AirKitchen: Tourists Go Into Japanese Homes To Brush Up On Cooking Skills
By Callum McLaughlin
Perhaps one of the most integral parts of traveling to another country is experiencing the food.
Not just because of the biological fact that we have to eat as much in another country as we would at home but because food, as an essential part of life, is an essential part of the culture.
In Japan, the food is something that almost everyone notices–it’s special, unique and really different.
If a traveler is really going to experience the culture of the place they are visiting experiencing the country’s array of food is a must. .
Tourists Cooking Lessons in Japan
But now travelers trying to experience Japanese food need look no further than airKitchen, a new company that offers tourists cooking lessons in the homes of ordinary people in Japan.
The website essentially works in the same way as Airbnb, though instead of matching travelers with people looking to rent rooms the site matches people who want to learn to cook with people willing to teach them.
airKitchen is a product of ZAZA Inc., a company founded by Go Nagatsu and Yuta Murase, two graduates of Nagoya University who have spent much of their time studying the U.S. and traveling.
They were inspired by an experience Murase had eating curry at a friend’s home in Delhi, India, which gave them the idea of making access to that form of hospitality available to everyone and not just people who already had a connection in the place where they were visiting.
Lise’s Cooking Experience
“Being at someone’s place made it more charming than just a school,” said Lise, an Austrian tourist who used the service on a recent trip to Japan.
“It was like being introduced into that family for an hour.” Lise was drawn to airKitchen both because of her interest in learning Japanese cooking and because she had never seen any other service like it.
“It was really the only place offering what I was looking for,” she says. “As well as in the only place operating out of the location I needed.” Her experience cooking in a Japanese home began when the family she had arranged to cook with picked her up from her hotel.
“It was their first experience, I think,” she says. “They were very friendly, really nice.” The couple then took Lise to their home where they took her through the steps of preparing the meal of her choice. “They suggested different dishes to cook so I was able to tell them what I really wanted to learn.”
Then once they had cooked and eaten the dish Lise was driven back to her hotel and that was that. “The duration was perfect to me, it only took a little more than an hour.”
No Idea What She Just Made
Though Lise describes her experience as being “ninety-nine percent positive”, there are a few more steps that went toward making the meal she wished she’d been shown. “I would recommend that they send a proper recipe afterward.
“When you’re European you have no idea about what the ingredients are or where to find them. It would be nice to have a list and be able to confidently make it yourself afterward.
It might take too much time to go to the market together but that was what I thought they advertised on the website. I suppose that just depends on your expectations though.”
However on the whole Lise thoroughly enjoyed her experience with airKitchen. “I shared it on social media, told my colleagues who were also in Japan. Everybody was was really enthusiastic. It’s a really great concept. I’d tell anyone thinking about doing it to go for it.”
Denzel, a tourist visiting Japan from the UK, had a similarly pleasant experience. “I heard about Airkitchen from one of my friends who was on the trip and was assigned to find out information about finding good cooking classes. After reviewing many different options of cooking classes it appeared that airKitchen had the most comprehensive set of cooking classes.
We spent some time discussing which cooking classes on airKitchen would have been suitable for all our needs and would educate us the most and which one had fairly good reviews.” Denzel’s host was a woman named Junko, who by his account seems to have been the best possible candidate for the job.
A Lovely Experience
“She was absolutely lovely and I”m in the process of writing a comprehensive review as I truly think she deserves it and quite frankly I think she is underrated. Her teaching was precise, kept you engaged with touches of humor, she managed to answer things that I did not understand.
Her cooking skills were excellent and also provided us with assistance when we were having difficulty doing certain parts of the cooking.
She explained the recipes and the ingredients and it was a 3-course meal, which considering the fact that most people only did one I think that it was truly excellent.”
Not only was Denzel taught how to make Japanese meals, but he also learned about a facet of Japanese culture and living less immediately apparent to an outsider.
coo“As we were staying at a hostel, it was interesting to see what a family home would look like and how it was designed.
Compared to being in one of the houses that have been made in the UK the one thing that did stand out to me is the dimensions of the house to and how it manages to fit so many things, but the design does require to be inventive with space.”
Regardless of the small spatial layout of the apartments, Denzel seems to have had a great time. “With my limited experience of only doing one class, I could recommend airKitchen for its clean layout and variety of cooking classes. And Junko, who was lovely. Overall rating of 5 out of 5.”
A New Travel Experience
Though airKitchen is still a rather young company (founded in 2016) and has yet to expand outside of Japan or even across its entire home country, it seems to be headed in a promising direction.
The reviews are almost universally positive, and since there has yet to be any other company offering a similar service (in or out of Japan) it seems that airKitchen will continue to grow and expand over the coming years.
Learning to cook in a school or a class is one thing, but the real, lived-in experience of learning to cook a traditional meal in someone’s some is an experience only airKitchen can provide.
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Callum McLaughlin is a writer based in Western Massachusetts who has a passion for experiencing new places and cultures.