When Airbnb Hosts and Guests Collaborate: Making Nagaya Tenement Modern with Washi Paper and NY Style

Travel opens up your world to new possibilities and that’s exactly what happened to two wonderful Airbnb hosts in Osaka, Japan, when they met another fabulous guest from New York City.

Veronica, an interior designer from NYC, collaborated with Washi paper-making experience host, Miwako, and home rental host Akihiro to renovate his traditional Japanese tenement house.  The result is a beautiful Airbnb listing, mixing both modern design and traditional material, best of both worlds.

Veronica loves traveling solo.  During her journey through Asia, she visited Osaka this spring and tried Washi paper-making at the workshop hosted by Miwako.  

“One of the best ways to experience and understand other cultures is to dirty one’s hands and experience its heritage and art.  Washi paper-making has been an integral part of Japanese tradition and the Airbnb Experience gave me a deeper insight into its fine and elegant quality. It was amazing that I could literally feel the texture of the Japanese craftwork and its long-held tradition.”

Veronica, Airbnb guest

“It was such a nurturing and unique experience, way better than I expected.  After learning about its history, we tried making our own but it was way harder than it looks!  Skills such as Washi making are in danger of being lost.  I feel so honored to be part of such a great effort in bringing it back to life.”

Miwako, a   former flight attendant, succeeded her parents in running a family business, a Washi wholesaler. Since February, she has also been hosting Washi making workshops as part of Airbnb’s Experience offerings.  Her main focus has been to revive this long-held tradition by providing guests from near and far an opportunity to get their hands on it and rediscover its beauty.

It was only natural that  Miwako and Veronica  wanted to do something together.  Miwako has Washi, while Veronica has design skill.  So, why not use Washi for home improvement?   Thus began the renovation project.

“It was Veronica’s idea. She loved Washi making so much that she suggested we use it for renovation.  Even after she left Japan to travel around Asia, we kept in touch on Facebook. Then I contacted an Airbnb home host I knew, Akihiro, and asked if he knew any home we could work on. He was generous enough to offer his tenement, so we had numerous Skype chats to make sure everything went as planned from preparing all that was needed from the Washi panel, ambient light, to wallpaper,” says Miwako.

“The best part is that the paper-making Experience allows me to meet all sorts of people who I would never know otherwise, and who have led me to this amazing renovation project.  It was also refreshing to learn different design styles and perspectives. Washi gives a local flare, while Veronica’s design gives a twist of Western culture.  It’s a one of a kind home decor.”

Miwako, Airbnb Experience host

Being an avid traveler himself, Osaka-based home host, Akihiro, got excited about the idea of the Washi renovation and offered his full support to Veronica and Miwako.

“It’s been a long time since I felt this way. It was like reliving my childhood and I enjoyed every single moment of this journey. Since it’s a DIY home project, you kind of see it…but I believe that’s where you actually feel a story and our passion.”

Akihiro, Airbnb Home host

“A traveler (Veronica) met a former cabin crew (Miwako) who spent her entire career serving travelers and, together, innovated a space of yet another travel-loving host (me). Staying here, you will definitely feel how far your travel bug can lead you.”

The property is “nagaya,” a Japanese traditional dwelling. Maintaining its everyday life charm, the remodeling added a contemporary and cosmopolitan twist.

Looking back on the whole experience, Veronica says, “It was absolutely fun.  We were all sharing the same table when it comes to an interest and passion for Washi, which was amazing. If not for them, I could never have brought my idea to life.  It also gave me an enriching experience to work with local artisans across geographical  boundaries.  I’m very happy with the result.”

It is a sentiment felt by Miwako, too.  “I’d love to continue to reach out to more people and to offer a hands-on experience.  Believe me, it’s much more rewarding than just watching it from outside.  Most of all, it gives you a moment you’ll always remember.  Before I started hosting, it seemed like a wild dream to imagine myself sharing something with people from overseas. This is a small step yet giant leap for me.  It gave me a courage to connect with people.  If I could be of any help to bring all cultures closer together, I’d be more than happy.”