Launched in 2008, Airbnb has established a large range of accommodations in Japan only recently. During our travels abroad, whether we chose to stay in a house or an apartment, it was a necessity to try out the Californian platform, since their Swiss rival HouseTrip has a lower range of lodgings as of now.
Their operating system is very straightforward: Airbnb offers available lodgings based on your city of choice, your set dates of travel and the number of travelers. You will be recommended housings based on your budget, localization in the city, and type of housing.
Furthermore, it is possible to find shared rooms from US$ 9 a night whereas private larger housings in the city-center area could easily rise up to US$ 200. For instance, during our last travel, we spent 19 nights in new two-bedroom flats (around 50 square meters) located in Tokyo and Osaka. Overall, we spent less than 100 dollars a night, including the Airbnb commission. This is ultimately an unbeatable price-quality ratio for the high level of service provided.
Our choice of apartments and our reviews
While in Tokyo, we chose to lodge in an apartment close to the Otsuka station, an area conveniently located on the northern part of Yamanote. The building of a few floors had a very occidental architecture in one of the rooms and more of a Japanese style in the other with a separate kitchen, lounge/dining room, and a balcony.
In Osaka, Umeda was a pleasant choice thanks to ideal location and its incredibly modern apartment in a 39-floor building (only 5 months old). Each accommodation was fully equipped with ovens and stoves in the kitchen, bathtubs and washing machines in the bathrooms. In addition, bicycles were also provided.
Here are the apartments where we stayed during this trip:
There are even crazy-funny apartments such as this one, Super Mario World themed!
Update: Most of these accommodations are no longer available, due the new Airbnb regulations implemented from 2018 (see below).
Earnest, simple and friendly service
Communication with the hosts was a pleasant surprise as they proved to be reachable before and during the stay. They welcomed us at the railway station and agreed to negotiate prices for our several weeks stay. They also played the omiyage (souvenir) game with great pleasure. There are naturally more opportunities if you speak Japanese, however the owners reassured us that English is more than enough for our short length stay.
Thanks to them, we avoided the troubles one may encounter while dealing with informal and sometimes too professional travel agencies. Moreover, we can also find recommendations on the website to give us relatively accurate locations and hospitality information. Trust is very important in the Japanese system. Although Airbnb takes credit card imprit, there is no need to pay a security deposit and rented accommodations are perfectly clean.
For our next travel to Japan, we will without a doubt rely on Airbnb for a flawless stay. We can say that we discovered the solution to accommodations that seems to be the finest. The choices of stay seem quite varied in Tokyo, a little less in other cities, however, it is clear that the trend will soon reverse.
$25 discount ticket on your Airbnb booking!
If you make your first booking with Airbnb by clicking on this link, you will save US$ 25 on the overall price (on a US$ 200 minimum order, quickly obtained with a few nights rental):
In any case, it is strongly recommended to book your accommodation in advance, and as early as possible to benefit from a larger choice.
In October 2018, according to the Japanese Tourism Agency, more than 83% of Airbnb customers in Japan were foreign nationals, among which 25% Chinese and nearly 16% Korean.
A service to use with circumspection since 2016
Since 2016, Airbnb platform in Japan meets some difficulties due to Japanese law. It made it indeed more difficult to rent out private accommodation (houses and apartments): some districts are wholy forbidden, rental durations strictly limited, among many constraints. It thus places a heavy burden on the famous platform’s hosts.
Some owners and agencies try to hide those problems to their clients, but negative reviews from Airbnb users increased, such as:
- Guests who were asked to lie by the host (for example, signing a paper stating they were friends and not customers);
- Guests who were strictly forbidden to speak with the neighbors;
- Guests who were made to enter by rear doors or even technical premises (such as the bin room!) so as not to be spotted by suspicious neighbors;
- Or worse, guests who could not access the accommodation when arriving in Japan.
All of this added to another great disadvantage of Airbnb: a 100% upfront payment, whereas cancellation for free is available with most of the hotels.
Avoid Airbnb Japan from June 2018
Although 12% of foreign visitors in Japan used the minpaku system in 2017, the new regulations became effective in March 2018. Japanese apartment or house owners who wish to continue hosting with Airbnb must:
- Rent out their home for a maximum of 180 days a year only. Some municipalities added restrictions on the periods, for example, only:
- Register with the local government and obtain a MyNumber ID for tax purposes;
- Obtain renting permission from the building’s board of directors or the district association (seldom granted);
- Display a sign on the building and / or on the accommodation door.
Actually, and despite Airbnb’s effort to inform their hosts, very few Japanese owners seem aware of these new regulations. They must provide a certificate of rental permission from the local authorities; guests can demand it if it is not displayed and get a refund from Airbnb if they don’t obtain a satisfactory answer. As of 2018, May 11, two months after the opening of compliance procedures, only 724 hosts have made the request for authorization! On June 8, of the 2,707 accommodations submitted in Japan, only 1,134 were approved. The owners risk a 1 million yen (~US$ 9,207.90) fine in case of non-compliance with the law. The first trials began in September 2018.
The implementation of the law started on 2018, June 15. From this date on, it might be risky to book an accommodation with the platform. Moreover, on June 4, Airbnb decided to delete about 80% of their listings in Japan, dropping from 62,000 to 13,800. A great number of the remaining listings were nonetheless deemed illegal. As the risk is quite high, Kanpai does not recommend renting accommodation with Airbnb from June 2018 and after. The best way to travel smoothly and without accommodation constraints in Japan seems now to book hotels. Even more as the hospitality industry offers a growing number of apartment hotels with a comfort similar to what Airbnb used to provide.