By Sab

How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino |

Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world, unfortunately accommodation is pricey in the popular metropolis. I've been already four (!!) times to Tokyo and every time it was a struggle to find affordable rooms. I couchsurfed the past times, but finding a couch in Tokyo isn't an easy task plus it comes with a lot less freedom. This time I wanted a cheap place to stay, preferably with locals in a homelike setting, but I also wanted to have all the freedom of going and leaving and doing stuff on my own.


The solution was, a website dedicated to staying with locals and experience an authentic stay. All homestays come with a breakfast, which is always a plus. (I never say no to free breakfasts!). I was tempted trying a homestay for my time in Tokyo. It's not only a great way to learn about the life in a different culture, it's also most likely cheaper than staying in a hotel but still having the comfort of a private room. I was hooked and started to search for a place to stay in Japan's capital.


How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino | offered plenty of interesting hosts in Europe, but only a small choice in Tokyo. However, the results were promising. I found Marie, a young Japanese woman that offered rooms in her spacious house for people traveling to Tokyo. A night at her place would cost €30 incl. meals. That's a steal in Tokyo!


How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino |

I contacted Marie and got a response promptly. She seemed excited and send me loads of useful information about public transportation, some maps and info about the nearest karaoke bars to her house.

She seemed like a quirky and lovely person, describing her husband who has a black belt in Karate and her grandmother who is 85 years old and still riding a bicycle. Marie also told me about her daughter Lina, who loves to play Nintendo Wii and that she was expecting another baby in a few months...  

That was more than I needed to know and it got me really excited. I couldn't wait to get to Tokyo and meet this interesting Japanese family and sharing the house with them..


Thanks to Google Maps and Marie's extensive directions I was able to find the house easily. Marie offered to pick me up from the train station, but she said it's only a few minutes walking. I was happy to explore the neighborhood and walk to her house, also in mind to find the way back to the station later...


How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino |

Marie was at home on my arrival and opened the door for me. She was smiling and full of joy from the second I met her, I immediately felt comfortable at her place. Marie showed me around the house, introduced me to her sweet grandmother and explained me some common house rules (like how to use a Japanese bathroom - I wrote more about it in another blog post about Tokyo, scroll down to point 8)

Here is a little video for you to get a visual view throughout the house.



My room was light and airy with a tatami for sleep, a desk, a television and a shelf for my stuff. The room was maybe small for Western standards, but from what I've seen in Tokyo, it was probably huge for Japanese dimensions. I liked that the room was bright and offered a nice view.


After several experiences of sleeping on the floor, I had no doubts that sleeping on a tatami was just fine for me. Marie provided a bunch of blankets to make sure I wouldn't freeze at night. Arigatou!


How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino |


Marie offered daily meals for breakfast and dinner which was really good and allowed me to stay on a small budget. She and her grandmother were providing delicious healthy meals, such as fish, chicken or pork, with veggies, rice and noodles. She always served fresh fruits afterwards. I enjoyed to try different homemade Japanese dishes, all prepared with love.



The best thing about the homestay was getting a glimpse of the daily life of a family who lives in a completely different culture than my own. I was eager to learn about their house rules and their etiquette, I tried some of the local food (but refused to try things such as shark fins) and I shared several alcoholic beverages with Marie's husband while he was explaining me the Playstation (a miracle for me).


It was a fun experience to stay with Marie's family. Her grandmother was amazing, what a funny lady and full of life, I have never seen such an energetic old granny. Oh and Marie's daughter? She was adorable, I was fascinated, watching little Lina playing WII and seeing what she was capable of... 


How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino |

I have to say thanks to Marie for her friendly hospitality, for teaching me new things and for her beautiful smile. She did everything to make me feel like part of her family, even though I was far away from my own family. Life in Japan is so different, so unique and I'm incredibly grateful I was able to share these moments with this lovely family.


Thank you for reading.

If you're interested to stay with Marie in Tokyo, you can check here rates and availability.


How to stay in Tokyo on a budget - My Homestay experience with a Japanese Family © Sabrina Iovino |

My stay was made possibly by, a booking website for travel accommodation. 

Homestays allow guests to book a room in a local person’s home for a fee. In all homestays there is a host present during the stay, enhancing the guest’s travel experience through their hospitality and local knowledge.


My stay at Marie's house was complimentary, all opinions are my own.





Sabrina Iovino is the founder of She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:

Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.


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