National

'Scattered hotels' offering village-type stays are taking off in rural Japan

JIJI

A recent trend in the tourism sector that lets visitors stay in re-created traditional villages while experiencing local cuisine and cultural activities is growing in popularity in Japan.

The “scattered hotel” business is believed to have originated in Europe, and Maruyama Village — a facility that opened in 2009 in Sasayama, Hyogo Prefecture — is said to be the pioneer in Japan. Users of the facility can partake in activities such as agriculture, pottery-making and tea ceremony while staying at renovated traditional houses.

In Mino, Gifu Prefecture, which flourished with the production and trade of high-quality washi (Japanese paper) during the Edo Period (1603-1868), a traditional century-old house that belonged to a washi merchant was renovated into an inn.

The inn opened in July and is named Nipponia. An association of local paper manufacturing companies is involved in the operation in a bid to promote the charms of Mino washi.

Many old merchant houses still stand in Mino. The front desk of the hotel is located in another renovated traditional house, while a vacant traditional house nearby is currently being renovated to become the second accommodation facility for the hotel. Six hotel rooms can be used, each by up to seven people. Rates start at ¥20,000 per person.

Jun Mizuishi, a 36-year-old resident of Saitama Prefecture, used the hotel for group training.

“We could fully enjoy Mino by experiencing local cuisine and Mino washi-making, as well as by enjoying local landscapes,” Mizuishi said.

Scattered-style hotels are also found in Kyoto; Otsu, Shiga Prefecture; Obama, Fukui Prefecture; and other areas.

Preparations to open such a facility are currently underway in Hokkaido and Kumamoto Prefecture.

Airi Ishikawa, from travel website Ikyu Corp., said scattered-type hotels are growing in popularity because business collaborations with local entities tend to work smoothly because of the expectation that such projects will help revitalize local communities and breathe new life into abandoned buildings.

Those involved in the business are also hoping that it will encourage foreign tourists to visit their communities.

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