****Winner of the 2015 Airbnb Open Stories Contest. Please note, this story reflects the original user submission. The content has not been edited.****
I’m a working single mother.
Between my job and caring for my daughter I barely get 10 minutes to spare in a day. When my daughter Akari turned 3 years old, I felt like I was stuck living two separate lives. At the time I was living in an apartment, and that was when I first began Airbnb. With every guest that surrounded us the apartment grew warmer and livelier, and by making a home for others, we were making a better home for ourselves. Then I moved into my current residence, the share house called "Guild House Tōkamachi".
In the village where we created the share house, there were only 6 homes and 6 residents. Everyone could feel that the threat of the village disappearing was hanging overhead. There was one house in particular that no one had lived in for 30 years, and there were plans to destroy it. It was a 120 year-old house that was once used to make silk fabrics, and it was in need of many repairs. Having discussed with the other villagers, we decided to work together to repair the house and try to breathe new life into the small community.
We began working side by side with others in the local community to repair and renovate the old house. People would give us fruits and vegetables from their fields, assorted utensils and furniture, and even some electrical appliances. Each of us living and working in the house would help others in the community by repairing other houses and assisting with other tasks of country life. The people we helped, in return, would offer us the remaining repair materials, or allow us to collect materials from homes that were deserted or being demolished. We only bought less than 10% of what was used to renovate the house on our own. It was through this communal process that we managed to transform the old silk house into a home for us to share with travelers.
We began managing the house under the concept of “free living”, by which we mean to create a hospitable place that invites others to share life experiences with us as if it was their own home. Many people find it excited to be a part of the community, and they have generously offered us their technical skills and helped us renovate. Until now, we’ve received 1842 visitors in our share house, including many guests from Airbnb. The community surrounding this house has grown from 6 people to so much larger.
Oftentimes at night, we would watch films together on the bedspread projector screen, or share stories around the “kotatsu” table. Passersby can see the warm light from the old cottage left on deep into the night as a beacon for those who may be lost, while the laughter and happiness of our shared company fills the once isolated village until the wee hours.
As the residents of our village grow and change, I tell my daughter Akari that she has many grandpas, grandmas, uncles, aunts, sisters and brothers that she can trust, regardless of their nationalities. I want to give her a place where she can trust the people surrounding her, and thanks to Airbnb this can be realized. While we do not live a very luxurious life, I can say with full certainty that it is a very rich one. Just as our little village has grown, our little family of 2 has also grown to include many more people from all different types.
For us, hospitality is not simply welcoming a guest, but creating an entire community and experience that they can join. At "Guild House Tōkamachi", we don't just welcome guests into our home, we welcome them into our lives.
“Beyond anywhere” gives us a family.