Written by: Coco Yancey
Edited by: Marrista K. Stubbs
For Marrista’s birthday last year, we decided to do an Airbnb experience while in Japan. Airbnb experiences are unique activities hosted by locals only offered through the website. We both wanted to do something affordable, educational, and unique. We ended up searching for the most activity-packed experience we could get. Although we booked the experience kind of last minute, it turned out to be everything we wanted!
Seriously. It was literally EVERYTHING we wanted.
Traditional tea ceremony? Check.
Kimono photoshoot? Check.
Japanese homemade sweets and tea? Check.
Calligraphy lesson? Check.
We both couldn’t be more excited to take part in something we knew we would remember forever. Not only that, but I got to immerse myself even more into the culture I love. Luckily getting to the destination in Ibaraki where we met the husband of our host, Yuri, wasn’t too difficult.
He was very friendly and informative – telling us about Japanese history on our walk to his home where the experience was. Was it strange to do an activity in a stranger’s home in a foreign country? Yes. Marrista and I knew, however, that we were going to be safe because Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Plus there’s safety in numbers and there were lovely reviews written by previous participants.
Once we got to the house we were warmly greeted by Akiko, our hostess for the experience. As well as their cute and peppy daughter. They showed us to their living room, brought us some barley tea, and we all proceeded to get acquainted. After the chat about what we would be doing, we started our first activity: the calligraphy lesson.
Calligraphy is honestly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. A form of communication, a Zen practice believed to bring harmony, and an important skill passed down throughout many generations of Japanese culture. It’s considered an art form and has a plethora of uses. For me, it was a pretty hard practice as a beginner. My brushstrokes were a little shaky, but she said I actually did well for my first time. I’m just glad I checked it off my bucket list. Akiko was very patient with us during our lesson and even let us practice enough to make souvenirs to take back home.
Next, it was time to try on the Kimono and have our photoshoot. This was my favorite part of the experience. Akiko not only showed us how to put on a traditional Kimono, but she also gave us a lesson behind the meaning of the practice, how it has evolved from formal wear to mainstream fashion, and the difference between a kimono and yukata. Then afterward Yuri took some beautiful photos of us in the traditional garments.
Lastly was the tea ceremony. Akiko did an excellent job teaching us some history about this practice and her own personal connection to it. She taught us how to mix the matcha perfectly to make a tasty cup of tea (and even little things like the right way to turn the cup before drinking!). We then ate the Japanese sweets she prepared for us, which were made vegan for Marrista, and absolutely delicious!
The total time we spent having this experience was about 2 hours. Seems long but it was well worth it and the time flew by. We both thanked our hosts for the opportunity and proceeded to head back to our Airbnb vowing to make more memorable moments like these in the future. Overall it was fantastic, 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend trying traditional activities when your traveling as they are truly once in a lifetime!