[Special Edition] An In-Depth Look at Japan’s “Minpaku” Law
What is the current state of Japanese minpaku (private residences that are rented out to lodgers for short-term stay) and what do you get when you stay in one of them? Read on to find out how to better enjoy a minpaku, the things you should take note of when staying in one, and other reasonable accommodations that are available aside from minpaku.
State of Minpaku in Japan
The number of minpaku in Japan had been on a steady rise following the surge in Japan’s tourist population and the foray of Airbnb into the country in 2014, but it started to decline after a law was imposed on minpaku in June 2018. The skyrocketing prices of hotels and shortage in accommodations in urban areas brought about by the growth in tourists triggered the sharp increase in the number of minpaku prior to 2018. Though minpaku hosts drastically grew in number in anticipation of the high demand, a lot of problems also arose due to the lack of clear laws and regulations, including problems with noise and garbage in neighborhoods, and issues with tenants in leased properties freely turning their rented spaces into minpaku. However, under the Private Lodging Business Act (New Private Lodging Business Act) that came into force in 2018, people (operators of private lodgings) who plan to run a minpaku will now be required to notify public institutions. Even with the major lodging service Airbnb, the minpaku that did not get the necessary permits have been removed, so the total number of minpaku available on the site is now on a downward spiral.
On the bright side, the fact that minpaku now have to register with public institutions means that tourists can have a sense of security. Through this article, you’ll come to discover that there are a variety of minpaku out there, including accommodations that are near sightseeing spots in urban areas and facilities in mountain villages where you can experience living in the countryside. So, before you set out on your journey, try checking out any of the famous minpaku sites listed here!
Reminders When Staying in a Minpaku in Japan
When you stay in a minpaku, you have to be careful about noise and garbage disposal. In particular, you must refrain from eating or drinking in the corridors of apartment buildings, and talking loudly early in the morning and late at night, even if you are inside your rented room. Furthermore, garbage disposal in Japan is complicated: the trash is segregated into categories like “combustible garbage”, “non-combustible garbage”, and “cans, bottles and plastics”, and the day of the week when the garbage is taken out varies depending on the area. So, try to ask the host about the rules on garbage disposal in advance. There are also a lot of places where shoes are not allowed inside, so if you are bothered by this, bring some type of indoor footwear like slippers.
What Are the Major Minpaku Services in Japan?
Originating from the U.S., Airbnb is the world’s largest vacation rental service. Prior to the minpaku law that took effect in 2018, a large number of Japan’s minpaku were registered with them. Its number of listings has declined after the enforcement of the minpaku law, as many of the properties that failed to secure the necessary permit were deleted from its website. However, many hosts are now trying to obtain the permit, so the number of properties on the site just might grow again in the future. Aside from accommodations, Airbnb will also let you search for nearby activities by simply inputting the name of the area where you plan to stay. You will find sightseeing suggestions such as touring markets, bar hopping, Japanese home cooking classes, and calligraphy schools, so how about checking out them out?
HomeAway is a service that began in the U.S., with its branch in Japan launched in 2016. This service is unique for its focus on “regional” properties and “kominka” (old Japanese-style houses). If you search for the keyword “traditional”, you will find old Japanese houses that are over 200 years old and units that may be new, but were built in traditional Japanese architectural styles. At the Japan branch of HomeAway, a system recently introduced in June 2018 puts a logo on properties that have received an expert testimony from a kominka appraiser. Thanks to this service, the number of places where you can experience old Japanese architecture ought to increase in the future!
As Japan’s first minpaku booking site, STAY JAPAN offers a listing of spots where you can try staying in a farmhouse or the house of a fisherman. You will get to experience something different from your usual sightseeing, such as doing farm work, making miso (fermented soybean paste), and going on a boat to help fishermen. Based on the reviews of people who have actually tried this service, it seems that guests are very satisfied, leaving feedback like “We gained a valuable experience as a family” and “The host did not speak French, but he managed to answer our questions using Google Translate”. STAY JAPAN is now available in Japanese, English, and traditional Chinese.
Accommodations and Services You Can Choose Instead of Minpaku
Capsule hotels have become quite famous among tourists in recent years for being facilities that can take the place of minpaku, as they are also affordable. These hotels do not have private rooms. Instead, they have large rooms with two levels of capsule-type beds where guests have to go inside their own bed and close the curtains for privacy. Inside each capsule, you will find a bed, light, and power outlet. Sleeping in a narrow capsule is something that you can only experience in Japan’s urban areas. The bath and toilet are shared by the guests, but there are some hotels that also offer public baths and saunas. Capsule hotels where women can stay have been growing in number lately, but many facilities are still exclusive to men, so make sure to check in advance. Accommodation rates at these hotels start at around 2,000 JPY per night.
Guesthouse and Hostel
Guesthouses and hostels are known as “dormitory” facilities where guests share rooms, giving them an opportunity to mingle with people of various nationalities. Many of these establishments charge 3,000 JPY to 4,000 JPY per night, and a lot of them cater to tourists, including accommodations with a Japanese ambiance and facilities where signs and guides are displayed in different languages. Another charm of guesthouses and hostels is that you can ask the host for information on sightseeing around the area, or exchange information with other staying travelers.
A Japanese sento is a public bath that can be used for a low price, but a “super sento” is a place that not only offers a public bath, but also a sauna, jacuzzi, and dining space. Many of these super sento spots are open late into the night, and you can take a nap on a sofa bed or a reclining seat in a huge room. There may be no futon (Japanese-style mattress) since guests can only take naps, but these establishments are still highly recommended as they have hot spring water flowing in their baths, and you can stay there for the night at a reasonable price of around 3,000 JPY – 4,000 JPY. Note, though, that many public baths in Japan ban people with tattoos, so if you have a tattoo, you need to check beforehand if you will be allowed inside the bath.
Manga Cafe/Internet Cafe
Manga and internet cafes are places where you can enjoy manga (Japanese comics) and internet inside a narrow private room separated by walls with an open foot area and ceiling. There is a chair with a backrest or a sofa inside the private room, and if the shop is open all night, then you can take a nap for about 2,000 JPY. There are no mattresses or flat sofas, so they are not really known for being comfortable. However, aside from being able to enjoy manga and internet, most of these cafes also offer unlimited drinks.
If you do not understand Japanese but want to try reading something, then try browsing Japanese fashion magazines. You can check the latest fashions in Japan and use what you’ve read as a reference for when you go shopping!
There are various kinds of accommodations in Japan where you can stay depending on your purpose and budget. Try to find a better lodging facility with the help of this article!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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