photo by mujitra
I am so concered about empty houses in Japan. There are over 8 million empty houses in whole Japan and the rate is 13.1% of all houses. It is going to increase and after 30 years from now, the rate is estimated to be 43%!
Soon, our next doors on both sides might be empty houses.
I feel these houses should be changed into `inn' for tourists from all over the world to share traditional Japanese life style.(you might remember our past newsletter about opposition for building casino in Japan).
I thought it might take a lot of work and time but recetly I noticed there are actually some approaches for this idea and has possibility of growth.
When I wrote about opposing casino plan in Osaka, we received many e-mails for approval . We were so glad to read many readers wrote they were interested in staying in old houses in Japanese ountryside.
For example, Denjiro(http://www.denjirou.com/e_welcome.htm/) has charming houses in Ibaragi-the houses are from Edo period! They accept 10 people a day but they are all occupied during 2012. There are staff from Australia or USA, as you could see, they have English page for guests from abroad.
Another interesting place is called Tagayama village in Yamagata prefecture (http://tagamaya.blog47.fc2.com/). They have a big house including store house where 20 people can stay. The house is from late Meiji. The house is old but they have western style toilets and everything, so people from abroad can stay with no problem. They have this `spooky' room and many people have seen child ghost(Zashiki warashi-a fairy living in Japanese tatami room). Isnt' that exciting?
In southern area too, there is a charming inn called Ga-pe-chin in Izenajima island(http://www.shimanokaze.jp/contents/stay.html)
According to the report by guests who actually stayed there, the place is the best to enjoy the ordinary life of the island. Just like other houses in the island, the inn has no key and no signs. It is just like other houses in the neighborhood. You can walk to the beach to see the beautiful sunset. The neighbors walk by and greet you, the old people in the neighborhood sometimes sing the folksongs for you and `anmaa'(mothers) come to cook the local food for you. It is not like a busy tour for sightseeing but to share the real island life with local people.
There seem not so many who really are ready to accept foreign tourists(because of language, difference of tradition, and facilities and so on) but Denjiro is accepting many foreign guests and there seem others also can offer the service and accept more foreign guests if they can overcome a little issue like language.
By doing a little innovation, more guests can come- a little culture gap might become a nice surprise!
Having such inn among villages - and coexists and have keeping benefit continuously might be a difficult thing, it might be easier to build chain hotels instead.
However, if the charms of old houses(kominka) are not shown or conveyed, they must be buried and dissappear. By organizing some basic and important format for the project, I think those inn should advertize to invite more tourists. There must be more means to pass along the information and charms of these places.
My imagination grows so big now as I sit in my office- it is probably because of my Aeron chair!