So since I been here. She bloody turns up everyday , wearing real sexy clothes ( not sure my ex noticed them but a super tight red mini skirt for her age is not a normal choice of clothes I told ya, coming from a girl point of view).Even offered me food and drink ( I never take them cause she probably put poison in them). Being super friendly and smiling when I knew the truth that she wished me death just last year. I know they ( my ex and her) probably think I am just young and silly and I wouldn’t know anything. The age gap between me and my ex is Iike 12-13years and I am pretty sure she is the same age as him , he told me). Since they all speak Japanese with Each other and I all I know of Japanese is Biru which is beer. So she must think I don’t know anything. So my question is how do I tell her to stay the fuck away from me? Don’t say hi, don’t pretend. don’t talk to me. She creeps me out. I watched a lot of Japanese horrors so I know. Since you are an expert in understanding Japanese women. Can you help me? Can you nail this one down for me?My friends thinks it is funny when I complained to them but it is definitely not funny. It is scary for me. Please advise. Ps. Sorry about your super cold shower. But I hope your meeting with some girls went hot despite having cold shower. Regards. Chichi 🙂

        1. Hey Chichi,

          Thanks for the comment. Sounds like things are a bit rough for you right now—that really sucks, and I feel for you.

          So about the money thing. You know, speaking in broad generalities, Japanese people are a lot more careful with money than, say, Americans. (Since that’s where I’m from, it’s the easiest country for me to compare with.) The average American family has credit card debt in excess of $15,000. By contrast, I’d say the average Japanese household has at least the same amount in savings.

          Again, just speaking in generalities, Japanese people don’t spend what they don’t have. They save. Sure, they get called out for carrying Gucci wallets and Prada bags, but it’s nothing compared to the cars, mountain bikes, jet skis, and snowboards of Americans. U.S. homes are packed full of tens of thousands of dollars worth of useless shit. You could’t even fit all that into a Japanese place. So yeah, it’s probable that your ex-boyfriend is accustomed to people who have a different attitude toward money.

          As for the woman thing, wow. That’s rough. I’d never say I was an expert on ladies, or much of anything really, although I admit I’ve seen some scary women in this country. Just distance yourself from the whole situation as much as possible, and avoid engaging or confronting her. I don’t think you should say anything to her. Just be cordial and go about your business. If she’s trying to provoke a reaction from you, the best thing to do is to deny her that, and let her tire of the game. And keep throwing those sandwiches in the trash.

          The whole struggle and strife over lovers and exes is a waste of time. We spend way too much life effort trying to win lovers, and then once we have them, spend even more effort trying to get rid of them. And then once we get rid of them, we spend even more effort being jealous. I know it’s not easy, but we’ve all got to step off that merry-go-round.

          Maybe a cold shower does have some merit after all.

            1. Thanks for that. Jeez, it’s easy to get all wrapped up in the drama, and I’m certainly not immune. We get pulled so strongly by love, hate, jealousy, and anger that one minute we’re over the moon and the next half-way over the bridge railing. But a few months later and you can’t remember what all the fuss was about. All those nights I been spent crying over women whose names I can’t even recall any more. So apparently that was a good use of my time.

              It’s just a bunch of stuff in your own head, and once it passes, you realize how crazy it was to feel that way in the first place. Until the next time, of course.

  5. Cold showers should be part of the Dante’s Circles of Hell ( for Lust maybe?) !!! Just read an article about Airbnb’s here in the US, and, apparently, guests must beware of the toilet paper situation.
    Have a great weekend, Ken Seeroi! Mine is off to a great start after reading your post. Until next time!

  6. I’ve tried about 10 different AirBnB’s in Tokyo and Osaka, and it’s exactly like you describe. You have to look very carefully at the pictures and reviews before you book something.
    I’ve had a couple of really great experiences that you could never get with a hotel – great locations, funny neighbours, friendly hosts who show you around town personally.
    For tourists it can actually be quite fun to pretend to live in Japan, in your own apartment, learning all the rules that you would normally never have to learn. Doesn’t that teach you a lot more about Japanese culture than staying in a generic hotel room???

    1. Maybe that’s part of it—I’m not looking for a rent-a-friend or someone trying to explain my own country to me; I just want a place to crash.

      But I do remember that feeling when I first came here, of being invited into a “real Japanese home,” and I can understand how that might be an appeal of the Airbnb experience. Now, my ideal interaction is picking a key up from the mailbox, and never having to interact with the host at all. Funny how things change.

      1. I feel the same when traveling in my own country (Netherlands) , but AirBnB hosts over here mostly don’t see me as a tourist. They certainly don’t ask if I can eat with a knife and fork.

        1. Sounds familiar. I used to write to Airbnb hosts in English—and they’d show up to greet me all excited about explaining the functions of the washlet toilet. Then I switched to Japanese, and now the key’s left in the mailbox every time.

  7. “The next day, an unkempt Japanese guy with tattoos reeking of cigarette smoke apologetically drove me to another apartment.”
    So, now you’re renting from the Yakuza, huh?

    1. Although I’d love to think so, I kinda doubt it. That caricature of what Yakuza look like is becoming dated. Nowadays, more and more Japanese people are sporting tattoos, and I’ve heard some Yakuza are avoiding getting them. Nothing stays the same for long.

      1. Yeah, that’s true. But I read some article saying nowadays some Yakuza groups main profit come from ‘legal’ business, and that got my mind spinning.

        1. The Yakuza—truck drivers, meat packers, and road-crew workers. No need for quotation marks. Just remember that’s what they really are and put your mind to rest.

  8. Hi Ken,

    AirBnb… some quick background: I’ve been using it a lot in the whole of Japan and in many other countries. I started using it in Japan years ago and have used it recently (last October for 4 weeks) and right now for 3 weeks. I used to choose last minute hotel deals as my best value accommodation but I have changed and now I am using I’d say 80% Airbnb (occasional love hotels and hotel deals). I’d say Airbnb is great except in high season then it becomes hell as you have very limited choice at really high price point. However I find that reading recent reviews is a reliable indicator for the apartment’s quality (even if the rating is high, reviews could tell you it shouldn’t be). It’s especially good if you’re gonna stay for 2+ days so the cleaning cost are absorbed better. Paying an apartment 40USD + 50USD cleaning cost is not really a great deal… Anyway moving on, longer stay and booked in advance so you get to pick the best places and not the leftovers like I’ve been doing for the past week… Bloody sakura season in Tokyo (I even moved to Yokohama for 3 days to get a good place to stay and enjoy another hanami). The Chinese “real estate” mafia was really obvious to me in Osaka Namba area where many of the apartments we rented were handled by Chinese and it seemed to be a lucrative business and yes the few “hosts” I could talked to all had several apartments under management; one actually said he had over 20 units. It’s a business and it seems to be a pretty good one with Japanese demographics.
    I wonder if Japan could give a roof to that many tourists (especially with the fast growing Chinese, Korean tourists) without Airbnb. They’d have a shortage of hotels and hostels… So I think it’s still officially illegal but it’s necessary and in my case has been a good experience in 70% of the cases and even a brilliant one in 10% (great domotics, spacious comfy places, electric bikes for free to use, …).
    Final tip: look for recently added listings (1-3 excellent ratings and comments) they tend to be cheaper as the hosts need good reviews to boost their business. Sry long post

  9. Not sure if my post went through,please delete if you get it twice.Cheers Craig.

    Seeroi San.
    OK airbnb Japan,that’s sounds like a good idea.Lets go see some snow I say to wifey,this traditional thatched roof place with indoor hot steamy swimming pool sized onsen looks good.So off we trundle,planes,trains and automobiles to the back blocks of Nagano,a quaint little place called Okuhida which in the depths of winter looks lovely with a 1m deep sprinkling of snow,when we arrived it was roughly -5c outside and roughly -5c inside,no problem lets have a nice hot bath,ahh yes that’s better,now lets put ALL of our clothes,all our socks,both beanies and our heavy weight down jackets back on and have some dinner in the lounge.The owner was a lovely guy,very well read, an excellent cook and host,I thought I might broach the subject of heating and enquired as to why it was so cold inside,he informed me that building techniques used overseas don’t work in Japan,I let that go but did ask why when there was so much hot water literally running down the streets (Okuhida is a hotspring town) it wasn’t used to heat the house,he told me the property did in fact have a heating system but it didn’t work for some reason and it wasn’t cold anyway,well it was cold enough that all the taps inside had to be left at a fast drip to stop them freezing and bursting the INTERNAL pipework.Time for bed,an exotic futon was rolled out and sleep attempted,the temperature outside plummeted to -13c,the temperature inside plummeted to -13c.The high thatched vaulted roof gladly accepted the warmth being produced by the vintage kerosene heater and the original torn interior and exterior shoji screens provided a wonderful view of the snow laden ground outside and also allowed a wonderfull artic blast to stop any chance of carbon monoxide poisining.A sleepless night and then morning,would you like to come to town lovely host enquired,yes that would be wonderful thanks,a chance to fight off hypothermia was grabbed,but where has the car gone? Well 2 meters of snow will quite effectively hide a large 4 wheel drive,no problem we’ll dig it out,we got to town 2 hours later warmed up in a noodle shop,headed home with our lovely host and repeated the previous evenings procedure;
    although with a twist,this time I broke out in some kind of horrendously itchy rash after my bath.Exotic futon,view of the snow,artic blast,itch,itch.-13c.
    Good times.

    1. And that’s why I hate guidebooks.

      Because what you wrote sounds exactly like Japan—including some apartments I’ve lived in—yet you’ll never read that in the Lonely Planet guide. When people say they love traditional Japanese architecture, you gotta wonder if they’ve actually stayed in these places.

  10. This was much needed. Recently checked into an airbnb only to discover the property has rules against it. Now kind of sitting on pins and needles, hoping we don’t get kicked out for any reason.

    It may seem like unlikely but the feeling sucks a bit of the natural comfort you should be able feel when coming back to your room after a long day of exploring.

    Has anyone had that sort of experience?

    1. All the time. I’d venture to say the majority of properties in Japan have rules against sub-letting, including my own.

      A lot of places will specifically instruct you to avoid being seen or heard, not to answer the door, and basically not to tip off the neighbors. If anybody made a fuss about it, the primary renter or owner would probably bear the brunt of the complaints, and your odds of being kicked out are likely pretty low. Still, it all adds to the “excitement” of renting through Airbnb.

  11. I must have cracked it lucky. We rented an AirBnB apartment in Gotunda for a week and it was great. Owned by an Australian guy who lived in the block opposite with his Japanese wife. Rarely saw him again unless bumping into each other shopping in the area. A great experience all up. It was summer though .

    1. That’s great, and probably the norm. I’ve had about 80% good experiences with Airbnb. It’s just those other times…some hassle wandering around trying to find the place or getting the key (10%) or a rundown apartment that’s actually kind of awful (the other 10%).

      By contrast, I’ve checked into legitimate hotels, and then for whatever reason, decided to go somewhere else. Cancelling the remainder of my stay was always zero hassle and expense. That’s not always possible with Airbnb. Just think twice before booking an unseen place with a host who has a “strict cancellation” policy.

  12. Not seeing my comment, so trying again…
    Hey Ken,

    I’ve been reading your blog (mostly the archives) for some months now, and it’s always a good time. Thanks for the many laughs and insights into Japan through the eyes of a jaded expatriot. No offense.

    However, I’ve never had a particular reason to leave a comment, perhaps because the articles were never directly relatable to me (besides the ones about learning Japanese, but I digress) until this post. This summer, I’ll be going to Japan for my first time with a friend. After two years of planning and saving, we’ll be staying there for a full month, and AirBnB will be our primary form of lodging throughout our stay. We’ll be spending a week in Tokyo first, followed by two weeks of traveling throughout the Kansai, Chuugoku, and Chikoku regions, followed by ten more days staying in Tokyo, but this time making day-trips to the surrounding prefectures. As such, we’ve got reservations in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Onomichi, Ooshima, Matsuyama, and Tokushima-shi. I’m certainly looking forward to it, and I’ve gotta agree with what you said in another comment response — the biggest appeal of AirBnB (after the relative affordability) is the novelty. With a willingness to put up with inconvenience in exchange for the “authentic” (whatever that means) experience, AirBnB became the obvious choice.

    Needless to say, with eight different reservations and the better part of $1000 on the line, it was a bit stressful to hear last month’s announcement of the new nationwide 民泊 laws that would be enacted less than two weeks before our arrival. These laws are written specifically to put a stop to the sort of things you talked about in your post — investors buying out whole blocks of condominiums to run as unregulated hotels through the medium of AirBNB, etc. etc. I assume these laws are the occasion for this post?

    After sending a bi-lingual letter(in which I did my best to not sound like a retard in the Japanese half) to all of my hosts inquiring about their particular situations and whether or not they would remain in business or not, I was able to get satisfactory responses from most of my hosts. One host in particular, whom I spoke with on Skype, arranged for us to stay at their home as friends rather than as a business transaction so that they could honor our reservation.

    The one host who did not answer fully satisfactorily, however, is our host for the last 10 days of our trip. He basically said “I don’t know. If you’re worried about it, then cancel your reservation.” Considering that it’ll be the final leg of our trip, we’ll probably be doing all of our souvenir shopping during this period, and so a hostel full of discourteous gaijin might not be the safest place to stow our bags. You said in your post that there are often affordable ryokan, etc. to be found. If we were to decide to stay at such a place, what’s the best way to find one? In the end, we may end up simply sticking to our guns and hoping everything works out (and if it doesn’t, hope that AirBnB is as good about protecting their customers’ investments as their customer service people make it sound), but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the situation and hear if you’ve had any problems with these sorts of regulations during your experiences with the service.

    Looking forward to your reply and to reading your future blog posts,


    1. First of all…a month-long vacation to Japan? Who does that? Why not just stay on your private jet?

      Nah seriously though, sounds absolutely fantastic. Good on you.

      So you bring up a really good point: for a day or two, Airbnb is fine. Yeah sure, I’m willing to roll the dice. Only once did I book a stay over a week, and immediately regretted it. The place had a “no-cancellation” policy, and I realized that if it sucked, I’d be stuck there the whole time (unlike a hotel, where you can just bail). It worked out fine in the end—a bit more expensive than I would’ve liked, but whatever. Still, it made me aware of the risk of locking in a place you honestly have no idea about.

      I don’t really know how the new laws will affect Airbnb. Already, most of the places I’ve stayed have been clear in their instructions: Sneak in, speak to no one, and make no noise whatsoever. That doesn’t exactly sound like everything’s above board. Although it does sound pretty normal for Japan.

      As for hostels, have you looked into booking a private room? I always do that. Yeah, it’s more expensive than sleeping in a bunk bed below three snoring Frenchmen, but way cheaper than a hotel. I wouldn’t keep a suitcase full of cash there, but probably nobody’s gonna boost your precious rice crackers and folding fans.

      In the past, I used a fair bit, and also this site: . Both were great. Of course, you can try googling 民宿, but you’re probably going to want a Japanese person nearby to help interpret the page of stick figures that comes back.

      Have fun and let me know how the trip goes.

  13. Gonna try and post again as the first time seemed to have failed.

    My boss just recently came back from Japan after staying at an airbnb in Osaka. The first night was fine but she said that she saw a sign near the main entrance saying airbnb wasn’t allowed in the building, which was immediately worrying to her. After ‘sneaking in’ a Japanese resident saw my pale faced Caucasian boss and gave her the death stare of a thousand rising suns. The next day the ‘no airbnb’ signs were everywhere, in the elevator, on the walls, etc. Her and her partner felt really put off by this so they decided to go to a hotel instead.

    When they informed the airbnb host, they told them ‘it’s fine, don’t worry about it’ which lead her to contact airbnb directly and airbnb provided a refund straight away. So at least for anyone willing to take the plunge there seems to be some sort of protection.

    When I stayed in Osaka I had to wear a big sign around my neck to inform people I had permission as a foreigner to be in the building. It didn’t really bother me though, it’s part of the experience. Close to convenience stores and a chance to see xenophobia in the flesh? Count me in.

    1. That’s the most unlikely and obviously manufactured story here yet. You had to wear a big sign around your neck? Yeah, get off.

      Chinese proprietors and visitors have really ruined airbnb in Osaka, blame them. Before Japan was inundated by Chinese visitors and loud Americans who’ve given us all a bad name Japan was a paradise. now it’s absolutely horrible.

        1. No indication at all its a joke, just reinforcement when he/she says it was part of the experience, followed by the usual ‘xenophobic japan ‘.

          There’s far too much glad-handing in these comments and overlooking of the usual ignorant bile about a uniquely scewed-up Japan that the West had plagued the world with since the 1930s.

          1. It’s not a joke, but let me explain some more. Me and my white friend where given layards to wear when we were inside the building, but there were just printed and were quite large so yes it did equate to what felt and looked like “wearing signs around our necks” but it was literally just something so that we were identified as people that were allowed to be in the building as there was a security guard inside the building at all times. But yeah it did exist and it was annoying as hell since we had to take a bag everytime we went out so we didn’t lose the things.

            1. I totally call bullshit. Osakans or not, Japanese people are not going to be confrontational enough on a general level to ask you why you’re there. Even I’d some person shoots you glares they’re practically never going to get in your face and tell you to get out or even ask why you’re there. This isn’t bleeding Russia or China or rural America.

              And if infact your stupid host actually made you lanyards to wear, still bullshit. Absolute idiocy and stupidity and unnecessary.

              However, given how you follow up with, ‘xenophobia!’ and feel this altrightist victim mentalist need to keep talking about your ‘white’ friend and Caucasian boss and how they were both literally hounded for their race in Japan? You’re being dishonest absolutely on some level.

              1. When I did say we were being hounded? We were both placed in intersting situations because we chose to stay in airbnb rather than a hotel. Never said we were victims of some secret Japanese oppression against white people. Being white just makes you identifiable as a foreigner which makes it hard to ‘sneak into’ places without being noticed you’re not a resident in the building. The xenophobic quip was a joke that has been taken literally and if you look at my whole original comment it’s onviously tongue-in-cheek. While my boss chose to leave because she felt uncomfortable, it didn’t bother us because that was just the rules of the building.

                Obviously xenophobia does exist in japan, but other than people staring on trains I’m yet to experience any myself.

  14. When my mother visted me during a Hong Kong summer, she opened all the doors and windows in the apartment, and then put the air conditioner on full blast.

  15. Hi there! Thanks for this great article. I’m gonna spent 2 weeks in Japan next month and will be staying at 2 different AirBNB for 3 nights each in Osaka &
    Kyoto (then with friends in Tokyo). I read somewhere its polite to bring the hosts a small gift but I’m wondering if I should bother or if I do what kind of gift? Thoughts?

    1. Interesting question. I did once, yes. But I was traveling within Japan, and I think that’s significant.

      Okay, let’s go through this: Yes, it is polite to bring a gift when visiting someone’s home. Now, does AirBnB constitute a home? That’s a pretty gray area. In most cases, I never even met the host, and I suspect that if I had left a small gift, the next guest would just check in and be like, “Oh, how sweet of the host to leave this here for me.” But maybe because I live here and communicate in Japanese, they don’t feel like they need to meet me at the station, I don’t know.

      So here’s the thing about gifts in Japan: they’re somewhat pre-defined. There’s a narrow range of things you would give a person, especially someone you don’t know. Every region has it’s own specialty foods (meibutsu). So at the airport or train station, before you depart, you just pop into the gift shop and pick up a box of pickled vegetables or shrink-wrapped chicken skewers or squid innards or whatever the local specialty is, and when you get to your destination, it’ll be a good gift.

      But…I can say that, without exception, every gift I’ve brought from overseas has gone horribly wrong. Maple syrup, olives, cheese, salmon jerky, cookies, candy…all the stuff available in the U.S. just doesn’t resonate here, or it’s a lot lower quality than what’s available in Japan. In a country where a box of designer chocolates can cost hundreds of dollars, you can’t just show up with a bag of Nestle’s Crunch bars. (You should also be a lot more careful about import regulations than I’ve been.)

      So here’s a thought: Don’t think of this as a big deal like, “Here, I brought this all the way from [my home country] for you.” Because they’ll be like, Ohhh great…just what I wanted, maple syrup, now how the fuck am I supposed to eat this on rice? Instead, when your plane lands at the airport, go to the nearest gift shop and pick up something safe. Maybe like a box of cookies. Nothing too cheap. (Do not buy Kit Kat or anything that looks like you could’ve just shoplifted it from the 7-Eleven.) And then simply say, “Here’s a box of cookies for you.” You can both laugh about the fact that it’s obviously from their hometown, but you can save yourself the trouble of lugging gifts in your already overpacked suitcase, and they’re more likely to actually eat it or at least re-gift it.

      Then before you head to Tokyo, stop by the airport or train station gift shop and look for the most Osaka/Kyoto-looking foodstuff you can find. And take that.

    1. Whoa, time to book a hotel.

      I don’t know if this’ll make you feel better or worse, but I stayed in an AirBnB two weeks ago. Small, run-down, clogged shower, the owner a Chinese person using a Japanese name, all at a price comparable to a hotel. I think I may have stayed in my last AirBnB.

      All in all, you might’ve been lucky.

      1. If Airbnb cancelled your reservation, they and/or the host should compensate you and your mother-in-law with legal accommodations elsewhere, at their cost. It’s the right thing to do.

  16. If you want a “GOOD” Airbnb experience in Japan come to my place in Tokoname! I am not Japanese – if that matters.
    Mike (Mike’s B&B)

  17. The Minpaku law will regulate and legislate the Airbnb industry in Japan.

    The Airbnb hosts who are on the Airbnb website after the 15th of June are all legit business, as Airbnb has asked them to provide the company with the JTA registration certificate.
    That registration certificate should also be displayed at the Airbnb property.

    In case now that you booked before the 15th of June and your booking has been cancelled, you need to contact Airbnb ASAP to claim the cost of the reservation plus any additional expences that you might had to pay because of the cancellation.
    Airbnb also give a $100 compensation voucher for future use.
    See more here:

  18. “Again, just speaking in generalities, Japanese people don’t spend what they don’t have. They save…… You could’t even fit all that into a Japanese place.”

    This has piqued my curiosity to no end. On each of our trips to Tokyo, I witnessed an incredible number of shops, always filled with people. It seems to be at odds with your observation (which have been corroborated by many). Where do they store this stuff.

    1. So a few things on that. First is that we have to factor in the scale of Tokyo. There are 9.3 million people all in one small space, plus tourists, so everything you witness is magnified. I mean, there are 325 Starbucks in Tokyo alone. So you could look at that and think Man, Japanese people love Starbucks. But the reality is there’s just such a large population that the city can support that number. Plus Japanese people love Starbucks.

      As for where stuff is stored, for many homes, skinny Marie Kondo couldn’t even fit through the door. Junk is piled floor to ceiling. That’s not everybody, but there’s certainly a tendency for possessions to fill the space allotted. Like anywhere, I suppose.

      Finally, a great number of Tokyo shops are selling small, high-priced items. Handbags, hankerchiefs, hats, watches. Japan’s a pretty consumeristic society. And if you’re in some place like Ginza, you can bet that half the shoppers are tourists from other Asian countries.

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