National | FOCUS

Cities, prefectures rush to localize ordinances for Airbnb-type lodging before minpaku law takes effect

JIJI

Ahead of the introduction of a law to regulate minpaku (private lodging services) in June, dozens of governments nationwide have begun drawing up their own rules under the new law.

The law will allow vacant rooms in private housing to be leased to tourists and others for up to 180 days a year.

Under the law, prefectural governments and designated major cities will be able to confine minpaku services to certain districts and time periods via ordinances. This is to prevent trouble from erupting between clients and residents of neighborhoods hosting such facilities.

In response to concerns about noise and other problems, the Kyoto Prefectural Government plans to prohibit minpaku services in residential-only districts during “periods when the number of tourists surge” there.

Specific periods for the prefectural restriction will be set for individual municipalities in line with their policies. In some municipalities, however, such periods will not be designated.

The prefectural capital of Kyoto, a government ordinance-designated city, will not be subject to the ordinance but plans itself to limit minpaku services to only January and February. Similar restrictions will be set in municipalities around the ancient city, which attracts scores of tourists.

In Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, the private lodging services will be available to overnight guests on Fridays and Saturdays only.

“The ward has a reputation as a peaceful residential area, so we have to protect the housing environment,” a ward official said.

For similar reasons, Sapporo and Kanazawa, the capitals of Hokkaido and Ishikawa, respectively, will ban minpaku services on weekdays.

Despite these restrictions, some other authorities — eyeing the lucrative tourism trade — do not plan to impose limits on the emerging sector.

Among them is the city of Osaka, which was quick to allow minpaku services under a national program in October 2016. The city plans to set no restrictions on when or where minpaku services can be offered.

In the city, more than 10,000 rooms are believed to be used for minpaku at present, though many are operating illegally, attracting complaints from residents, sources familiar with the situation said.

As the new law will oblige minpaku operators to notify authorities of their business operations, the municipal government expects it will help address such complaints.

“We can’t reach minpaku operators unless they file notifications,” a municipal official for the sector said. The new law “will help us give them administrative instructions and lead to appropriate minpaku management, while also enhancing a sense of security among residents and tourists.”

Takanori Suzuki, head of the Japan Tourism Agency’s Tourism Industry Division, which oversees minpaku, said regional differences in regulations were bound to occur.

“Environmental standards for housing areas are supposed to differ from region to region,” Suzuki said. “Local authorities are expected to give reasonable explanations about why regulations are necessary.”