(from left) Asami and Nami
Nami and her partner, Asami, started welcoming in guests to their home from April this year (2019).
Through their respective times spent overseas, they both felt that they wanted to support people who were not used to the Japanese way of living, and so decided to start up a homestay in Nami’s hometown of Noda City.
It was one year ago that Nami, who loves DIY (Do It Yourself, home-made), purchased a house in this area, and started to build her ideal home.
This is the story of two new hosts who started their activities based on the desire to not only welcome people from abroad but also to enliven the local area by creating a place where guests could interact with local people.
5 minutes’ walk from Nodashi station, Noda Line (Tobu Urban Park Line), Tobu Railways (Station numbering: TD 17)
Approximately 50 minutes to one hour by train to get to Akihabara or Asakusa.
What was the trigger for you starting the host family?
Nami: I lived in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand on working holidays for one year each. I had never done homestays before, and on hearing the owner of the shared house in New Zealand where I was staying say “I am not looking to make money. I just want to be able to help people”, it struck me for the first time that this was one approach that could be taken.
Through my three years living abroad, I thought about what I could do using English, and decided that I wanted to “gather people together”.
Because people were so nice and looked after me when I went overseas, I wanted to help people coming to Japan. I wanted to do that here in Noda, and this was the trigger for me starting the project.
So, you wanted to start a guest house where there was only a short distance between guest and host?
Nami: “Gathering people together” can take on a number of different forms. I personally wanted to focus on the type of shared house where the host lives together in the same building.
Whether they are coming to Japan for travel or work reasons, I wanted to be able to support the needs of the guests in a close and familiar way.
Asami: I thought that we would have done more preparation on the house before welcoming guests in, but after we had started living here for about six months, Nami said, “I want to start taking in guests!”. Neither my emotional state nor the house was really ready for this, but seeing how much she wanted to do this, I just gave in (lol).
Their house has a garden, shared kitchen, living room, and bath on the first floor, and three guest rooms on
the second floor.
They are still in the DIY phase in certain areas of the house, painting walls or replacing tiles in the bathroom.
One of the guest rooms on the second floor
Enjoy the sun in the garden
What were your first guests like?
Nami: Our first guests were a couple from Indonesia. It seems they had chosen us because they thought it was Tokyo, but it’s not really Tokyo here (lol).
This was their first time in Japan, but they had studied Japanese culture in advance on Instagram, etc. They were really nice and kept the room very clean while staying here.
They were also very considerate, diligently sending us text messages saying, “We will be home late tonight” and the like.
On check-out, they said “The location was a little different from what we expected, but we really enjoyed staying with you and it was a great experience.” I felt so happy to hear this.
Were you anxious at all before welcoming your first guests?
Asami: Before coming, I was just curious what kind of people they were. I was not anxious about the guests, but it was more of a case of whether our hospitality was warm enough or if there was anything else they needed.
I was concerned about this, and so asked them many times. My concern was whether they would be able to enjoy their stay comfortably or not.
Nami: Other guests, as well, have tended to ask us a lot of questions in advance, such as the time of the last train and about sightseeing spots, so we are not anxious about the guests.
What interaction do you normally have with your guests?
Nami: My mother lives nearby and she comes here every day during the daytime and interacts with the guests. Between broken English and broken Japanese, they are somehow able to have a conversation.
We enjoy chatting with the guests after arriving home and at weekends. For those guests who use SNS, we are aware where they are going sightseeing even if we are both out, so we are able to chat to them about it, like friends, when meeting them at the house in the evening.
Enjoying chatting with guests in the living room
What kind of hospitality do you provide for your guests?
Nami: It may not count as hospitality, but the other day, it was my birthday and we held a party where we made “gyoza (dumplings)” for everyone. We would like to make “flowing somen” noodles in the garden in summer as well!
Do you have any guests or episodes that particularly stick in the memory?
Nami: The most memorable guests are probably two guys who came from Hungary to learn about being a “ninja”.
Near here, there is a dojo (martial arts gym) called “Bujinkan”, where you can learn about ninja techniques and other ancient martial arts, and they stayed with us while studying there. They both were going to the dojo, and when they were not, they used to train at the house.
My mother, seeing them sweat copious amounts while training in the living room, gave them towels as presents (lol).
Asami: A guest staying on a working holiday from Germany had learned Japanese by watching animation from a young age. She speaks Japanese fluently and normally says “Yoisho!” (*) in Japanese when standing up and sitting down just like a Japanese person (lol).
She is considerate about even the smallest matters, and I am amazed at how “Japanized” she has become.
(*) “Yoisho” here is what people say, for example, when lifting a very heavy thing or walking up stairs.
What sort of experience do you want your guests to have？
Asami: As they have come such a long distance to stay here, I would like to able to take them to sightseeing spots by car.
Nami: I would like them to relax. As a contrast to the crowded areas of Tokyo, it is really quiet here, so I hope they enjoy this environment. I hope they have fun in Tokyo and have a wide range of experiences while using Noda as a base. I want to work hard to give support to such guests.
Nami: Noda, in terms of location, is neither here nor there. People commute to Tokyo, but it is certainly not that close, and could be thought of as the countryside. However, I want to look for the advantages in this and communicate them to people and enliven the local area.
There are a large number of elderly people in the area and the first thing I want to show them is that “foreigners are nothing to be scared about”. Nothing can start unless there is interaction between people, so I wanted to start homestay-type lodging.
We are thinking of organizing activities that will give Noda a lift. For example, preparing a program for guests from abroad who would like to experience rice field planting, as well as making opportunities for interaction with the local people.
They provide not only lodging but support for their guests and interaction with the local people.
Experience a memorable homestay at the continually evolving home of Nami and Asami!
We are waiting for you!