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Welcome to my blog!

If you are in for an adventure paired with lengthy, quirky, brutal honest thoughts then you are in the right place.

My name is Arisa and was a cosplayer for 12 years in Malaysia before settling down in Kyoto, Japan. Exploring Japan full time has been a long time dream of mine, so let's explore it together!
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SAITAMA | First Airbnb Experience with Taka-san!

Much delayed Autumn post from last year lol but finally now i can sit back and finish up these series. Couldn't have been more blessed that fate allowed us to cross roads in Airbnb during my first trip to Japan ;D
Despite me blogging my first JP trip post expressing my frustrations and troubles finding last minute place to book and stay within the budget we have set.  It was definitely a challenge for both of us (both sourcing from diff websites for good deals) as last minute bookings usually would easily costs double but by pure chance we came across Taka-san's listing.
But first of all, why Saitama area and not more towards the city side since i have yet to visit some of Tokyo's main attractions?

Could be a change of scenery after staying 4 days in Ikebukuro and also honestly it's much more affordable to stay slightly on the outskirt area compared to the city (duh!) so if you are planning to go for a long stay, do consider looking for accommodations near the countryside or if you don't mind sharing cramped rooms like normal backpackers since it would cost almost the same anyways expect usually these cramped hostels are purposely located within the city vicinity.

Welcome to the cozy abode of Taka-san's

What's here?
Nothing much really but that's what i like about the place, instead of the common sight of overflowing humans around the clock at the train station, over here it's somewhat more peaceful lol and there's definitely good food near Taka-san's place.
Our initial check-in time was actually 5pm but unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstance and we kinda underestimated the travelling time to get from Saitama Budokan back to Ikebukuro and from there to Taka-san's place so we arrived close to 7pm instead but Yuko-san was kind enough to wait for us till we arrived, constantly sending us messages (via Airbnb) to check on our whereabouts. Yuko-san can understand decent amount of English, so if you are worried about having some language barrier with them. Don't! They have tons of westerners over as well, and everyone of their guest seem to get along just fine with them as they are gracious and friendly.

Here's the funny incident that actually occurred while we were on the way to Taka-san's place, as you all know from the start of this trip our BIGGEST mistake was not applying for a pocket WiFi prior before arriving so あなた had to use his data roaming which he claimed is about almost the same rates anyways (but still think it's not as fast & reliable since we are not in Malaysia) and the most i could do is leech off his from time to time and take note by doing this it does DRAINS alot of battery life.

Despite our crucial efforts of trying to conserve battery throughout our long train ride from Ikebukuro to Minami Urawa station (about 1 hour +) battery was still almost dead by the time we reached lol wtf and that was the time we needed it most. Because first of all, we need to open google maps to search for the place and 2ndly if we got lost our only hope of reaching Yuko-san is via the Airbnb app as i forgot to ask for her number *face palm*

Him: "It's somewhere around here...I Think?"
Me: "I'm useless because i have no internet lol"

The map did lead us halfway before we kinda got lost (missed a turning or something) overshot, turned back and by that time think a mere 20 minutes walk became almost an hour headless chicken race lol wtf. And dragging around heavy luggage really kills the arms, felt like i was dragging along my gym dumbbells lel and just as we thought we are close enough to Taka-san's house both our batteries kinda died.
Don't get me wrong guys, it's not that Taka-san's place is hard to find or anything it's just that roads can be kinda confusing at night since everything looks almost the same in the dark @@

We looked like bunch of lost goose trying to find the herd lol till i decided to approach this lady who was walking home with her son. That's how i met Shou-kun (not sure if it's 翔 or 奨) whom was super cute and playful with me that wish i could kidnap him home ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) lol.
Why all Japanese kids so well behaved one??
And you hardly find toddlers or children in general crying or throwing a tantrum in public, they somehow can be reasoned with compared to kids over here. This is what i call a real cultural shock.
Shou-kun's mom was kind enough to use her google maps to lead us to Taka-san's place, which we are forever grateful for her kindness and hope that fate allows us to meet again someday :)

Finally with their help we arrived safely in front of Taka-san's house where a very worried looking Yuko-san was seen peeking by the window lol. People here are all so kind and helpful, even to random strangers whom let alone could barely speak the language properly, miss having smiles and polite people around :P

There's strong WiFi provided with clean towels and other necessities. 
You can even do your laundry here and hang it by the balcony!

If you remove the futons, you can do a traditional themed cosplay shoot here haha!
Maybe next time i should do that with some photographer friends which we are still in the process of planning an Autumn shoot in Kyoto lol.

Look who greeted us in our rooms? Capybara-san!!
Apparently Eiji-san & Yuko-san love these adorable animals, and after they showed us the video of these guys in an onsen, i could finally understand why lol. Too darn adorable, how not to love these guys?

Yuko-san showed us to our beautiful tatami room which looks superb and ready for crashing because we've been walking for more than an hour lol and told us that we'll be heading out shortly for dinner once her husband (Eiji-san) is done with work.
We weren't expecting a dinner outside really, thought her invitation to dinner was a home cooked meal haha, but still the place were we are heading too is known for their Unagi sushi!

The room is considered spacious since we only needed one futon, that's how tiny we are and during this period you don't need the air conditioner, just leave the windows ajar to enjoy the cool autumn breeze. At the back of the room was actually cupboards to put our luggage but i was too busy thinking of how i can repack my stuff to make my bag lighter pffttt *arisa's logic*.

About a 10 minutes walk from their place to the restaurant which is located on the opposite side of the road next to a udon shop and another ramen (if i remember correctly) along the line.
This has got to be the first proper sushi (aside from Kombini) i ate since i landed in Japan lol, normally people who say "eat only sushi" in Sushi-land but honestly the prices of sushi here is even expensive to the locals lol. It's considered somewhat borderline luxury food?

Meet beautiful Yuko-san, she's a belly dancer by the way!
Here we are waiting for Eiji-san to arrive.

The name of this restaurant is called Gatten Sushi Minami-urawa.

According to Eiji & Yuko-san the unagi here is one of the best around town, we took their word for it and gosh..I am never going to eat unagi (eel) elsewhere anymore lol. My standard Japanese food taste-buds somewhat "upgraded" throughout these 2 weeks and can't even compare what we have back home to this. Those who have been to Japan would strongly agree with me on this lol, after eating over there and trying to stomach our local ones, it's a real struggle.

Talking about good sushi, i am somewhat craving for it so badly right now lol but not matter how many plates i eat over here, i can never achieve that satisfaction >.<
It's like trying to fill an empty void that can't be filled lol, wtf getting so melodramatic over food lol, that's the first.

Portion of rice is kept small so at least you won't be fully loaded with carbs and guilt lol.
This is the actual standard portion size for a real sushi apparently. Couldn't resist putting "Gudetama"'s face on the tamago sushi lol.

Look at that size! 
It's x10 times more larger than an average sized sushi outside Japan. 

This was the Unagi sushi that was talking about earlier, i've never been a fan of unagi because of the very soft texture that feels almost like mush once it comes to contact to your mouth but this is exceptional. The right amount of sauce and grill, it's just perfect really. Again, LOOK AT THAT SIZE, all toppings are practically overflowing from the sushi rice base lol.

For this hot pot it's rather an interesting one, couldn't actually tell what is the soup made off but definitely not everyone's cup of tea (like natto, some will like or just hate it), the broth was somewhat thick and salty with squid piece inside and yes i can eat squid and other "non shelled seafood" ironically but not prawns, crabs, lobsters, oysters, and anything with a shell on it /sad.

Eiji-san arrived shortly afterwards and indeed they are one of the most friendliest outgoing couple we've ever met! Though it's just the two of them in the house, there's never lacking of laughter since they are ranked one of Airbnb's top hosts.
If it's your first stay in Japan, do consider their place! They will make you feel so welcomed that it feels like you are part of the family.

Showing off the huge Otoro & Sashimi size for a photo after we told him that in Malaysia these fishes are served much more tinier than this lol.

But silly me forgot to bring over some Malaysian snacks for them as a thank you gift, maybe during my next visit hopefully i will be able to meet them again :)
And if you have decided to book with them, please do so ASAP as they are usually quite packed with guests. Last i checked (early January 2016) they were already fully booked to mid year @_@ wow.
That's what you get for being rated one of the best in the area and having a super affordable rate.
RM66 per night with the whole room to yourself, after converting it's about $15-18 only, even more affordable than the city's capsule hotel.

Plus you have the freedom to enjoy the quiet town scenery without feeling so suffocated from your capsule size "bedroom" and city environment. 
Here you'll get to sleep like a typical Japanese, on a tatami mat with soft fluffy futons and no need to queue for toilet lol.

New to Airbnb? 
Allow me to bring you guys for a brief walk through:

For first timers, enjoy FREE $20 (RM86) credit to use for your first booking when you sign up with my Airbnb link: www.airbnb.com/c/lchow111

Log in with any preferred account to claim the credit.

Select your host and check their available dates. Notice the thunder symbol for "Instant booking", that means you can proceed to book and pay immedietly via credit card without needing prior approval from the host, not all host has this option. So if you are looking for quick bookings keep a lookout for that symbol.
Visit this link to book @ Taka-san's: www.airbnb.com/rooms/4264460 

You'll receive an official receipt after that to confirm your booking, this will be sent to you Airbnb account and email.

My stay was only $40 for two people (3 days, 2 nights) = RM160+
So that's about RM80+ per person, super reasonable no? That's why i always stress to people that it's not expensive to travel to Japan if you know where to stay and eat lol

Haha, Eiji-san "ATE" the whole lot, he has quite an appetite too!

Eiji-san himself has been to Malaysia a few times and has visited Penang, but Yuko-san herself has never been to Malaysia before, I'm sure she would like it here since there's beaches and good food available 24/7 lol. Can't wait for them to come down and visit one day, will be more than glad to show them around too :)

We had a swell fun time, and bellies filled with good food.
Thank you for the generous treat Eiji & Yuko-san :)

On the way back it was kinda chilly but still beats winter and just saw their recent Facebook update that their area snowed too! Feeling super jelly now haha.
Needing あなた as my translator was difficult for the both of us because he constantly needed to help translate my answers while trying to answer his questions too.

So i promised Yuko-san that my next visit, i'll would at least be able to speak properly without the help of あなた. Knowing that i am being praised for my fluent pronunciation in basic Japanese already shows progress *happy*.
Now it's more practice and learning how to read, construct proper sentences.

More Capybaras awaits us at their living room area lol. If you observe properly, almost every corner of the house you will spot at capybara pair XD

Really wished that our stay here could be longer since we do enjoy their company very much but sadly our stay here was only 3 days 2 nights before having to head off to Kyoto. On our 2nd day here we did kinda lazed around till it was mid noon lol, well after a long day yesterday we took this day as a "chill" one instead of being crazy tourists.
Eiji & Yuko-san already left for work so we were on our own for the day and decided to head to part of Tokyo that i've yet to visit like Asakusa, so after taking forever (sorry) to get ready by the time we head out it was already 1pm+ lol.

Proper udon with tempura, unlike my half ass shortcut udon lol.
All this only about 900¥

Before the station we had a lunch stop by one of the restaurants located same road where we had our sushi last night, but this shop serves FRESH UDON. You read right, noodles made and served on the spot yo! Another mouth watering encounter that made me miss udon so much and having it here is just so different and unsatisfying lol.
I'll do a full review of the shop on another post because i am kinda worried adding so many pictures into one post, later you guys hate me because can't load my post lol wtf. 

Wearing pants inside okay!
My mood that day well displayed by my buddy gudetama.

After lunch we only had another 3 more hours before the sun starts to set lol, by 5pm it's usually almost dark because it's Autumn remember?
The weather here is pleasant so far that i have no complaints about it aside from it being dry that my face starts to flake everyday pfftt and another thing to miss. The weather, back in Malaysia the temperature is rising everyday that i am literally nothing but a puddle of goop once i am outside. Can't wear pretty clothes since it's gonna be soaked with sweat (eww) or wear much make up because it would just melt off anyways after an hour or two.

That's one of the great things of wearing make up in Japan, you rarely need to touch up haha! 
From Taka-san's place it's approximately 20 minutes walk to the nearest train station that heads into the city, the name of this station is called Minami-Urawa station of Musashino Line.
According to the time estimation it takes an average of 30 minutes to the city center (Tokyo) from here.

Minami-Urawa station of Musashino Line

Walking to the station.
Isn't it so peaceful and clean?

Generally this area is a quiet one, you barely see much people around and i am not sure whether it's a holiday or not.

So now that you know what an awesome host these people are, convinced to stay with them yet?
Here's more pictures for reference if you are staying with them, it's easy to find the place unless google maps decides to troll you like ours lol.
To be safer make sure to get the complete address (road number, house number) from Yuko-san as she manages the Airbnb account and make sure to also request for her contact number for easier communication :)

Tips while staying with Hosts on Airbnb
  • Communicate. Don't be shy to inquire or share stories!
  • Always clean up after yourself, you are an adult so be responsible!
  • If you are going to be late or early make sure to inform your host before hand so they are ready to welcome you.
  • Study the map of the area to avoid getting lost like i did lol.
  • Before leaving, try cleaning up the room and leaving it the way you arrived as this helps the hosts prepare for their next guest arriving.

Once you are familiar with the area, it's hard to miss Taka-san's house as it's the corner lot.
In my opinion i love the design of the houses here, it might be narrow but still enough to be homely without making one feel suffocated,

Just learned that from their house through this nearby cemetery, it allows you to exit unto the main 
road of  県道34号線 (Sangyo Road)

After the cemetery it will bring you to this lane, walk ahead and keep right. You'll appear at the main road in 5 minutes. See? Not too hard going in and out of Taka-san place, there is a bus option but it takes a HUGE round so it's advisable to walk instead lol.

Pretty flower, so must take picture lol

My first and definitely not my last time staying with hosts in Japan, it's seriously a more affordable, yet comfortable option aside from couch surfing and you get to make new friends with the locals.
Do hope you guys would have the chance to experience such kind hospitality when you travel there too, keep a look out for Matta fair this year since they usually have decent travel deals to Japan :)

For more host listing worldwide check out: www.airbnb.com
If you have extra rooms in your house why not contribute and earn money by becoming hosts yourselves by signing up here.

Next stop is Kaminarimon in Asakusa, before that Ikebukuro stop (again) and how we ran to Tokyo Skytree tower before their closing time lel. Heck of an adventure doing crazy stuff, but it's totally worth it!

Disclaimer: This post is not affiliated to Airbnb or any travel agency, just sharing based on my pleasant experience since this was my first trip to Japan lol.

Missing Japan Dearly,

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