Tour operators welcome the Japanese government’s relaxation of laws on home-sharing accommodation – known as “minpaku” – for rentals not exceeding 180 days a year although such lodgings have not gained widespread usage among the agent community.
Mohammed Naji Matar, founder of Osaka-based Miyako International Tourist, said the new rules on homestay-style accommodation are a positive development in expanding visitor experiences in Japan.
Kiso valley, Gifu Prefecture
“We use minpaku properties when people are travelling on a budget, but some clients also specifically ask for the opportunity to stay in a Japanese home so they can get a more authentic expereince of local life,” said Matar, who focuses on inbound Muslim tourists from South-east Asia and the Middle East.
For Robert Day, president of Australia-based Robert Day Travel, however, the biggest issue of minpaku lodgings are their small size and suburban locations.
“Such properties in Japan are ideal for couples or maybe families, but they don’t work for groups,” he said. “My clients want to be able to step out into the middle of a place like Ginza, Shibuya or Shinjuku, with the neon lights, restaurants and shops.
“The only benefit of the changes in the law on minpaku properties is that it may have eased some of the pressure on the hotels, meaning that there may be slightly more rooms available when we try to make a booking for a group,” Day commented.
Seeing a bright future in sharing economy accommodation, Tatsu Shiraishi is stepping down from his position as manager of The Satoyama Experience travel firm in Gifu Prefecture to set up company specialising in minpaku-style properties.
“I believe the way people use hotels is changing, especially in rural areas like Gifu,” he told TTG Asia. “There are not many hotels outside the big cities or regional towns, but these are the places where more foreign visitors want to visit to have a unique experience.
“We want to work with smaller groups, and I believe this sort of sharing-economy business is the future for rural Japan,” he added.