• Kyodo

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Hundreds of people continue to take shelter following a massive mudslide a week ago in central Japan but rather than typical evacuation accommodations in school gymnasiums, many have been taken in by hotels.

The disaster occurred in the resort city of Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, less than an hour from Tokyo by bullet train. Local hotel operators have offered to accept those unable to return home due to the mudslide, which claimed at least nine lives, with 20 people still missing.

New WelCity Yugawara took in about 90 people on July 3, the day of the disaster.

“I could rest in a clean tatami room,” said Kenji Aikawa, a 51-year-old chef. “In addition, I could soak in a hot spring and relax.”

A hotel with a hot spring is a world apart from a gymnasium, where evacuees from disasters usually sleep on the floor in large numbers with little or no privacy.

Hotel New Akao told the city government the morning after the disaster that it was ready to accommodate evacuees.

After receiving a formal request from city officials to accept a group of older people who needed to evacuate from a care facility near the disaster zone, the hotel spread futons over a large tatami room usually used for banquets.

It also provided rice balls and pork and vegetable soup to others affected by the disaster.

“We thought about what we could do as a hotel,” said Shinobu Kamei, a spokeswoman. “All of the hotel staff got fired up” to help out, she said.

Disaster relief personnel on Friday in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture | KYODO
Disaster relief personnel on Friday in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture | KYODO

As of Friday night, a total of 572 people were staying in Atami New Fujiya Hotel and Hotel New Akao. Most of the evacuees were staying at Atami New Fujiya, which decided to extend the initial planned stay by a week, until July 16, to accommodate the evacuees.

“This is an unprecedented, major disaster for Atami,” said Hotel New Akao’s Kamei.

“Because Atami is a tourist site, there are many accommodation facilities. We don’t know how long the situation requiring evacuation will last, but we would like to offer full support,” she said.

Some small-scale accommodation facilities in Atami have also started to take in evacuees free of charge.

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