How staying in a tiny Jap AirBNB apartment in Tokyo was like

Let’s talk about expectations. I stayed for a few nights in a Tokyo AirBNB apartment and to be honest, it wasn’t my most happiest stay ever, but sure it left a deep impression! I had this blogpost review completely crafted inside my head before even checking out.

Before we continue, I just wanna disclaim that I hadn’t planned on implying Tokyo or Japanese in the blog title, but I finally referenced it in, so that we can all get an idea of how the Japanese implement minimalism into their life, and how Tokyoites cope with limited living space in the city. And how to manage your expectations for an AirBNB stay.

What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn’t mention before your stay

That any more than 2 humans is really just pushing it.

Even though the host had assured that 3 adults and 2 tiny kids will fit perfectly.

From the professional photos seen on AirBNB’s website, the apartment looked super cosy, warm and inviting! We were really mesmerized by the decor and was excited to stay here.

The real place:

What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn't mention before you booked • The Petite Wanderess
entering our apartment, marvelling at how compact it is

What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn't mention before you booked • The Petite WanderessWhat you see is what you get.

Tada! Welcome to our studio apartment for a few nights. The bedroom = the hall = the kitchen. There’s a sink and a large and heavy wooden low table facing it. Seeing how tight the space is, we considered making the table stand up and lean against the wall so that we’ll get more floor area, but it means we’ll have no place to put our skincare, lotions, medications, and ohmygod all those kids’ stuff that keep them kiddos well-fed and don’t drive us crazy. Decided it’s not a feasible idea and ditched it, letting that table remain a table.

What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn't mention before you booked • The Petite WanderessThere were 2 futons already set out on our bedroom/hall’s tatami floor. We opened up one more futon to make it 3 in total as there were three adults. Due of that additional futon, the remaining space available in the studio reached a whole new, sad level. Which brings us to the next point..

You’ll have to make use of your creativity to lay your luggage open.

Simply because there’ll be insufficient space for you to open up all suitcases fully (we only brought 2 [large] suitcases + 1 backpack). Someone’s suitcase will have to stay half-opened – one side leaning against the wall, the other side on the floor, or we try to take turns to pack. Lol.

Don’t say we brought too much stuff! It’s sweater-and-winter-jackets weather!

We also kept up with leaping on remaining floor space, lol.

Your futon will be so thin, you’ll have to sleep on top of the duvet OVER the futon.

For the extra cushioning necessary. And still ended up with body aches the next day. No, it has nothing to do with age. It’s the flat futons!

Despite the additional layers, you can still feel the wooden slabs over the tatami. I have no idea what those slabs are for, but that contraption of wooden strips that had been placed on top of the tatami was either not removable, or you’ll have to make do with the tatami as your base layer. With the futon being so slim, I’m not sure which option will ensure worse backache, *cries*.

Since it’s cold weather, even when the aircon unit’s heating function is turned up to the max, cold air still seeps in through the apartment’s walls, so you end up rolling half the duvet to cover your body, staying in a fixed position, using half your bedspace. Not exactly an efficient use of space, but at least an effective method to keep warm.

The pillow will be amazingly flat and thin – it might just be for babies.

Not kidding. I silently thanked myself for having brought a neck pillow (which I use on flights, actually) because it became my pillow for those nights.

That it’s actually not so clean.

Hair on pillows.. dust in the air.. and you know, feeling the rough, unclean parts of the futon and/or duvet, and you wonder if the host had cleaned the apartment up properly. And I can only brush my eeky thoughts aside and feel glad I’m only staying here for 3 or 4 nights. For those nights, I slept using Dead Man’s Pose (the sleeping pose at the end of a yoga session) –– on my back, face never touching the pillows, and fully clothed (jacket and lounge pants) so my body never really in in contact with the futon/duvet.

Your bathroom will be so small you’ll knock into something every other day.

Yep. Sometimes it’s someone knocking an elbow against the bathroom walls, or it’s the shampoo dropping into the bathtub cos of the space. Given that space is scarce in Tokyo, this tightness is actually to be expected.

Body soap will dry your skin so much..

.. your skin starts to become dry and itchy, so you head out to one of Tokyo’s amazing pharmacies to spend 15 minutes deciding which body soap looks more moisturizing (Tokyo gives you major #DecisionFatigue.), ending up with extra weight to carry around.

Tip: Always bring a good body moisturizer to combat the winter weather! Also, read my post on where and how to moisturize for winter!

You might feel tired before you begin the day’s programs.

This AirBNB unit is one subway station away from Shinjuku Station, on the Keio New Line.

Every morning, from the AirBNB, you’ll need to walk 10-15 minutes to the subway station, go two levels underground, buy a 130-yen ticket, take one stop to Shinjuku, exit it then walk another 10 minutes up steps and escalators to Shinjuku’s main entrance. And then buy train tickets from Shinjuku to get to your first destination. 30-45min is easily gone before you even get on the train anywhere from Shinjuku. With kids and stroller and the full works.

Repeat this for the return journey, ganbatte!

When you need to avoid Tokyo’s peak train hours, and daylight being very short in winter, the remaining time for you to be out is actually very limited.

What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn't mention before you booked • The Petite Wanderess
walking back to our AirBNB at night..

There will be those damn stairsssss you need to conquer at the subway station.

Pardon my #PrincessSyndrome acting up although I’m fully aware that not every station in this world will provide lifts or escalators for every exit (I’m looking at you too, Europe).

But it’s Tokyo we’re talking about, in Shinjuku district, yet there was no lift for the exit that’s supposed to lead us to the accommodation… which means I need to lug my winter luggage UP a flight of stairs, and carry it down that same flight of stairs when I was to leave. It also means parents of toddlers will need to carry both their kids and stroller(s) and whatever else up and down those stairs everyday, omg, it really makes you work out a sweat.

The very first time we reached this subway, a helpful Japanese led us to the lift and we exchanged farewells. We went up, glad to exit, only to realize.. we’re at the wrong end across a major road. Guess what? We have to conquer a BRIDGE now to cross back, hahaha! Heaving my suitcase up 1/4 of the stairs grew my arms some muscles, before my family member took over.

I truly wondered how the physically disabled or elderly cope in this kind of situation.

I have to mention the good about this AirBNB stay, of course!

  • We got a taste of living like the locals do. This AirBNB was situated in a residential area and hence it was dead quiet at night, Tokyo-ites being very considerate the way they are.
What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn't mention before you booked • The Petite Wanderess
oh hello neighbour right next door.. sorry you had to hear the baby cry
  • The kitchen sink brought convenience for families with young children, because you can wash the bottles and dry them, etc.
  • The AirBNB unit didn’t have any funky smells.
  • The host provided a 3G WIFI router for us to Tokyo, which was a very thoughtful gesture!
  • There were sufficient restaurants, convenience stores, drugstores, and even Starbucks nearby.

What your Tokyo AirBNB host didn't mention before you booked • The Petite Wanderess

Sometimes, although AirBNB reviews can be raving, they don’t always cover the full picture.

But I will always advise travelling parents with kids to choose one in an excellent location, such as Sunroute Plaza. With this post, it does not indicate that I’ll swear off AirBNB or any other Japanese AirBNB for good. It was just a one-time experience. I had a very wonderful stay in another Kyoto AirBNB though!

What do you think of AirBNB stays? Yay or nay?

Enjoyed this post? Have a look at these!

Credits: Photo of alley and neighbourhood street were taken by Austino. | Lady’s head vector and baby’s head vector are via Freepik.

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