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Airbnb – hospitality service, which started in San Francisco has spread like a wildfire to all parts of the world, due to the common needs of travelers (business travelers, tourists etc) of a place to have bed and breakfast. Japan has turned out to be the company’s most popular destination in Asia. Airbnb in Japan has registered over 5 million guest arrivals in the recent years. As a result of Japan’s growing tourism market and preparations for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Olympic games 2020, the demand for this service is growing rapidly and expected to grow even higher than ever. The Airbnb as hotel substitute is also allowing more and more travelers (including people with average income) to be able to travel due to its low cost. This situation has had both positive and negative impacts on individuals and the hotels (Airbnb rivals). While some people including myself had great and enjoyable experiences staying in an Airbnb other people had very bad experiences. Here, I have compiled some information and experiences on Airbnb in Japan in order to give you a sense of what to expect and how to carefully make your choice while visiting the archipelago.
Airbnb in Japan was illegal until last year in June (2017) when the legislature approved the law allowing the Airbnb hosts to rent homes and apartments for up to 180 days annually. Moreover the landlords are required to register with local authorities who can implement their own rules. This law was reported by many news agencies as a green light to the hospitality business. Below are some good and bad sides of Airbnb in Japan.
Benefits of staying in an Airbnb
The low Cost.
Airbnb is cheaper than many hotel accommodation rates in Japan. As an average traveler trying to make both ends meet, staying in this hotel-substitute is very economical. Sometimes we want to make a trip but the fear of affording to pay our accommodation away from home is very prime and perturbing. Airbnb in Japan has changed this phenomenon. It is not surprising that even in the capital, Tokyo, where accommodations are very expensive, it’s easy to find rooms rented at the price of 1,708 yen/per day ($16). Besides, in the case of a hotel room as we know, there is a limit for certain number of people in a room which is mostly 2 (sometimes there is a room for 5) however, there could be no negotiations on exceeding the permitted number of guests in a room. The Airbnb, on the contrary, could allow a negotiation with a host on a number of people to stay at a rented place. This means that if you are traveling in a group, you are most likely to be able to save more money if you plan this well.
Convenience and Hospitality.
The Japanese people are known for omotenashi (warm and wholehearted hospitality). Most of the reviews and experiences I heard from friends and read on blogs, including my own experiences say that Airbnb hosts treat their guests so nicely and with great hospitality. In summary, I notice one common thing about all of them; hosts wait for you at the station and help you carry your luggage to the apartment while giving you tips and advises that will help you to have a wonderful stay. I stress this point because I had this experience and was surprised to learn about this from several people about their hosts. The hosts also tell you to feel free to cook in the kitchen using their utensils and even ingredients (this freedom is absent in the hotels). In fact, I would say that you will feel like being back home wherever you may be coming from due to the nice treatment some hosts may treat you (as a special guest). However, this depends due to the fact that some hosts do not share the apartment at all, therefore you may not even see some hosts around during your stay.
Getting to meet the local people
Living in an Airbnb apartment helps you to meet and experience the local Japanese culture, the tatami mats (traditional Japanese bed) and the sliding door rooms. Besides if you are lucky to meet nice and kind hosts, they could recommend you better tourist attractions, in some cases even offer to take you around. Yes, it really depends on how lucky you may be because some people had very different experiences. I was surprised to read some terrible experiences some people had with their hosts.
Some strange things to expect
One common and unpleasant experience of some users of Airbnb has been the difference in the picture of the room displayed on the internet and what they expected to see in reality. Although I never had this bad experience, I have read many negative comments about this situation. Therefore I advise you to be conscious of what is too good to be true and avoid falling a victim. Some victims reported that the room was unfinished (still under construction) and s/he ended up with dust every day. Therefore, please avoid any rooms with the post saying “still under construction”.
The room sizes in Japan are so small.
I am still surprised about the height of the room, its width, and size in general. I even try to touch the ceilings when I am in the room. The last time I went back to my home country and tried to touch the ceilings just like I do here, it was just like the futile efforts of a frog jumping to touch the skies. Most countries are very used to the spacious room size. I hope you do not get surprised and unhappy with the size of the room, therefore, in case there are many of you in the group please try to avoid carrying unnecessary stuff that may make your luggage heavy and consume space. I know that sometimes while traveling I also carry some stuff and surprisingly I never use them even after my entire trip. Please avoid this so that you do not end up with a luggage that will frustrate your stay in a small room.
The laws about noise.
One thing that still surprises me is the silence in Japan. Although in some places and depending on the time of the day you may hear a noise, however, it is against the law to make noise at night in Japan. The walls and floors of some flats are so thin that you can hear any noise from the neighboring room. Therefore if you arrive at night and with friends, please do not get too excited jumping and making a hell of noise since you may be disturbing the neighborhood and this may cause an unwanted reaction for you. Do not play music very loud, nor shout on the street in any neighborhood.
No refunds on cancellations
Like I said in the beginning that I did not have bad experiences, however, I was shocked to read some experiences of other people. It is sometimes hard to make cancellations and you may not be refunded depending on the kind of host you have, even when you try to contact the company itself, several users have reported slow response from the company when complaints are made. Some host may be aggressive. One user encountered some rude host with a dirty room and they got into a fight which led the user and his wife out on street in the cold night without a place to sleep until the following day.
Everything has good sides and bad sides depending on the way we may approach it. I hope that as you put this compiled information and experiences at the back of your minds while planning your trip to Japan, you will be less likely to become a victim of this kind of situation. I hope that you enjoy your stay in either hotel or Airbnb when you come to Japan.
Have a wonderful stay.