Masaru and the wall decorated with photos of his guests
Masaru is a seasoned host and has welcomed in countless guests.
Pictures of all his guests are decorated on his living room wall, and Masaru can remember nearly all of them.
“They were on their honeymoon, and stayed for 3 nights…”
“They were in a cheerleading group, and came to Japan to take part in a competition…”
“This lady is a schoolteacher, who followed the boy she liked to study abroad in Osaka, but got dumped, so came here to lick her wounds…”
In addition to being amazed by his memory as he recalls details of his guests one after the other, you really get a sense of the affection he feels for each of his guests, which explains the large numbers of people wanting to stay here.
This is Masaru, who greets guests with his wife from Thailand and his dog, Yuri. As he speaks Thai as well himself and understands the culture and customs of Thailand, around 60% of his guests are from Thailand.
The name of the house “Choop Khon Thai” means “We love Thai people”, but, of course, guests from everywhere are welcome!
9 minutes’ walk from Tsurukawa station, Odakyu Line (Station Numbering: OH 25)
* As there are steps midway, Masaru provides a free shuttle on request for check-in/check-out.
35 minutes to Shinjuku on the Odakyu line
30 minutes to Shin-Yokohama on the Yokohama line
Pomeranian Yuri welcomes you too!
One feature of Masaru’s place is that there are many repeat guests, and some of them have come up to six times. It’s not uncommon that people who stay here once come back with their families or friends.
The reviews of these repeat guests tell you that this is the place to stay at and he is the host who can make your stay an unforgettable one.
Masaru: We had one family from Thailand in the past: the husband was a prefectural governor in Thailand and the wife was a manager at a bank.
They said that they chose my place on the recommendation of their daughter’s friend who had stayed with us before. They also said that “We wanted to see the ordinary lives of Japanese people, so it had to be a ‘homestay’”.
There are two guest rooms on the first floor of Masaru’s house. The large western-style room with a living room and kitchen attached can accommodate up to seven people. The Japanese-style tatami room can accommodate up to three people. On the same floor, there is a bathroom and toilet for guest use only.
The living room on the second floor is a shared space between the guest and the host. Masaru enjoys chatting with guests after they return from sightseeing.
Western-style guest room with a kitchen and a piano
Japanese-style guest room gets lots of natural light
What was the trigger for you starting the host family?
Masaru：After working for a company in Japan, I ran a business in Thailand for about five years and came back to Japan in my mid-50s. Due to my age, there were not that many jobs available to me, so I was unsure what to do.
At that time, the principal of the Thai language school I was going to said that a group of nine Thai acquaintances of his was coming to Japan and he wanted me to look for a hotel for them. I sent him the hotel information, but as all the hotels were above their budget of 5,000 yen per night, the principal told me about Airbnb.
It was at that time that I first learned about Airbnb, and thought, “I could probably do this too”. So, at that time, I registered to be a host.
Were you not anxious at first about starting a host family?
Masaru：At first, I was a bit anxious about people I did not know coming into my house, but I thought I could try it, and if it did not work out at any time, I could stop.
Did you face any opposition from your family?
Masaru：My wife was in favor of it, but my mother who was living with us was against it at first. Later though, she said “I will lend you my tatami room”, and we started from that point.
It is good that you gained your mother’s understanding.
Masaru：When I was young, we ran a boarding house with meals at our home for university students, so my mother does not mind welcoming people at all. All that has changed now is that it is foreigners rather than Japanese people staying.
At that time, my mother was battling cancer, and said “Interacting with young people gave me a purpose”.
What is the reason you get bookings from many guests?
Masaru：The trigger for bookings is often seeing good reviews. In particular, after a Chinese guest gave us a good review, the number of guests from China increased.
What characterizes your hospitality?
Masaru：I try to do what suits each individual guest. For people who wish to be taken care of a lot, I will try to accommodate each of their needs. For those who need me to leave them their space, I can do that as well.
I pass the guide I made myself to my guests, showing a map of the nearby area, transportation facilities, such as the Odakyu line, a sample one-day sightseeing course for Tokyo, and how to buy an Odakyu Tokyo metro pass.
On request, I can meet/drop off guests at Narita airport or take them to Tokyo, Kamakura, or Mount Fuji.
Masaru’s homemade guide showing how to buy and use Suica & Pasmo
Masaru：It seems to me that recently there are many guests, especially those from Thailand, who have more money than Japanese guests. So I ask them, “If you have money, why don’t you stay somewhere better?”, but the guests always say “No, when we come here it is like staying with our relatives, and we can really relax”.
It must be nice when you hear that.
Masaru：My policy is to treat your guests like they were “your lovers”. If there is somebody you like, you have to think hard about what you need to do to make them look your way, right? Well, it is the same thing with guests. If we try hard to find out what makes them tick, they are sure to become a fan of our boarding house.
It is a really great way of thinking about it!
Masaru：Among the repeat customers who are fans of ours, there is one Thai girl who is a bit of a handful. Even on the day when she was checking out and needed to catch a bus at 5:30 in the morning, she was taking her time showering around 5 AM (lol).
But she really liked this place, so after that she came with her friend, and after that again with her relatives. That time as well, she took too long in the shower, and ended up missing her bus to Haneda Airport. There were no trains either, so she had to go to the airport by taxi. Last time was her fourth time here, and she plans to come for the fifth time this summer as well.
Masaru has fun memories with most of his guests, but the one that sticks most in his memory is a very sad episode.
This was when a girl came with her mother to get treatment for her mother with late-stage cancer.
Masaru：When the mother was first checked out at a hospital in Shin-Yurigaoka that she had been introduced to in Thailand, they said that the cancer had spread too far, and they could not treat her, so she was introduced to a hospital in Akihabara. I followed her around everywhere as an interpreter. The daughter was proficient in English so was able to communicate with the doctor to a certain extent but for the detailed nuances, I needed to interpret between Thai and Japanese.
With the last ray of hope, we went for treatment to the hospital in Akihabara, but were told that due to past surgical history, she could not get an operation there. On hearing this, the daughter took out a bundle of Japanese yen bills and appealed to them, crying, saying “I will pay any amount of money. Just save my mother!”. Unfortunately, though it was not possible to operate.
Eventually, she gave up on the surgery and they decided to go back to Thailand in two days. Then the mother said to me, “Because of my treatment, my daughter has not been able to do anything like sightseeing in Tokyo. So, can you take my daughter around the sights for one day tomorrow?”. I took the daughter sightseeing. I heard that the mother died three months after that.
I have had many fun memories, and not many sad ones, but the sad episodes also stay with you.
Masaru talked with affection about even the sad episodes and guests who were hard to deal with.
“Moving forward, I want to travel more with my guests”, states Masaru, who obviously believes that hosting is his calling.
You should also take the opportunity to experience the relaxing atmosphere of his home, which is just like staying with your relatives!
I am waiting for you!