With Japan becoming more popular all over the world as a tourist destination, the accommodation of many tourists flocking into the country has become one of the major concerns. As tourism continues to grow, reports of high occupancy rates in major cities such as Tokyo (83.6%) and Osaka (90.4%) as of January 2016 hamper visitors to make reservations. This shortage in accommodations has, in fact, become a normal trend in urban areas. To ease the growing demand on available rooms and guesthouses, some of the homeowners rent their vacant rooms to guests under the supervision of the government which is known as minshuku.
Minshuku are traditional lodging areas owned and operated by a family. These lodgings were considered a side business which is very different from hotels and ryokan inns. It is believed that the first minshuku was established in the rural areas of Japan to accommodate seasonal travelers at ski slopes, beaches, and summer resorts. The proprietors are residents who are often involved in farming and fishing. Today, many proprietors run minshuku as their main business making it difficult to distinguish the different types of accommodations in Japan. However, in spite of all these changes some things about minshuku still remain the same—family hospitality, and home cooking using local produce from farms and fishing grounds at a reasonable price.
Minshuku guests commonly stay at the converted part of the owner’s house and share the same facilities such as dining area, bathing area, and restrooms. Unlike hotels and ryokan inns, guests can experience authentic Japanese hospitality without spending too much money. For less than 10,000 yen, guests can experience wearing yukata robes, futons and tatami mats plus the pleasure of eating more elaborate Japanese meals while being able to interact with the locals. Some minshuku accommodations found in farming and fishing villages also allow guests to participate in fishing and agricultural activities or in making seasonal local dishes so that guests may be able to experience a deeper sense of the everyday life of the rural community.
Today, more minshuku accommodations have been made accessible to both domestic and foreign travelers through the internet. Tourists can now easily book their accommodation via various travel websites such as Agoda, Booking.com, Rakuten and others. The Japan National Tourism Organization even has a comprehensive list of website for various types of accommodations nationwide.
Does the minshuku style of accommodation appeal to you?