A place to stay

Luckily I have a haafu friend who went to Japan for 6 months right before me. I planned my trip quite late and didn’t even think of what I was going to do there or where I was going to stay. So he told me about his place: the Guesthouse.

In the 2000s, with the influence of several TV shows like Friends (1994), or The lovers of the Sharehouse (2013), a Japanese dorama (TV series in Japanese), the popularity of room-sharing increased, especially in Tokyo, where the rents are extremely expensive and always more young people choose the lifestyle of celibacy. Since then, a lot of real estate started to invest into “Sharehouses”, a place where each resident gets his own room, but shares the bathroom, the living-room and the kitchen with his roommates. Then, it started to expand with sharehouses made exclusively for women, or guesthouses, for foreigners and open-minded Japanese, and you can even find sharehouses for a specific ethnic community (like a Chinese-exclusive house for example). The advantage is clearly the cost.

The guesthouse where I lived is located in a residential neighborhood a little bit in the outside of Tokyo – 25 minutes by train from Shinjuku –, and contains about 45 rooms displayed on 3 floors. Each floor has a bathroom, a washing machine and a vacuum cleaner, and the 3rd floor is reserved to women. The huge kitchen is equipped (rice cookers, pans, plates, etc.) and you could find a piano, a TV with video games (Wii and PS3), some exercise equipment and books. The rent, the electricity and water, the internet, and the household are all included in the price of 40’000 Yens (around 400€) per month, so I think it is financially the best alternative in Tokyo.
It was the first time I really lived alone, so it was the perfect balance; I could have some time alone in my room and be around people in the living-room when I felt lonely. Plus, there is always someone to cook with you. In general, the people who choose to live there are really open, so it was no problem for a shy person like me to socialize, and it is the best way to meet local people and make new friends. Even if you speak little or not of the language, Japanese people are willing to make effort to communicate if you show interest. It’s an enriching experience to meet so many new people with all different backgrounds.

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My comfy room for 6 months

Plane tickets

Let’s get started with transport possibilities. In this article, I would like to compare the airlines companies I travelled with according to my own experience, categorized in groups they belong to. It’s important to know that airlines companies are grouped in alliances in order to offer more destinations and better connexions between two different flights. There are 3 main groups, and I experienced travelling with companies of the 3 of them. To have a visual classification, I’m going to rate each alliance on five stars about their price, and about the service, which includes the in-flight service, service at the airport such as their reaction when there is an unexpected incident, the management of your luggage and the connexions offers.

Alliances

HES-SO Valais Wallis – Taken from my Outgoing class

Skyteam

Price ★★★★☆

Service ★☆☆☆☆

Aeroflot

Aeroflot offered the cheapest flight I have ever purchased, but that was justified with the lack of safety, which I learned luckily after the flight! Although Moscow is a good place for the transit and have a break because it’s between Switzerland and Japan, it’s also got the worst airport I’ve ever been at. I haven’t met a single employee who could speak English and honestly speaking the stewards were pretty rude and unfriendly. The information boards were either turned off or unavailable. The very few there were weren’t even in English. They are trying to get better with the quality of their planes though and some of them are quite modern.

Alitalia

Their flight was also one of the cheapest, but the planes were dirty (dirt on the windows and the floor) and the space at each seat very small. The staff at the airport in Rome wasn’t nice and was not able to inform me about the gates or anything, even in Italian…

KLM

I only travelled with KLM when I was a child, so the only thing I can remember was the good service to children. They had a lot of toys and games prepared for us.

(AirFrance)

I’ve never actually travelled with AirFrance, but a lot of my friends have to go to Japan. They told me the prices were very affordable and they actually let you take two checked baggage.

One World

Price ★★☆☆☆

Service ★★★☆☆

JAL

Same as KLM, I also remembered celebrating my birthday during a flight once, and the staff brought me a cake and candies. The stewards are very nice and polite, which is pleasant. They once lost temporarily my brother’s suitcase but handled it very fast and well. He got money to buy himself new clothes while they searched for it.

British Airways

They don’t really offer the best route from Switzerland, because you have to stop in London, which add at least 2 hours to the trip. I took this company with my family as well, so I don’t really know about the prices, but I remember not being able to touch the meal because of the smell of the food. Although they let you have a heavier luggage than usual.

Star Alliances

Price ★★★☆☆

Service ★★★★★

This group actually has, according to me, the best communication between the different company airlines. This means you will most likely take two planes from different airline companies. As a group in a whole, that’s why I feel like they actually all try to have the same best quality of service.

ANA

ANA is definitely the best airline company I’ve ever taken. The staff is really professional and competent, and for someone who can normally never eat during a flight, I actually enjoy their in-flight meals. You can always choose between eastern and western style, so you can already enjoy the country’s culture before arriving. It’s not the cheapest company, but they often have very interesting promotions.

Swiss – Lufthansa

I’ve never bought tickets directly from Swiss and Lufthansa. I’ve only taken their planes to transit to ANA. The service is very good and even when I experienced some delays the staff did always adapt promptly and offered some refreshments or food to the clients.