Tag Archives: airbnb

My trip to Fukuoka

I took a short trip to Fukuoka just the other day to see my girlfriend for Christmas. I got there on Christmas Eve Eve. We stayed in Nishi ward the first night.  I wasn’t impressed with our Airbnb stay at all. Firstly, our host kept us waiting for twenty minutes in the cold. Then we found that there was not any food for us or any place to cook.

The next day was better. We went back to Hakata which has several big department stores. I find the service in these shops to be first rate and you can eat dozens of free samples if you are so inclined. We went to a doughnut shop I had read about online called Canezee’s. It was nothing like Krispy Kreme at all and the doughnuts tasted natural and fresh, as healthy as it is possible to get.

There was a Christmas market opposite Tenjin station with traditional stalls and a J-pop band performing. It was pretty funny to watch as the fans were made up of 40 year old men copying their dance moves and singing along.

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We took the bus from Hakata to Tokurikikodanmae, a district of Kitakyushu. When we got there it was raining but our lovely Japanese host was there to pick us up. She drove us to her house where we were staying for the night.

It was an incredible experience which exceeded my expectations. We stayed in a large bedroom with a balcony overlooking the misty mountains.  Then a couple of hours later we sat down to eat a delicious Christmas dinner that Kimi and her mother had prepared for us.

First we had a kind of chicken pie with puff pastry topping. Then they bought out roast chicken with several plates of vegetables. I was getting full but we had tomato pasta (the first time I have eaten pasta since leaving UK three months ago). There was bread to follow which the guests really enjoyed dipping into olive oil.

 

Throughout the meal I drank sake which I had purchased that morning near the Dazaifu shrine. The other guests were not drinking much but they drank plenty of non-alcoholic beers and sweet plum cocktails.

I was especially excited to try the Christmas Cake. Unlike the traditional English rich fruit cake served at Christmas, which has marzipan and sugar frosting, it’s traditional to eat a cream roll cake with strawberries. It wasn’t very sweet but it was wonderfully light after the rich food we had just eaten.

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I took a bath with my my girlfriend and then we slept on wooden beds with thick futons. The next morning our hosts gave us breakfast of toast and black tea before driving us all the way to Kokura station.

We walked around the castle and then spent time in the museum looking at costumes and swords from the Edo period. It was more fun than I expected and we spent a long time there.

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A nice souvenir from Kokura castle

The museum has the largest diorama in Japan – a recreation of Kokura town with 5,000 dolls and to scale buildings. A funny experience was the theater, where they had a robotic doll who came on the stage and narrated a video presentation about the Gion festival.

Kukora Castle

We stopped off in a branch of Coco Curry, ordering a scrambled egg with curry sauce. I’m always impressed by the Japanese way of ordering lunch alone. It’s totally different from the Korean style of sitting on a table in a large group. We had to leave soon after to get the bus back to Tenjinm.

I nearly missed my flight because the bus was delayed in traffic. Thanks to the kind actions of an Asiana worker, I was rushed through security and I made it to the departure gate minutes before boarding the plane.

I can’t say anything bad about Fukuoka. In fact I enjoyed everything we did here. Just doing simple things like going to a 7 eleven, which is their convenience store, is better than anywhere else.  You feel comfortable taking the subway trains because the seats are made of soft upholstery, similar to the old-style London tube trains.

I will try not to use Airbnb on my next trip. I don’t like the extra charges they add (for 1 more guest, cleaning charges, cancellation). Couch-surfing is often better because you can have a deeper interaction with your host and really learn about them. And isn’t that what travelling is for?

Chateau Life-eze, Japan

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).

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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 people

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.

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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.