I had previously stayed at a rental home in Australia using http://www.stayz.com.au, but for Japan, it is rather different. I wasn’t really sure about using a home rental for my vacation.
With Australia, we all use English, so finding the address is easy or at least easier. With Japan, language plays a very big factor with decision making. If I don’t know Japanese, would I be able to find my way to the apartment? So hotel would always be the best option, right? Taxi drivers would at least be familiar with the four and five star hotels, if we are lost.
All that changed with my recent trip to Osaka. Even two months before the trip, many of the four and five star hotels were sold out. And for those still with rooms available, cost US$500 and above a night.
That was when I decided to risk trying Airbnb and there were no regrets. It also helped that technology has advanced so much that everyone carries a GPS in our pocket through our smart phones.
We stayed in the Namba area (near Nipombashi Station), but away from the hustle and bustle of the area. Our Airbnb host gave pretty good instructions. We took a train from the Airport to Namba and transferred to a taxi.
The taxi driver ability in English was the same as my ability with Japanese – quite close to nothing. I showed the address of my Airbnb apartment and he had to use his GPS and his handy street directory to find it. So not much of an issue there.
After the first taxi ride there, I hardly took any more taxis as I found my way around using the GPS on my iPhone. The pocket wifi provided by my Airbnb host was a life-saver.
Now I have greater confidence in renting an apartment for my future travels to Japan. So what are the considerations:
I am traveling with young children who tend to be noisy and is not by appreciated by neighbors of the Airbnb unit. In fact, many Airbnb hosts warned about the noise level and the possibility of getting evicted if the neighbors complained. We were lucky as our unit was in an apartment block that has only one unit per floor, so we did not really have neighbors.
The noise level was a real concern, as two weeks before our vacation, our Airbnb host contacted me to inform that the apartment we had originally booked was no longer available because she was being evicted by the building owner after receiving complaints from neighbors. Fortunately, she had over 20 Airbnb units to swap us to, which brings me to the next consideration.
Apart from going through reviews about the Airbnb apartment, it is also good to pick a host who has a number of apartments to allow for flexibility and avoid emergencies like complaints and evictions. Because our host had several units, she could swap us easily. If you are planning to visit Osaka, I would definitely recommend our Airbnb host – https://www.airbnb.com.sg/users/show/24507857
If you are interested to see our apartment, here is the link: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/6733830
Cost was a big factor in our decision. What we paid for 11 days for the apartment is probably the cost of two to three nights at four/five star hotel. So it was a major savings.
It made enough sense for us to use Osaka as a base. We paid 11 days but stayed only 8 nights. We stayed a night in Kobe and two nights in Kyoto in between. Using our Airbnb apartment as a based allowed us to travel light when we stayed elsewhere. In Kobe and Kyoto, hotels are relatively cheaper, so we stayed in five star hotels.
One other benefit of the Airbnb apartment – space. You will most definitely have more space than in a hotel.
For me, having a washing machine with a dryer is a must when renting an apartment for vacation. It allows us to travel much lighter. Not all Airbnb units in Osaka has that. Most will highlight that there is a laundry service nearby, but nothing beats the convenience of having it in the apartment.
So there you go! My formula for vacationing in Japan and in fact most urban areas.