When I was a university student I did a homestay with a family in Kyoto for three months.
I was able to experience the city and culture in a way that would have been impossible had I stayed in a dorm or a share house because I was able to really bond with my host mom.
She was a kind person, a piano teacher who was also skilled in ikebana and an excellent home cook. She opened up her heart and her home. She spoke Japanese to me when I could barely string together a sentence and introduced me to zaru soba on a sticky summer day. No other bowl of soba will ever taste as good.
I made a lasting friend and got to catch a glimpse of what it might be like to actually live in Japan. It also made me want to continue studying Japanese so that I could come back to live and work here, which I ended up doing. I think that the experience of having W-san welcome me into her home all those years ago was influential in the path I ended up taking.
Hurdles to finding a homestay
Even if you’re not looking for anything quite as dramatic as this, a homestay is probably the best way to really experience what it is like to live in Japan (or any country, for that matter). However:
- What if you’re not a student?
- What if you don’t have the time or money to commit to a long-term homestay?
- How do you even begin to find a person or family who would welcome you into their home?
Today, we’d like to introduce a homestay matching service that really stands apart in what it offers and how easy it is to use.
Homii: An affordable, flexible homestay service open to everyone
Homii is an online homestay service and website that makes it easy for anyone to affordably and flexibly experience a homestay in Japan.
Highlights of Homii’s service:
- Roughly 1,000 hosts in locations through Japan
- Affordable pricing — ¥50,000 to ¥70,000 per month, all utilities included
- No move-in costs, such as key money or deposit
- Everything is done online
- Easy payment by credit card or bank transfer
- Multi-language support and homestay insurance
- Flexible contracts, starting from one month
What sets Homii apart?
If you’re looking for housing in Japan, there are a number of options to choose from but only a few that combine affordability, flexibility, and the opportunity to learn the Japanese language and a little something of the culture.
Homii has prepared an excellent comparison chart:
The numbers in the first row seem to be a fair estimate of the average monthly rent for a relatively new 1K or 1R apartment in central Tokyo.
If you’re looking for the privacy of having your own apartment, then of course, a homestay experience would not be right for you.
But if you’re looking for a home in Japan with a supportive host family who wants to welcome you and to share something of their life with you, Homii may be just the thing!
Homii offers a wide range of homestay experiences in locations throughout Japan. The monthly price is set by the host.
The website allows you to filter by a number of search criteria, including the upper limit of what you’d like to pay. You can set an upper limit of as low as ¥30,000 per month to “no upper limit”.
The average monthly cost is between ¥50,000 and ¥70,000 ($477 and $667 USD).
- All utilities are included.
- You don’t have to pay a deposit or key money.
- If you find a homestay host that you’d like to stay with but can’t afford the set price, you can offer a lower price in exchange for any skills or services you can provide, for example teaching your native language or babysitting. This is a really unique feature of Homii’s service and is a fun and flexible way to find the homestay that’s right for you.
Supportive and Safe
You should be aware that Homii charges a monthly support fee (20% of the monthly fee set by the host) on top of the monthly rent. The ¥50,000 to ¥70,000 average monthly cost for a typical homestay includes this service fee.
The support fees covers these services:
1. 24/7 customer support during your stay
- Homii staff will assist in communication between a host and a guest when any troubles or difficulties arise.
- Homii staff will also help guests negotiate the monthly fee with hosts before they move in.
2. Home Stay Insurance
Homii provides a dedicated insurance system during your stay with your host family. Insurance covers unexpected situations. For example, when a guest damages furniture owned by the host or hurts the host family accidentally.
Check out the video below to get a student perspective on the difficulties of looking for affordable short-term accommodation in Japan. Kevin, from China, who did a one-month internship in Japan, talks about why he chose Homii over a hotel or AirBnB and about the great experience he had with his host family.
Inclusive and Flexible
Who can do a Homii homestay? Anyone!
The Homii website lets you filter searches by a number of criteria, including whether the host accepts males, females, and couples.
You can also filter by the number of people in your group, so for example, you can do a homestay with a small group of your friends.
If you’re coming to Japan (or are already here) on a working holiday visa or traveling with a partner, the “couples” filter is a great way to find a homestay that will accommodate both of you.
If you’re already in Japan and in-between apartments, Homii is also an excellent alternative to a share house, hotel, or AirBnB. It’s competitive price-wise, with more flexibility.
Homii hosts set House Rules, which you can find on the host description page. Many hosts allow guests to invite friends over and to stay overnight elsewhere. Some hosts even accept pets! These are good options to have that wouldn’t be available in most share houses, traditional homestays, or AirBnB accommodations.
Some Homii hosts also offer meals as part of your homestay experience. On the host description page, you’ll be able to see whether the host offers breakfast and dinner and how much it will cost additionally. You have the flexibility to opt-in or opt-out of meals, unlike with traditional homestays.
Easy to use online interface
The Homii website is easy to use and has great details about hosts, which makes it fun to find potential host families.
Here are the search results for a recent search for a homestay for one person within 10-km of the city center of Kyoto, with monthly rent of ¥50,000 or less. There were seven search results, all of which seemed interesting and welcoming!
Click on a search result to get detailed information about your potential host, photos of their home, details about property and location, cost details, house rules, and what you can expect to experience if you stay there.
There’s also a contact widget that you can click to contact your potential host.
If you have any questions about their service, you can also get in touch with Homii directly via LINE or their chat interface.
Homii staff will help you find the homestay that’s right for you! Some homestay hosts are not yet shown on the Homii website, so it’s a good option to be able to contact Homii in case you can’t find what you’re looking for online.
Wide range of hosts who are looking forward to welcoming you!
With Homii, you can find hosts throughout Japan. The most popular hosting locations seem to be Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, and Shinjuku.
A unique feature that Homii offers is that you can find host families who speak many languages other than Japanese! Looking through host descriptions, I found families conversant in Chinese, Korean, English, and Spanish. This is a great option to have when you’re choosing a host family, since you and your host may want to practice languages other than Japanese.
Homii: Better than a traditional homestay
In short, Homii is a homestay matching service that offers guests everything in a traditional homestay and then some!
- And has a fun, easy-to-use online interface
- Many options not available in most traditional homestays
- And a wide range of welcoming hosts throughout Japan
To learn more about Homii or to get started looking for a homestay family, please fill in the form below. A representative from Homii will contact you shortly.
Visit the homii.jp site to learn more about the service!
Lead photo: Raphaela and Damian, from France did an eight month homestay with the Tsutsumi family in Kyoto. They enjoyed traditional Japanese life. Since Damian is a chef they served French cuisine to show appreciation to their host family. Photo courtesy of Homii