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Phew!

That was a whirlwind. Preceded by a lovely oasis of calm, but still.

  • The boys spent most of last week in Florida with their Florida relations, most of that at a place associated with a mouse. They had a great time – as they always do. I’m grateful. Grateful for family, grateful that I didn’t have to go. Two Thanksgivings ago, we went to Universal, and as I walked around I thought, with joy, This might be the last time I ever set foot in a theme park. Ever. 
  • I flew them down on Tuesday (not personally – I paid other people to take them on an airplane. And yes – can I indulge in a side rant about Unaccompanied Minors?…okay, here we go….close parentheses.)
  • I have a lot of experience using the Unaccompanied Minor programs on various airlines, and it’s interesting to see how it’s changed over the past twenty years. Basically, I think what’s happened is that airlines are doing their best to try to discourage people from sending kids alone on flights. They’re doing this by raising the ages that require UM status and hiking the fees. Back in the day, I think it was no more than fifty per party each way(that is – I was sending two minors together, and you paid for the set in most cases.). That’s changed. Most airlines charge $150 each way for UM services now. Which is a lot – especially when you’re talking about older kids who need nothing done for them.
  • And the ages: Many airlines (well, because of consolidation there aren’t “many” airlines anymore…but still) will say something like, “You’re only required to use the UM service if you’re 14 and traveling without an adult, but we are going to define “adult” as 18 or over.”
  • So…on Delta, for example, my 13 year old traveling with his 17-year old brother would have to register as an UM – and we’d have to pay that $150 fee for him to…sit with his brother.
  • But UM policies are not identical. Southwest’s is pretty loose, and American – which is what we ended up with this time – considers “adult” 16 or over. So no – I didn’t have to pay AA $150 for my two well-traveled teen sons to get to a plane in the Charlotte airport.
  • I get it. I would bet that Unaccompanied Minors are a regular, massive headache for airlines. I mean – who the heck wants to be responsible for a teary 7-year old flying for the first time? And what about some genius who decides that sure, the squad of 14-year old cheerleaders can fly without an adult?  Nightmare. I really do understand what I think is the mindset: Let’s make this as expensive and ridiculous as possible – then maybe people won’t use it. 
  • So…/rant.
  • You might be able to tell I spent almost twelve hours in a car today.
  • Anyway. I spent those three days working, working working. As a serious introvert, my productivity goes through the roof when I don’t have people saying Mom? at my door and when I can have long stretches of uninterrupted time to think. Fantastic.
  • Friday morning, I set out to get the boys – the long way, via Charleston. Spent Friday evening through Sunday morning there with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson – it was my son’s 33rd birthday weekend, so there was another reason to go over, as well. I don’t have anything of cultural interest o report about that visit – yes, Spoleto was happening, but splash pads and parks are of more interest to 4-year olds, so that’s where I spent my time.
  • Then dashed down to Florida, got the guys, caught most of a Spanish Mass in Lake City, then back up.
  • A busy week forthcoming with music camp, grocery bagging/checking (promotion!) work,senior portrait session, a couple of doctor’s appointment, hairdresser – because every time I think, Okay, I’ll just let the gray happen now…I get to the same point and think…NOPE! …and trying to figure out this Japan thing.
  • So now, about that. If you read my last post, you saw that there’s been an interesting glitch in the Japan trip. Here’s the deal, and away with bullet points.

AirBnB, as you probably know, operates in a legal grey area in many places. Most places, probably. (This is not unique to AirBnB – they didn’t invent the online homeshare market- I used VRBO for years before AirBnB came along – they just created a very effective, efficient portal and system). The issues are twofold: one having to do with the intersection between homesharing and hotels/inns, particularly acute when IMG_20180610_210825.jpgentrepreneurs buy up whole buildings and turn them into homeshare rentals, essentially operating hotels without having to pay the taxes and other fees that hotels have to deal with.

Secondly, there’s the matter of the legality of offering one’s home or apartment for a homeshare. There are all kinds of restrictions that might be in place in one’s building, neighborhood or even town. All of which make sense. I’m fairly libertarian in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to business practices, but I totally get the legal restrictions against homesharing/subleasing and so on. If I were, say, a condo owner, I don’t think I would be happy with my neighbor turning her unit into an AirBnB homeshare – for a lot of reasons, including security.

So, AirBnB deals with these matters all the time, fighting localities and hospitality associations.

Well, right now – it’s the Japanese government!

Seriously – the day after I committed to an AirBnB apartment in Tokyo, I learned about this new law – called the minpaku law, coming into effect on June 15, seeking to bring order to the homeshare business – partly in anticipation of the 2020 Olympics, to be held in Tokyo. 

All I knew was that homeshares had to be registered and licensed, and if yours wasn’t, you ran the risk of having your stay swept out from under you. I immediately wrote to the host/owner, questioning her about her compliance, and received a rather vague reply along the lines of we’re working on it.  I wrote to AirBnB, informed them of the situation and heard back very quickly, with a couple of phone numbers for me to call in case there were problems on site. At that point (this was about 3 weeks ago), I would like to have just cancelled, but this owner had chosen restrictive cancellation policies, so by that point, I wouldn’t have received a refund.

(The way AirBnB works is that you are charged once you make the reservation. The host/owner, however, does not receive the money until you check in – which gives AirBnB time to invest your payment and profit from it, of course.)

Then last Thursday, I received the email:

(Reprinted here, not because you are so fascinated with the specifics, but because you might be like me and have a strange interest in stories of travel mishaps and how companies fix – or don’t – the problems that arise.)

We’re writing with an important update about your upcoming stay in Japan.

The Japanese government recently passed a law that regulates home sharing. In order to comply, all hosts are required to register their listing and display an approved license number by June 15th.

Late last week, the Japanese government unexpectedly instructed us that any host without a valid license number should cancel all upcoming reservations.
As of today, your reservation on 2018-06-21 is booked at a listing that still requires a valid license number. While many hosts are in the process of licensing their listing, we can’t guarantee that it’ll happen in time for your stay.

We understand how surprising this is and we’re truly sorry for the unexpected disruption to your trip. As a result, we’re providing you with a few options.

Here’s what you can do next
Option 1: Get in touch with your host about the status of your reservation to ensure there’ll be no disruption to your trip.
Option 2: If you’d rather find another place to stay, you can cancel this reservation free of charge, get a full refund, and start arranging different accommodations in Japan. In addition, we’ll provide you with an Airbnb coupon for the entire value of your cancelled reservation to be used on a trip within the next year.

You’ll also receive an Airbnb coupon to use on any Airbnb Experience worth up to $100.
Option 3: Alternatively, you can decide to wait and see if your host will receive their license number in time for your trip. If you do this but your host is ultimately unable to get their license number, we’ll cancel your reservation 10 days before your trip date and issue your refund and coupons at that time..
We’ve also set up a fund to cover unexpected and unavoidable expenses that are incurred as a direct result of this cancellation—such as flight change fees. Click here to learn more.

I thought these were all decent options, and took the second – cancelling (my original apartment is no longer listed on the site, btw), receiving a refund and the coupon for the value of the stay.  Before you get excited about that coupon, just know that any different arrangements I make for a Japan stay are probably going to be more than what I originally paid for the Tokyo apartment, and really – no way I’m going to go AirBnB for Japan at this point. I will use the coupon of course – probably at a beach here or in South Carolina – but in the end, I’m not making any money off this deal.

More on the impact of the law:

Japan, which just months ago had tens of thousands of Airbnb and home-sharing properties available, has approved only about 150 before a new law kicks in next week, meant to bring order to the market and create more lodging options for foreign tourists.

The private temporary lodging, or “minpaku,” law, which comes into force on June 15, requires hosts to register with the government and imposes other rules and restrictions.

Market leader Airbnb Inc. had 62,000 listings in Japan earlier this year, but as of May 11, the Japanese government had approved 152 of 724 applications for home-sharing, according to the Japan Tourism Agency.

On Friday, Airbnb said the Japanese government had ordered it on June 1 to cancel reservations made even before the law came into force. Airbnb had said in March it would remove listings without government approval by June 14.

SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US???

 

I received that email less than 2 weeks from departure. So what to do?

Well, it looks like we’re back to Plan A.

When I originally “planned” this trip, I’d thought we’d do the first part in Tokyo and then move on, perhaps to Osaka or Kyoto (Plan A). I even looked into flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka. I then got strict with myself – Come on! You know how that goes. You always regret having too many stops on a trip and always  vow that NEXT TIME WE ARE GOING TO ONE PLACE AND ONE PLACE ONLY. So I said – there is plenty to do in Tokyo – we’ll stay there, with maybe a day trip to Yokohama. Or something. 

So there you have Plan B: An apartment in Tokyo for the entire trip which – even a smaller Japanese apartment – would be roomier and far less expensive than a hotel room for ten days or so.

When the news came down last week, I initially started looking for a Tokyo hotel for the full extent of the trip, and immediately ran into problems. Because, I’m guessing….all the AirBnB customers were busy rebooking in hotels. There was just not a lot for the full span of the stay, and what was there was either expensive or sort of far out.

Well…remember Plan A? Turns out, it’s a lot easier to find Tokyo hotel space for five days instead of ten  – and a lot easier to think about sharing a single hotel room with two teen boys for five days instead of ten. So that’s where we’re at right now. I’ve reserved a hotel for the first few days of the trip (which I can cancel with no penalty up until the day before we leave), and am seriously contemplating just winging it from that point. That is: let’s get to Tokyo, see how it is, see how we feel a couple of days in, and then make more plans from there. I’m leaning towards Osaka, but it’s a large city as well – maybe Tokyo will do a number on us and we’ll be needing some serious nature time after a few days? Who knows?

Oh…let’s do the Life Lesson part of this post. 

Know that I’m not panicked about this, in the least. I have trip insurance, I have money, and so this is not a situation in which I’m going to be suffering financially. Secondly – I don’t know how to say this – except to say this – but I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT JAPAN. It’s all new to me. I don’t have any particular Japanese Travel Goals except to Eat All the Food – which is probably going to be great anywhere. If I go to Shinto or Buddhist temples in Tokyo or Osaka – I’ve seen none of them before, they are all new to me, so I can see any or all of them and I’ll learn something and experience something different. 

I’m actually kind of psyched by all of this. I was glad to be in Tokyo for ten days, but this injects a note of uncertainty and serendipity into the trip that gets my INFP juices really flowing – that part of me that is bored  (and a little resentful) with checking boxes and completing plans, but thrives in responding and reacting.

And if you have any suggestions – let me know!

When I told the guys about all of this in the car on the way up from Florida today, they lit up and said…”Does that mean we can stay in the Robot Hotel?”

Hmmmm…..

 

 

 

 

4 Responses

  1. on June 11, 2018 at 7:07 am bill bannon

    For me as a visual person, watching the night til dawn August dance festival in Gujo- Hachiman on nhk website will suffice. The traditional clothing in a street dance line at night is wonderful. Pink flowers on dark blue kimono cloth mirrors my own coastal flowered moonscapes in oil.
    They also are increasingly sculpting their car fronts now which began again with German bmw in 2011 doing the quad motif…later Nissan bigger models followed…and now Toyota and Honda. And does anyone hate how they raised the bar on making cars reliable with their artisan approach to everything?


  2. If your kids were or are into anime, studio Ghibli still has a museum.

    http://www.ghibli-museum.jp/en/ticket-information/

    Advanced tickets only. Not sure how fast they sell out.



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