After moving to Japan, I stepped into a new role: hostess. For months, we’ve had a never-ending parade of visitors. I’m not complaining. I love to host guests and share our newfound country with others. And while it’s a lot of work, I find the satisfaction of happy friends and family is well-worth a few days of prep. And it’s the perfect excuse to act as tourist in my own city.
Here is a short list of helpful hostess hints. These little details will make your visitor’s stay all the more enjoyable while keeping you sane! If you’re in a time crunch, then just skip down and read number 10.
1. Clean and Fresh! I always try to make my home inviting. Fresh flowers in the kitchen and dining room – as well as a small bouquet in the guest room – are sure to liven up a space. Additionally, I put a hint of vanilla extract and cinnamon on the stovetop prior to their arrival, so the entire house smells like a bakery. The final touch is clean white linen. This makes your home feel like a luxurious hotel.
2. Meal Planning Cooking while you have guests can be a chore. It’s no fun to spend the entire time in the kitchen. I have a few go-to meals that I prepare ahead of time, needing only last minute tending. Try to keep the food light and simple, appealing to everyone’s palate. And use your grill! It’s less clean up and a great way to entertain the men of the house.
3. A Little Light Reading I love to read and always pack a book. But sometimes people forget. Or perhaps they finished their latest novel on the plane. I suggest you provide some fun reading material for you guests in their room and maybe even in the bathroom. As we live in Japan, I found Japanese phrase books (one silly, one serious) and left them out for guests to peruse. I also placed a book of Samurai Tales in the guest room. Short and sweet, these stories are easy reads and relevant to their current travels. Additionally, there are more than a few copies of Tom Clancy and Jane Austen classics in our bookshelves. “For it is a truth universally acknowledged” that Pride and Prejudice is always a good read.
4. A Guest Pharmacy I know you’ve never left your toothbrush at home or forgotten to pack deodorant. But just in case, I have a small pharmacy of extras stashed away. As Japanese toiletries can be different from those to which our American guests are accustomed, I try to keep a few essentials ready. Toothbrush and paste, floss, a comb and brush, feminine needs, deodorant, and a shaving kit. I also keep a stocked pharmacy, as airplanes are the perfect place to catch a cold. And being sick on vacation is no fun!
5. Signature Cocktail These are not just for weddings! A fully stocked bar is expensive, especially if it’s never used. If you know your guest’s tastes, then procure their favorite libations. But if you’re unsure or you have a handful of visitors with different palates, prep one or two signature cocktails ahead of time. I like to make a frozen concoction that I can blend and freeze, requiring the simple addition of champagne later. Don’t go crazy and buy 15 new ingredients. Make them straightforward and delicious. And always have some wine and beer on hand, just in case.
6. Wake Up Call Yes, it’s vacation. But if they’ve come all the way to Japan, I expect they want to actually see Japan, not sleep the days away. To avoid those awkward “Meet the Parents” moments, I always tell my visitors the POD – Plan Of the Day. It’s embarrassing to be the last one up, still dressed in pajamas – hair a mess – when the rest of the party is showered and waiting. Therefore, each night before bed, I quickly make a game plan. Breakfast at 8, shower after. Or morning run at 6 for those interested; otherwise leave the house at 9. It’s always nice to let your guest know the schedule so they can plan accordingly.
7. Activities If you have a visitor for more than two days, you need to give them something to do. It’s also a great excuse to get to know your own city, whether you just moved or lived there all your life. I like to create a basic itinerary that appeals to the individual. If they love to shop, make it happen! If they’re museum-goers, find out what new exhibition is in town. But most importantly: be flexible. Give them options and let them decide. After all, it’s their trip! If you can’t join them, at least show them what’s available and help them get there. We present each of our guests with a ‘Pasmo,’ or train pass, that is refillable and will allow them access to all trains, metros, and buses in Japan, giving them the freedom to explore.
8. Rainy Days Nowhere on earth is exempt from bad weather. So have a back up. Our household loves games, so I keep a dozen or so on hand in case we need some unexpected at-home entertainment. Or, if they only have 6 days in Japan, brave the weather but provide rain-gear. We keep a stash of sturdy umbrellas, light-weight raincoats, and even some extra boots in case of emergencies. What’s that phrase? Neither wind nor rain nor sleet nor snow…
9. Tidy Up Hosting is exhausting. You need to be up before the guest (unless they’re rising at 4am with jet lag – there, I draw the line!), find exciting things to do, prepare or provide meals, clean the entire house before they arrive, and do it again once they leave. But I encourage hosts to keep up with the daily housework. Don’t let the dirty dishes pile up. Make sure to tidy each evening before bed, leaving the house fresh and clean for the next morning. It’s worth the extra ten minutes of effort and will leave a lasting (and positive) impression on your guests.
10. Make Memories This is my mother’s phrase, and it has served me well. There’s nothing worse than sitting around silently staring at each other. Or worse, staring at your phone, bored stiff. So go out, do something! And then that evening at dinner you can talk about all the fun, strange, bizarre, adorable things you saw. Life is an adventure, so journey together with your guests and make memories that will last a lifetime. Because no matter how many souvenirs they buy, it’s the shared moments they’ll keep forever.