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Japan’s Shrinking Population and Local Innovation: Turning Empty Houses into Guesthouses

guest-houses-japan

In many cases, guesthouse operators actively promote interaction between guests and locals. It is hoped that the new guesthouses will aid the revitalization of regional communities, and attract people to relocate from urban areas.

Sachio Tanaka reports: Hachane in Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, is one of such guesthouses. The word “hachane” is a local expression meaning, “See you again.”

“It is enjoyable to see people who come to stay in my guesthouse spending time with locals, and observe the relationships between them growing.”

— Sakiko Morioka, 30, who moved back from Tokyo to her home city last year

Hachane’s building formerly accommodated an izakaya restaurant and residence. After the izakaya closed, the building reopened as Hachane in April this year after undergoing renovation.

Yoshiki Koizumi, 45, who operates Hachane, formerly worked for a real estate company in Tokyo for about 20 years.

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“According to Yukari Maeda, author of ‘Japan Hostel and Guesthouse Guide,’ published by Wani Books Co., which includes information on about 100 facilities, the number of guesthouses has rapidly increased in the past two years.”

After being attracted by the natural environment and climate of the town — which is also the hometown of the parents of his wife, Michiyo, 40 — Koizumi began the guesthouse business jointly with Yoshiko Iwai, a 36-year-old business consultant whom he has known since he was a company employee.

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“Guesthouses are used mainly by young people, who can bring new ideas and a sense of value to local communities. If it also solves the problem of empty houses, it can serve a dual purpose.”

The guesthouse is on the second floor of the building. Four guest rooms can accommodate up to seven people in total.

A 20-square-meter shared dining room is equipped with kitchen appliances, and guests often congregate there.

Guests also share a bathroom and shower room. The room charge is from about ¥3,000 per night.

[Read the full story here, at The Japan News]

The first floor of the building is now a pizzeria run by Chiho Takagi, 43, Michiyo’s elder sister, and the restaurant serves as a space for guests and locals to interact.

Koizumi also organizes agricultural events such as rice planting in cooperation with local farmers.

“I hope many people will come to appreciate Tokamachi’s homely atmosphere,” he said.

Sammie’s, a guesthouse in Fukui, was opened by Sakiko Morioka, 30, who moved back from Tokyo to her home city last year.

She decided to review her life in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Visiting Fukui on holidays, Morioka said she rediscovered the beauty of her home city.

She bought an empty 60-year-old house near JR Fukui Station and refurbished it with the help of her friends.

The guesthouse has a unique design, utilizing original features of the building’s exterior walls and entrance.

Morioka said, “It is enjoyable to see people who come to stay in my guesthouse spending time with locals, and observe the relationships between them growing.”

A regional municipality is facilitating the operation of guesthouses to resolve the problem of empty houses….(read more)

Source: The Japan News

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