We’re hosting travelers, organizing events and will be out surfing around the globe!
Role: Community Team
Surfing in… Japan
Japan has been on my travel list for some time now, and I was so excited when I found out I would be able to go Couchsurfing there! After my solo travel in Thailand in 2013, I found that Couchsurfing is the only way I’d consider traveling alone again.
Again, people… taking the time to find a good match and writing thoughtful, personal Couchrequests really pays off. I was able to find 3 hosts in a matter of a couple days with a minimal amount of requests by taking the time to find active account, read through their interests and preferences (and dates they weren’t available), and to send thoughtful requests.
That said, places can get busy. Because it is cherry blossom season, I had no luck finding a host in Kyoto. Either hosts were booked or out of town to avoid the crowds. It was also a challenge to find hosts in more rural areas. It ended up not mattering though because I was able to find awesome hosts elsewhere!
My time in Tokyo
What an amazing city. The thing I appreciated most was how the city was laid out. Even though there are millions or residents, it was easy to escape down a narrow street, and then down a narrow alley and find yourself in a quiet and cozy paradise.
I met my first host in Yokohama. He had to work until midnight and had to wake up early the next morning for a flight, and still met me with a cheery attitude and took me out for a drink. There we talked a lot about Couchsurfing and how it changed his whole perspective on how life could be lived. Before he traveled using Couchsurfing, he was feeling stuck in the pressures of work in the Japanese culture. Even though we were just able to hang out for a few hours, I was sad to leave his home, and we made time to meet again the next weekend before I left Japan. I’ll always remember the inspiring conversations about life that we had.
After another day of exploring, I met my second host at his Tokyo apartment, which was located in an area with a lot of historical narrow alleys and has become a hotspot for dining out. He took me out to one of his favorite restaurants, where I discovered my new favorite Japanese food: okonomiyaki. We tried multiple styles of it, and my stomach was in love.
The next day, after exploring more of Tokyo on my own, he took me out to yet another restaurant, this time a very special and historic place, a place I never would have discovered on my own. The restaurant was small, packed, and filled with cigarette smoke. The walls were covered in old painted menus and old sake bottles, and there was an elder woman in the corner tallying receipts with an abacus. My host ordered a set of both traditional and unique dishes (things I never would know how to begin ordering), which included the shira-ko (sperm sack) of fugu (blowfish) and nato (slimy fermented soy beans). When we wrapped up the meal, both my host and the owner of the restaurant gave me gifts – it was a meal that I’ll never forget.
My Time in the Mountains
While I had an amazing time in Tokyo, and found it to be much more quiet and approachable than I originally expected, I was also excited to travel to the mountains of Japan.
I was lucky to find a host in Kiso, a beautiful old mountain town about 90 minutes from Nagoya. Within minutes of meeting him, he offered to take me to the local onsen (hot spring) where we had a relaxing soak. We then went to a little restaurant where, again, I was treated to some fantastic Japanese cuisine, eating things I would have never known to order without him.
This host manages a campground and I offered to spend the next day working with him to prepare the site for the upcoming camping season. We worked on leveling an area for more tent sites, splitting wood, and I even got to cut down a tree that was in danger of falling. It felt so good to put in a day of work and knowing that I was giving back to my host in a fun and fulfilling way.
That night, we had a big dinner with some other Couchsurfers and hosts, with yet again, some new dishes that I had never tried. Everything was fantastic. We got to wash it down with some tasty unfiltered sake that my host’s boss made. Following dinner, we hit the local karaoke bar and sang our lungs out. Again, a stay I’ll never forget.
And then it was time to leave.
My trip to Japan was inspiring in countless ways and I’ll always remember the hospitality and kindness of everyone I met. As for Japan as a whole, the mixture of cultural tradition, ultra-modern technology, and investment in infrastructure are all things I really appreciated, and it was great to see how seamlessly they all fit together. This trip also re-confirmed that I will always use Couchsurfing when traveling. I really can’t think of any other way I could have had all of the amazing experiences. I can’t wait to go back and I’m so happy to have met these people.