Nowadays, it is no surprise to hear non-Japanese conversations in daily life. The number of visitors to Japan has been increasing since 2011 and reached its peak of 2.8 million in April this year. “Minpaku’ is starting to attract more attention due to this trend. Minpaku is when travelers stay in private rooms rather than in hotels. It is similar to homestay. Generally, it is cheaper than hotels and travelers can book easily by using Airbnb, a popular website that connects hosts and travelers.
Increasing the number of available accommodations is an urgent task for the Japanese government to succeed in the coming Tokyo Olympic in 2020. The government took its first step and started to ease the restrictions in Ota Ward, Tokyo, the area where Haneda Airport is located and is designated as a National Strategic Economic Zone. Since January 2016, it is possible in Ota Ward to get permission to manage a minpaku by registering with the local government. There are some conditions such as guests must stay for more than seven days and restrictions on room size. Only those who fulfill these demands are allowed to rent out their accommodations to travelers without observing the Hotel Business Law.
One property owner in Ota Ward, who asked to remain anonymous, says “To be honest, the deregulation made no impact on my activities.” The owner started renting one of his rooms through Airbnb about half a year ago. At that time, deregulation was just attracting public attention. Along with managing his minpaku, he also works full-time. He says that there are only a few property owners in the minpaku business who have fulfilled the new legal requirements and applied for the official recognition. There are cases where foreigners request a room on the day they arrive at the airport late at night. He feels that the governmental rule restricting customer stays to be more than 7 days doesn’t seem to meet the users’ demands. “It would be boring to provide service in accordance to the existing frameworks. As ideas like Airbnb spread further, the government will follow the lead.”
The owner see the value in Airbnb to be a business opportunity for providing minpaku services. “The next task for us hosts will be to differentiate our own service from others. In order to be chosen out of the many choices by tourists, I have to add originality to my room.” He is now considering putting up Japanese-style interior decorations.
The news that deregulation was done in Ota Ward will increase the publicity of minpaku, which must invite many new users. On the other hand, current property owners seemed to get small impacts from the change. If the users increased more and more from now on, did the deregulation in Ota Ward meet the actual situation?
Written by Ayako Morihara, Naoshi Chiba
Edited by Naoshi Chiba
Before writing about this article, I haven’t heard of the word “Minpaku”.
Now, I realized the great possibility that this service has. After the interview, I firstly stayed at Minpaku. Interactions with hosts and real-like life in a house were so fascinating for me.
I finally got the meaning of this deregulation through this interview. We cannot say providing the Minpaku service is not very common in Japan but this service will become popular by cooperating government and civilian each other.