• Bloomberg

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Airbnb Inc. is looking to deliver experiences in Japan that travelers can’t get anywhere else, by offering the opportunity to stay in temples, train stations and other unusual settings.

The San Francisco-based vacation-rental startup will work on the initiative with Blue Lab Co., a financial-technology venture backed by Mizuho Financial Group Inc., the companies said in a statement Tuesday.

Japan is Airbnb’s fastest-growing market, now with more than 53,000 listings. More than 24 million tourists visited Japan in 2016, topping the record for a fourth straight year, according to the National Tourism Organization. After years of regulatory hurdles, the government passed a law earlier this year setting out rules for short-term lodging services. That’s spurring an effort to expand the number and variety of lodgings available to visitors.

“This is a great way to bring together different businesses with different ideas to provide better services for customers to enjoy and experience the real Japan,” Daisuke Yamada, president of Blue Lab, said at a news conference in Tokyo. “With our connections and financial knowledge, and Airbnb’s international platform, we hope to promote the excellence of Japanese service.”

Airbnb and Blue Lab are aiming to introduce more hotel-like extras, such as room cleaning and personalized services for older visitors. Other tourists may want to participate in local events, such as praying at a temple or joining a festival, they said. Globally, Airbnb has been looking at new ways to provide hotel-like services to higher-paying customers.

Additionally, Mizuho Bank said it would help property owners and enterprises by extending financing and other services. Blue Lab, backed by Mizuho and venture firm WiL LLC, is seeking to offer payments services, blockchain-based products and other financial technology services.

There’s also local competition. Rakuten Inc. and real estate listing operator Lifull Co. announced plans last month to enter the vacation-rental business. HomeAway, part of Expedia Inc., also offers lodgings in Japan.

Airbnb, which is valued at $29 billion, accommodated 3.7 million visitors in Japan last year. With Tokyo set to host the Rugby World Cup and the Olympic Games, the government expects 40 million visitors by 2020.

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