By Mailé Nguyen, an OGO Peer Advisor
I have had many diverse experiences with housing during my travels. During my study abroad in Tokyo, I stayed in an international dorm that was about a thirty minute walk from the Musashi campus. For Tokyo, that’s incredibly close! My room was small, as Japanese rooms often are, and we had to pay 100円 (about a dollar) every time we wanted to shower. Our dorm was right down the street from a convenience store, also known as a konbini, that became a favorite spot for us international kids. We were worried that the old man and lady that worked there everyday would think that we couldn’t cook or feed ourselves because we would buy a majority of our meals there.
Actually, my most interesting housing experience in Japan was during a weekend trip to Kyoto. My friend and I rented an AirBnB, and we were only staying for two nights. When we got off the train, we had a hard time finding our host’s home, and it was getting dark fast. We were in a residential neighborhood, away from any stores or police stations. We managed to find a family-run okonomiyaki restaurant, and we stepped inside to see if they could help us. My friend and I didn’t speak enough Japanese to really ask for help, but we showed her the address and she ran off somewhere, leaving her husband to awkwardly assure us in Japanese, even though we couldn’t understand anything he was saying. We ended up thanking him, and leaving.
We eventually found our homestay and we met our host who spoke only Japanese. We were getting our things situated and drinking tea when we heard a knock on the door. It was the wife from the okonomiyaki restaurant! Once she saw that we had made it there safely, we thanked each other profusely and she went back to the restaurant.
The rest of our stay was interesting because our host was an elderly Japanese lady, whose son rented out the home on AirBnB. She was very attentive, always asking us if we needed anything, offering snacks, and telling us of things to do around Kyoto. One morning after I brushed my teeth, she pulled me into the living room and showed me a picture of her husband, who I think was probably dead. She definitely thought my friend and I were a couple, and would try and push our futon mattresses next to each other while we were out for the day. It was interesting and at times a little uncomfortable, but her kindness and hospitality really made our experience memorable.