Couchsurfing in Japan was difficult – but once I found a host, all experiences were wonderful! And not without a reason…
Several of my couchsurfing hosts in Japan turned out to be great ones, offering me traditional dinner and breakfast, a comfortable futon on a tatami floor, and sometimes even wonderful little presents. Some of them took me to the onsen (public baths) to soak in hot water. And all of them offered me all kinds of help to let me feel welcome. Yoshi, my last host in Tokyo, finally explained to me that there is a special term for that in Japanese: Omotenashi. Basically it is a way of outstanding hospitality, letting the guest (and others) feel welcome, also by anticipating his every wish. Although I had a hard time finding hosts via couchsurfing in Japan, the experiences I had were always outstanding.
As I was explained, Japanese couchsurfers want to spend time with their guests – which is great! However, as they work long hours, it is rather inconvinient for them to spontaniously accept guests. So best if you ask well in advance!
Besides Omotenashi offered by a host, also meeting Japanese randomly has nearly always been very positive as they encounter you with utmost politeness, often also a kind of shyness (although partying Japanese – especially during karaoke – are everything but shy). Still, most Japanese I asked for directions or help tried their very best to understand and answer me. Only situations where a loss of face was seen as imminent (for example when an official person spoke no English whatsoever) sometimes turned a little rough (by ignoring or yelling). However, that is culture and must not be understood as being impolite.
If Japanese do not understand you, write it down – most read and write much better than they speak