CouchSurfing in Yokohama!
Trip Start Sep 09, 2009
15Trip End Oct 21, 2009
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"CouchSurfing in Yokohama!"
(or "hospitality exchange")
WOW, what an experience!!!...
It's a worldwide phenomenon. Once upon a time a college student wanted to travel, but had a limted budget. Well, nothing new there. But he had an idea: contact other college students and ask if he could sleep on their couch for a couple days. Fast-forward nine years and now anybody can join www.CouchSurfing.com to "surf" the world's couches, or to "host" a couch for surfers. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Couch_surfing)
Beyond the economy of couchsurfing (generally, it's FREE!), the real appeal for many is the chance to meet other kindred traveling spirits and to enjoy a cultural exchange. My experience was all that and more!:)
"Kyoko" was the first to reply to my surfing requests. She was very inviting. Soon, I would come to know her kind heart:) She lives in a small, two-bedroom apartment in the little district of Mutsuura, Yokohama.
When I got to Japan I contacted her, again. I was pleasantly surprised when she offered to host me for as long as six nights! Pretty sure this is not typical. My time there was filled with much socializing and meeting people from all around the globe!
The first night I had the place to myself! Kyoko was very trusting. She gave me the key to her place, a guidebook she had made herself, and a nice little computer to use, then headed off for an overnight trip to Tokyo. How cool was that!
I got showered, got groceries, fixed a great home-cooked meal, then did some computer stuff, and counted my blessings. I must have been a very good little Buddhist in a past life:)
And now, the international cast of characters...
During my stay, a number of people came and went. The countries represented included Japan, Korea, Thailand, Canada, USA, and even Finland!
Kyoko is a delightful, kind-hearted, open-minded fellow traveler, and a classic Japanese beauty. I could not have asked for a better first CS host.
Eric is Kyoko's boyfriend. We hit it right off. He's intelligent, a EE (Electrical Engineering grad, like me), teaches English to elementary school kids (like I would like to do), has a passion for, and speaks Japanese fluently (thanks, Eric, for teaching me some kanji, and more), and we share a common view on life and belief systems.
Others included Colleen (Canada), cousins Nik & Graeme (Canada), Chiaki (Korea), Mone (Thailand), Tomomi, Baki, Lisa and another Lisa (all from Japan), and perhaps most colorful, Tomas (Finland).
Tomas is a young student living in Tokyo and studying Japanese langauge and economics. His quirky sense of humor and "enthusiastic" delivery during karaoke were quite amusing:)
Activities while in Mutsuura included a tradition horseback archery exhibition, a night out for conveyor belt sushi with Kyoko (after trying "nattou" - a stinky, fermented soy bean "delicacy" - Kyoko said, "Yes, you can be Japanese:)"), dinner with Miki chan (my friend I met and roomed with in Costa Rica last summer), a party at Kyoko's (international crowd), cooking at home, a Zushi beach outing (Mt. Fuji in the background), a solo expedition about the town, and a night of karaoke. How's that for stayin' busy!
And speaking of karaoke ("kah-lao-keh" - short 'e' at the end)...
It's very popular here in Japan... and it's a bit different. Sure, you have songs, and video with scrolling lyrics, plus people making fools of themselves, but it's all done in a little rented room. So, it's a private, more intimate affair among friends, rather than the publicly humiliating event at a bar, like in The States. There's a food menu, plus an endless stream of pitchers of beer. We had two mics, and a lot of fun! Tomas won "Most 'Entertaining'," and Mone won "Best Voice." I won the "Best Karaoke Virgin" award:)
On my last day, Kyoko went off to work and for another overnight stay in Tokyo. Again, the place to myself. I had come full circle:) What an amazing week!
I gathered my things and plotted my course to Osaka by way of the famous Shinkansen bullet train - off for another adventure into the unkown!:)...