Kyoto's concerns mount over mystery 'minpaku' lodgings

posted on May 23, 2016

Japan's huge tourism influx is greatly welcomed by politicians and select local service industries that are benefitting from the boom.

But it's also created a shortage of hotel rooms, leading to the rise of online bookings at private residential establishments, known as minpaku, that fall outside the law on public lodging facilities. Nowhere is this more evident than in the traditional cultural capital of Kyoto.

Over the past few years, an increasing number of foreign tourists have found it cheaper, and often easier, to simply book a room in Kyoto via online sites like Airbnb, which can put people up in minpaku accommodations at apartments or houses.

That, in turn, has created complaints and concerns among neighborhood residents about everything from noise and garbage in the streets to potential communication problems during emergencies.

The extent of the problem became clear earlier this month when Kyoto municipal and ward officials announced the results of a survey of 2,702 houses and apartments offering rooms to tourists online. Of this number, though, the specific location of only 1,260 could be confirmed. The survey revealed that only 189 of these, a mere 7 percent, had permission under the Inns and Hotels Law to operate.

Because Kyoto authorities were unable to confirm the exact address of over half the places listed online, they were only able to offer a rough estimate that at least 70 percent of all such private residential rental units in Kyoto were operating without authorization.

“There are places undergoing procedures to meet the law. On the other hand, there are a lot of places like one-room apartments in residential zones that have no intention of gaining permission,” said Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa last month, just before the survey results were announced.

Foreign tourists leaving heaps of trash outside residential buildings and homes is a perennial source of complaints among Kyoto residents, and that was one of the problems identified by the survey.

But a greater concern was that residents often have no idea who owns the rooms or houses being rented out. Thus, they have no idea who to contact if there is a problem.

source by japantimes
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