Have you ever thought about trying a new way of staying in Japan? If so, “minpaku” might be right for you! OK, you might be wondering, what is “minpaku”?
Translated from Japanese to English, “minpaku” means “a private stay accommodation/private lodging” – AKA Airbnb lodging. That means you are staying in a private residence (i.e. an apartment, house, etc.). You might be staying with the people living there or an empty place for your personal use. Either way, the owner is renting his/her available room(s). Again, this is private residence – not a hotel.
This old house rented as a minpaku private lodging in Tokyo is one of many accommodations offered on the Airbnb site. | AIRBNB INC.
Why Is “Minpaku” Becoming so Popular?
With the increase of tourism, limited hotel space, need of short-term lodging options and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, “minpaku”s trend for foreigners to use while in Japan grows gradually. It also allows Japanese people to earn some additional money.
The cost is lower compared to any other lodging or hotel options and internationals feel comfortable enough to stay for a long time. Likewise, since travelers and expats are spending less on their lodging, they can spend more on other items. Also, they can eat in the residence, so it also saves some money (rather than going to a restaurant).
What Is the Law Regarding “Minpaku”?
NEW: In January 2018, there is a new law in Japan regarding “minpaku.” The new law regulates that the residence must be registered as a hotel business with a license and the number of days for use of “minpaku” (up to 180 days). In the past, the owner could not obtain a hotel license as a “minpaku” residence if it was located in an exclusive residential area. However, that has changed with the new law. If the owner submits all the necessary paperwork and everything is registered correctly, the business can be authorized. note: up to four people are permitted per 1 “minpaku” residence.
What Should I Know If I Want to Stay in a “Minpaku”?
- Minimum length of stay: Generally it is three days; two nights.
- Cost: It varies depending on the area/region of Japan, but expect to pay around 5000-8000 Yen per night. It comes with a bed and fully furnished kitchen.
- Home expectations: First, this is a private residence. Therefore, you should treat the home and people who reside there with respect. This is an amazing opportunity to stay at a Japanese residence and sometimes actually with local Japanese people until you are able to find your own residence/apartment. If you are lucky and the person or family chooses to remain in the residence, you might consider this similar to a homestay situation. You can learn a lot about cultural items, eat traditional Japanese food, and practice your Japanese language with the family. What a wonderful way to start your life in Japan!
- Taking off shoes at the front door: Do NOT walk in the residence with your outdoor shoes on. It goes without saying in Japan that is a customary (must) to take your outdoor shoes off at the front entrance. However, if you are new to Japan and typically from a Western culture, this might be a new or totally different concept for you.
Likewise, you should turn the shoes to face the door, so that when you are leaving your feet can slip directly into the shoes. You will then wear “indoor slippers” that are available in front of the entrance. This will keep the house clean.
In Japan, the toilet is separated from the shower/tub.
(Please note: space is small, so if you are taller than the average Japanese person, don’t be surprised if your knees touch the door when shut).
Photo: A standard Japanese toilet in a residence.
Source: Yuko Setoguchi
- Using toilet slippers: There is a set of different slippers for using the toilet at home. You should take off your “indoor house slippers” at the entrance of the toilet door and wear the “toilet” slippers provided in the toilet area. Those are specifically only used in the toilet area. Japanese people wear different slippers in specific sections to keep their homes clean.
- Bathing process in Japan is different compared to other countries. You should only wash your body in the shower area. The bathtub “ofuro” is used ONLY to soak in hot water AFTER your body is clean. You do not drain the water out of the tub. It is usually used by several family members before being drained and new water added. So, it’s important for you to remember “do not wash with soap in the actual tub”.
Picture: “Ofuro” and shower in a Japanese residence.
Source: Yuko Setoguchi
If you cannot read Japanese to understand the temperature setting, please ask your host. Also, sometimes, the family has to turn on the heater (for the bathroom) to heat the water. It takes several minutes to heat, so please be patient. Otherwise, you will get a cold shower.
Picture: Temperature gauge for the bathroom water.
Source: Yuko Setoguchi
Kitchen use: Kitchens are very small in Japan. People use the kitchen to cook and immediately wash the dishes. If you are cooking for yourself and the host is still residing at the property, please ask what you can use first (food, utensils, pans, etc.). Then, make sure you clean up immediately. You should not leave dishes in the kitchen or on the table after you eat. That would be considered rude.
Source: Picture 1 – sarahandgarymoore.wordpress.com
Picture 2 – resources.realestate.jp.org
Where Is the Dishwasher?
Typically, there are no automatic dishwashers in many houses. People wash dishes by hand. You should ask if the host would like to help prepare and/or wash the dishes used for cooking and eating before and after each meal.
In Japan, electricity cost is expensive. Please try to save their bills by using what is necessary. That means you should not leave lights on without being in a room. Turn them off, if you’re leaving.
It is not common to find central heating or AC in Japan.
Heat: That means, for winter, people use space heaters in the room. You turn it on when you are in the room. Due to the smaller space of Japanese rooms, it warms up rather quickly. Make sure you don’t have anything near the heater that could catch fire.
For AC: Summers tend to be hot and humid. There is a rainy season that is very hot and muggy. AC units are typically found in the main rooms and bedrooms. Turn it on for a limited time to cool the room. It should be off when you are away.
To help you understand how to use the remote control for the AC unit, I have attached a general explanation of what those Japanese kanji mean in English for each button.
“Gomi” ごみ (sometimes written ゴミ) is the Japanese word for garbage. One of the most important things to know is that Japanese people take garbage disposal seriously. People make sure they are following the guidelines and dispose of their items correctly.
How Do I Know Which Bag to Use?
For first time internationals, the garbage system can be considered a bit complicated. Each town/city has their own rules. The city rules may take a minimum of 20 pages in length to read. Therefore, it is important to know what you need to do when you are staying in a “minpaku” residence.
For example, garbage may be sorted into burnable (red bags), non-burnable (blue bags), paper, plastic, PET bottles, cans, newspapers, cartons, unbroken glass, and batteries (white bags, with different collection days). You might also need to separate the “namagomi” ごみ (food waste) from the burnable and envelopes from paper. However, again, bag colors and separating items depend on the rules of each town/city.
There are also certain days for garbage pickup. You will be asked to take care of your garbage or take the garbage to the collective bin. So, PLEASE ask the host or make sure you know before you arrive what is expected of you regarding sorting out the garbage, bag colors/meaning and collection days/time.
What If I Make a Mistake With My Garbage?
If you make a mistake, your garbage can be “tagged” with a red sticker which means that was refused by the trash collector. If you continue to make errors, you and the owner can receive complaints from the neighbors or neighborhood association.
Remember, your host is not your maid. So, please take time to understand the customs. It will also help you as you start your life in Japan. You need to learn these rules so that you can do it when you secure a more permanent residence in Japan.
- Recycling: Japan has a high ratio of recycling. One of the most common things people recycle on a daily basis is PET bottles. You drink that wonderful tasting green tea or other beverage. Then, you throw away the bottle in the correct recycle bin. It is reused for the next new drink.
Please be conscious to recycle in Japan. Note: One of the garbage sacks is for recycled items. So, please use it while staying at your “minpaku” residence.
In Japan, the walls are thin. Therefore, sound travels easily between neighbors. Japanese people speak in a moderate but respectful level within the home. TVs, radios, phones, and others are all at a lower volume level as to not bother the neighbors. You should try to limit your use of loud electronics after 10-11 pm when people are starting to get ready to sleep. If you are awake due to the time zone change, wear a pair of earbuds that can plug into your electronic device(s).
Note: If the Japanese owner(s) are residing at the location and you need to use other rooms in the house, such as the kitchen, to make some food, be really careful to be quiet. Plan ahead and prepare items that you can easily get out and eat or have bought at the bakery or store before the night time. It will save you from bothering your Japanese host family members.
Watching TV shows in Japan can be entertaining and informative. You might not understand all the words, but you can guess the general idea through the pictures and context. Japanese TV shows tend to focus on food, news, and entertainment shows.
It might be a bit confusing on how to use the TV remote with all the words in Japanese. I have attached a picture of a TV remote and explanation in English to help you use it easily.
Try this trendy new way to stay in Japan. It can save you money and help you understand Japanese culture and daily life better. If you are staying in Japan for a longer period, this will help you get acclimated to the way you need to do things when you have your own place to reside. Remember: be respectful and treat your “minpaku” residence like your own home. No one wants to come home to a place which is a mess, dirty and/or damaged in any way.
Peggy / United States