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Tokyo Airbnb – What to Expect in a Japanese Home

by Charles Jenkins

photo by miz306 on Pixabay.com

Tokyo Airbnb is a great way to stay in the city. And after a long day exploring, you can settle down in cozy surroundings. Perhaps you want to test your cooking skills with some new ingredients you found, wash your own clothes, or maybe just experience what life is like in a regular Japanese home. But no metter your reason, you’re sure to notice some differences between a Tokyo Airbnb and your own home. To name a few—

Tokyo Airbnb – My Front Door is on the Main Street!

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This may not be unusual for people from some parts of the world, but it can be a shocker if you aren’t used to it. The door to your Tokyo Airbnb might open up right into the street. When you open that door, be on the lookout for cars and pedestrians!

Leave Your Shoes at the Door

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Photo by FranckinJapan on Pixabay.com

Japanese people remove their shoes in a little area inside the entrance of a home. This spot is called a genkan. It is lower than the floor entering the house proper, so be careful not to trip!


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Photo by kato0816 on Pixabay.com

Tatami mats have been a popular flooring in Japan for centuries. Older houses may have entire large rooms covered in these reed mats, but modern homes may only have one small room (a “tatami room”) or none at all. They are nice to sleep on, if you get the chance.

No Insulation…

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If you’ve decided to spend time in Tokyo during the winter, you might be shocked how cold a Tokyo Airbnb can be during the day. Many buildings, even new ones, do not use insulation.

…and No Central Heating or Air Conditioning, Either

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Photo by orcrist on Pixabay.com

So you’ve discovered that you don’t have insulation, and it’s very cold. You begin looking for the heat and air condition controls. Modern homes do have AC controls, but they only control one unit in one room. Central heating and air conditioning are rare in Japan, and are generally only found in large public buildings.

It may be the case that your Tokyo Airbnb is in an older home, which does not have any AC controls at all! Byt there may be other ways to beat the cold, such as with a kotatsu or a kerosene heater.


So yes it’s cold. But have you tried the kotatsu?

kotatsu a low table that is usually found in the living room. During the warm months, it’s an ordinary table. But during the winter, a comforter is put over table surface, and the small heater unit under the table is plugged in to provide warmth. It’s cozy! So cozy, in fact, that you may not want to leave it, which is a common problem in Japan. “Kotatsu and mikan (small oranges)” have a sort of “lazy day” symbolism, kind of like curling up on the couch under a blanket to watch TV.

Talking Appliances

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Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash.com

Almost every Japanese appliance has a talking version. The AC unit will tell you it is performing a self-cleaning, or the bathtub will inform you when it is full and the right temperature. The washing machine will tell you it is starting or if it encounters an error. Not every house has talking appliances, but you might be startled in the middle of the night when the toilet decides it has something to say.

Sliding Paper Doors

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Photo by Tomo Nogi on Unsplash.com

As one of the most iconic housing items in Japan, sliding doors (called shoji) are found in many homes. In modern homes, they serve a function similar to blinds, covering windows and sliding glass doors to protect privacy. Beware—the paper rips easily, so be careful with them!

Separate Toilet and Bathrooms

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Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash.com

The toilet area and the shower/bathtub room will be two separate rooms in your Tokyo Airbnb. Convenient!

Toilet Slippers?

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Don’t wear your house slippers to the toilet! There is a separate set of slippers just for that room. We’ll leave it to you to speculate on the why.

Tubs are for Soaking Only

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Bathing in Japan is ritual. Even in private, Japanese homes have small tubs that are for soaking only. Adding soap to one of these (either by bathing in the tub or adding bubble bath) could make a huge mess. If you want your bubble bath, you should find a place with a Western-style bathtub.

Where is the Clothes Dryer?

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Photo by Big_Heart on Pixabay.com

So you just washed your clothes and you realize, “Wait, where is the clothes dryer?!” While some washers have a drying function, it can take hours to dry. Most residents opt to dry their clothing outside on sunny days.

The Fish Oven

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Photo by Pixabay.com

Before you go out and buy food, you should know something about your range setup. Japanese homes have stoves, but they do not have large Western-style ovens. There is a small oven-like area underneath the range top that is for cooking fish. If you’re lucky, your Tokyo Airbnb will have an electric range, with is sort of like a microwave oven. Be sure to ask before you buy a bunch of ingredients at the market!

Garbage Sorting

Sorting your garbage in mandatory in Tokyo. Residents in Tokyo have to sort their garbage to keep burnable items for the incinerator and recycle reusable garbage. Certain garbage is picked up on certain days, and older residents in the neighborhood monitor what garbage is left!

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