Yasuo & Aiko Toyoda／Leaders of the Osaka Homesharing Club, and hosts of roundabout OSAKA guesthouse
Yasuo and Aiko Toyoda, hosts of the roundabout Osaka guesthouse, warmly welcome travelers from around the world to their home. Their guesthouse, thoughtfully designed by Aiko, is so welcoming that many guests have a hard time leaving.
“Some of our guests only intend to stay one night, but then they decide to stay a week, then 10 nights, and so on” says Aiko, smiling.
For the Toyodas, home sharing has been a rewarding experience, one they say has shaped their entire family’s outlook on life.
Travel helps us grow
It all began when Yasuo was a student traveling around the world as a backpacker and staying at guesthouses and youth hostels, which were uncommon in Japan at the time.
“I was so impressed by this experience, where I could communicate with travelers from all over the world. I thought, ‘why doesn’t Japan have this?’”
Yasuo returned to Japan and put the idea to the back of his mind, busy finding a job, getting married, and raising children.
But the idea returned to him in 2015 on a work trip from Tokyo.
“On my way back to Osaka, I stayed at a guesthouse in Nagano, and it was the same wonderful experience I had when I was younger. I began to think, ‘maybe we can do this too”.
Around the same time, he heard of Airbnb and decided to find out more. Aiko and their children decided to travel around Southeast Asia to try Airbnb for themselves. The experience convinced them to take the leap and Aiko, who was a housewife at the time, decided to start hosting during the trip.
It’s a decision that has changed their lives.
“When I see our children talking to international guests with ease, I realize that travel is something that helps people grow. It’s wonderful for them to have this kind of interaction at home,” says Aiko.
They first began hosting in Tokyo, where they were living at the time, before returning to Osaka in 2018.
“I thought about continuing in Tokyo or in other places, but I really wanted to be a Host in my hometown, which I have a strong attachment to,” says Yasuo.
Experiencing real life in Osaka
Aiko wants people to experience real life in her city, which she thinks is not possible on a traditional package tour.
“I often say that Osaka is a city that doesn’t need a guidebook.”
Instead, locals are your best guides. “People here are friendly and caring, and it’s not uncommon to be approached by a lady you don’t know,” she says, laughing. “I think Osaka is a great place for people who are looking to connect with a community.”
With an increasing number of people experiencing loneliness and isolation as a result of modern life, a social issue further exacerbated by the pandemic, Aiko says that feeling a sense of belonging in a local community is one of the appeals of traveling on Airbnb.
“You live under the same roof for a certain period of time with people who would not otherwise be a part of your life in any meaningful way. Because it is a time-limited community, I think it is easier to honestly say what you are thinking. I hope it can be a place where people can just talk freely.”
An insider’s passion for Osaka
Yasuo likes to help guests appreciate the local charms of Osaka, outside of the typical tourist attractions, and shares his many interests with them. His latest is Osaka’s Kamigata Rakugo, a traditional art of storytelling, and when he talks about it his eyes sparkle with excitement.
“Rakugo often tells a travel story, so it can serve as a sightseeing guide. There are rakugo storytellers who perform in English, and I think it could be an interesting way to convey the charm of Osaka to visitors,” he says.
Another idea of his is to encourage travelers to explore Osaka by bicycle, showing them how to take their bikes on the buses and trains.
“Osaka is small enough that you can get around in a day if you use a bicycle, and you can also travel all over the Kansai region,” says Yasuo.
He is also working on an initiative where he’ll work with local companies to have relevant products placed in his Airbnb listing for guests to trial and use.
The idea came about as Yasuo, a music fanatic, loves record players.
“It allows you to have the opportunity to try products that are difficult to appreciate without actually using them in a home environment, such as record players,” says Yasuo.
He sees this as a win for all involved, as the company will have the opportunity to reach new customers, the guests have a more enjoyable experience because their Airbnb is better equipped with great amenities, and this might also lead to more reservations for his guest house.
Excited about the future
The Toyodas also channel their enthusiasm for this style of travel as leaders of the Osaka Home Sharing Club, a community of local hosts.
They have kept their fellow hosts motivated throughout the pandemic, and work with the club to encourage guests to live like locals.
Through this “living like a traveler” concept, their hope is that the undiscovered charms of Osaka will be more accessible to visitors.
“Now when international tourists come to Japan, I hope they will be able to enjoy the local area even more,” says Yasuo.
Yasuo and Aiko are Airbnb hosts in Osaka. They are also representatives of the Osaka Home Sharing Club. They are also working with leaders of Airbnb Host communities around the country to promote “travel as if you were living there,” and encourage Airbnb Hosts to help their guests connect witht their local community.