What Is Nagomi Visit?
There are many different types of travelers. Where some might prefer the secluded comfort of an international 5-star resort, others strive for a more authentic experience: trying local foods, meeting local people, and engaging in meaningful interactions outside the hospitality industry. But how to go about this? It’s not as if stopping a random stranger in the street and inviting them for dinner is likely to lead to a fruitful outcome, and hostels tend to be populated by other tourists rather than locals.
Founded in 2011, Nagomi Visit aims to "promote cultural understanding through home cooking". The concept is as simple as it is brilliant: bringing together Japanese host families and international visitors over lunch or dinner.
How It Works
Guests choose a date, time (either lunch at 12pm or dinner at 6pm) and train station, add a brief personal introduction and submit a request via the Nagomi Visit website. Over the course of three days, potential hosts in the chosen area will have a chance to look at the submitted request and extend an invitation. After three days, it’s time for the guests to choose their host from the list of offers. Once the guest has accepted an offer and deposited the fee, contact details will be exchanged to clarify anything from food preferences and allergies to directions. The host will meet the guest at the train station so that individuals prone to getting lost will arrive safely at the host’s home, where both will then spend 2-3 hours together cooking, eating and exchanging stories.
Nagomi Visit is a non-profit organisation. The fee of ¥3500 per visit (summer of 2016) serves to cover the host family’s costs for the ingredients and the operational cost of the website. A Nagomi Visit is about much more than the simple business transaction leading to a served meal. All of the more than 600 registered hosts are volunteers from various backgrounds, ranging from farmers in Hokkaido to office workers in Kansai, from couples in Okinawa to families in the suburbs of Tokyo. They participate because they are interested in learning about other cultures and sharing a part of their own. Many hosts can accommodate children, and some have children of their own. By providing as much information about themselves as possible in the personal introduction sent with the request, guests can make sure their individual needs (e.g. dietary requirements) can be considered and accepted by the hosts before the latter extend an invitation, avoiding misunderstandings at a later stage. All hosts are able to communicate in English. Bookings have to be made at least 10 days prior to the date of the visit.
On my last visit to Japan, I’ve enjoyed the experience of four Nagomi Visits. I’ve tasted vegetarian Nabe in Matsumoto, went shopping in a local Tokyo supermarket before learning how to calculate with an abacus, cuddled the more-than-kawaii cat of my host after enjoying a macrobiotic dinner in Chiba and was excited to find out my second Chiba host was about to visit my (rather small and not well-known) hometown in Germany a few months after my visit, all the while making unique memories and forming real bonds with other people.
Nagomi Visit provides the opportunity to meet and interact with locals, enjoying an authentic Japanese dining experience while discovering non-touristy areas among people eager to meet you. It’s the perfect experience for travelers who want to take a step off the beaten track and discover a new, much more personal side of Japan.