I’d like to tell you about a really cooI place I stayed in during my recent trip to Japan. I was looking for a room on the Couchsurfing website and I came across an International Share house in Kanagawa just outside of Tokyo. The building itself is very unusual and I was glad I found it.
Firstly, its designed in a chateau-style which stands out dramatically from the grey concete of modern Japanese buildings. Secondly, It’s in a very picturesque location: perched very high up at the top of a steep hill and next to a dense forest, it’s a bit like being in the Swiss Alps.
It’s called Chateua Life-eze and they really run with the concept. The kitchen has been fitted with wooden beams and the doors are decked out with wrought iron handles.
The rooms are fairly small (for a single person) and the beds are western style (my mattress was on the firm side). Each one comes with a wardrobe, TV and desk.
The house has a third floor for women only and although I wonder if this is necessary, it might be a consideration for some people. I didn’t find out whether couples can sleep on a different floor but there are larger rooms for up to 6 guests.
There is a kitchen on the 2nd floor with excellent cooking facilities. It was so spotless that I was afraid to use it, although I did made dinner on two separate occasions. Japan has become very strict with regards to waste recycling and seems to have a problem with cockroaches. I was told to wrap all food waste in plastic bags before throwing it away.
The main purpose of my visit was to provide a cultural exchange for the mostly Japanese residents who want to learn about other cultures. I was a bit unsure what this would involve but it was mainly fine, although it took a while to break down barriers (the Japanese are at least as awkward when meting strangers as English people). They wanted to talk to me about my impressions of Japan and the differences between Japan and England. I shared some food with them, but people seemed to cook their meals separately (it’s a share house but people definitely don’t share their food).
Overall I did enjoy my stay at the Chateua but I would have liked to have spent more time with the other residents, and I would have enjoyed the opportunity for more activities. It was also a little strict (I was told not to leave any belongings in the bathroom) and I didn’t feel that I could relax completely while I was there, but other more clean and careful guests who don’t mind sticking to rules will be fine.
The house is managed by Mai and Nagi. I got on well with Mai who was very charming but I really wasn’t sure if Nagi was being rude or simply didn’t appreciate me being there. Each morning she asked what I was planning to do (implying I should go somehwhere). There were two other members of staff who I spent some time with in the evening, but most guests were at work most of the time I was there). There were 7 guests who came to the cultural exchange. I thought the book of short biographies for each guest was a nice touch.
About the area:
Yomiuri is on the Odakyu line (express trains from Shinjuku take 15 minutes). There is shrine near the house and an amusement park not far away (Yomiuri Land). Tokyo Women’s University is also nearby. The Chateau can be booked through AirnB and Couchsurfing.