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


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.


“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.


“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.
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おいしい霜降り!Japan Researchers Develop Scanner to Detect Marbled Meat in Cattle


Jun Hongo reports: Where’s the marbled beef? Thanks to a new machine created by a government-backed institute in Japan, one might soon be able to find those tender and juicy sections of meat without much difficulty.

Researchers at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology said they have developed a new in vivo scanner to be used for detecting the amount of marbling in The singe-sided nuclear magnetic resonance scanner can determine the amount of marbling of a cattle. National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technologycattle.

“This is the first time such machine was created in the world.”

— Yoshito Nakashima, chief senior researcher

“This is the first time such machine was created in the world,” Yoshito Nakashima, chief senior researcher at the institute, wrote to Japan Real Time in an e-mail. The device uses what is called a single-sided nuclear magnetic resonance scanner, which can detect the amount of muscle and fat noninvasively.

[Read the full text here, at Japan Real Time – WSJ]

The amount of fat streaks within the meat is one of the key criteria that determine its taste. For example, Kobe beef, grown in Hyogo prefecture in western Japan, are highly sought after for its rich, even marbling created through careful breeding.


Mr. Nakashima is an expert on geophysics research. The technology for the new machine was originally developed for use in his research, such as calculating the amount of oil and water contained inside a rock from an oil field. Read the rest of this entry »

PHOTOS: Asakusa Samba Carnival


Festival of Summer The largest samba carnival in Japan is a perfect finale to summer in Asakusa. The event attracts authentic samba dance teams from across Japan. The highlight of the carnival is the colorful, gorgeous costumes—along with the beautiful dancers who wear them.

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