This week’s featured article
Tokyo’s Ota Ward on Friday gave permission to an online travel service provider to start renting out private homes based on the popular Airbnb model.
It became the first municipality to allow home sharing on a short-term rental basis to accommodate swelling ranks of foreign visitors, although stays must be for a minimum of six nights.
Ota Ward is launching its so-called minpaku program as part of deregulation measures being pushed by the central government to ease Tokyo’s hotel shortage.
Ota Ward — and the national government — hope that by expanding minpaku, they can alleviate the shortage of hotel rooms in the metropolis and accommodate more foreign travelers in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In 2013, the government moved to make minpaku services exempt from the existing Hotel Business Law on a trial basis by setting up a “strategic deregulation zone.”
Airbnb, a website that brokers home sharing in 190 countries, says more than 5,000 hosts in Japan now share their residences with a total of 525,000 guests per year from all around the world.
Central government bodies are in disarray over how to define this relatively new style of paid accommodation. The land and health ministries are concerned about potential trouble between minpaku operators and their neighbors.
Some members of an expert panel have argued that individual room renters should be covered by the Hotel Business Law. But others say providers should be exempted from the law.
Under the rules set forth by the Ota Ward Office, those wishing to rent out private housing must notify all neighbors within 10 meters of the rented property in writing before an application is made. The local fire department must also be consulted beforehand. Also under the rules, minimum stays are set at six nights and seven days. Guest information such as names, contact numbers and passport numbers must be kept for at least three years.
Ward officials, who held their second briefing session about the program, were bombarded with questions by attendees, most of whom were real estate businesses eyeing an entry into the minpaku market.
First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 13.
One-minute chat about travel.
Collect words related to rooms, e.g., room share, key, view.
1) alleviate: to make easier to bear, reduce; e.g., “The medicine alleviated the pain.”
2) disarray: confusion, disorder; e.g., “The typhoon left the town in disarray.”
3) bombard: to keep attacking or pressing with questions, suggestions, etc.; e.g., “He bombarded her with emails.”
Guess the headline
Tokyo’s Ota W_ _ _ approves first short-term Airbnb-style home r_ _ _ _ _ _
1) What is the idea behind minpaku?
2) What problem does Ota Ward and the government hope to tackle with the minpaku program?
3) Why are some people opposed to the idea of minpaku?
Let’s discuss the article
1) Have you ever used or thought about using a minpaku service?
2) What would you think of Ota Ward’s plans if you were a resident?
3) Do you think minpaku is a good thing for Japanese society?
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