[From June Issue 2014]
“Private lodging” – accommodation in a private residence – is getting an increasing amount of repeat custom. Many start out as regional exchange or development schemes to supplement the incomes of families whose livelihood is based on the farming, fishing or forestry industries. Recently they’ve been attracting attention because of their charm; they provide something that can’t be found on a typical sightseeing trip.
“The charm of private lodging lies in becoming better acquainted with a region through interactions with locals,” says KAWAGUCHI Susumu, “Shiosai-juku” in Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture, has been operating for three years. Made with local produce, his regional dishes are extremely popular. Another big attraction of private lodging is the real-life experience you have with locals.
Since Goto is next to the ocean, fishing and messing about on the beach are popular activities to experience. While visitors to Shiosai-juku are mostly in their 50s or 60s, more and more schools are giving children the opportunity to get a taste of staying at a private residence as part of an educational program. For children who have no opportunity to spend time by the seaside in the course of their everyday lives, finding out about the diversity of sea creatures can be the catalyst for raising awareness about the Earth’s environment. Visitors from overseas are still rare, but Kawaguchi expects that the number of Korean tourists will increase if the Catholic church in Goto is registered as a World Heritage Site.
At “Yururiya” and “Tomaryanse” residential lodgings, in the village of Asuka, Nara Prefecture, roughly half of the visitors are Japanese and half foreign. Owner ERA Yoko says she wants them to come with the mindset of someone who’s about to do a homestay.
She sometimes has a hard time communicating in English. “One winter’s day, I thought the bathroom was too cold, so I left the shower running in order to warm it up before some high school students from Singapore took their bath. They must have thought it was customary in Japan to leave the shower running. They left it running for a long time after their bath. It was very difficult for me to explain this later,” Era laughs.
A popular activity is to get a hands-on experience of farming by doing things like harvesting rice and vegetables. If it’s not possible to do any farming because of the rain, visitors prepare food – sushi wrapped in rolls of seaweed, and so forth – with her. Foreign visitors are especially pleased to get the chance to experience making Japanese dishes. Era says she feels very sad when people who have stayed for more than two days leave, as they begin to feel like family. She often continues friendships with them by swapping email addresses.
As well as being cheap, private lodgings provide foreigners with a chance to get a taste of the Japanese lifestyle, and for this reason they may become popular in the future. They also offer Japanese city dwellers an invaluable experience.
Text: TSUCHIYA Emi