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The humble minshuku (or, the traditional Japanese B&B that's "outside cultural norms"?)

Minshuku (source: Jalan)

The J@pan Inc publishing empire of Japan-based entrepreneur Terrie Lloyd (a well-known figure about Tokyo) is a great well of English-language news on business, travel, and more in Japan. Over many years of the newsletters, magazines, and more, I've learned a lot about business goings-on.

On the (minor!) down side, once in a while a J@pan Inc publication will strike me as seeking the "Japan is different!" angle a wee too eagerly. For what it's worth, here's a particularly wee example:

The Terrie's Take newsletter of April 27, 2014 discusses the emerging crowdsourced accommodation provider market, as seen in companies like Airbnb in the US. Will such a business model find a home in Japan? Not if the "Japan is different!" view holds sway:

Japanese are not used to renting out their places for transient occupancy -- it's just a very big departure from the cultural norm, where people seldom move more than once every couple of years and where private individuals don't have enough spare space to entertain unknown guests.

Er... True, the average urban family has no room to spare for traveling guests, and won't be opening a bed-and-breakfast – just like the average urban family anywhere in the world. But Japan does have a fine, long tradition of private homes opening their doors for travelers. It's the minshuku 民宿, which could come in just about any configuration – though if you think of a traditional ryokan 旅館 inn, but consisting of only a room or few in a private residence, you have a typical minshuku.

Minshuku have a long history in Japan, are found all over the country, and are often touted as one of the finer niceties awaiting travelers in this land. So why call this "a very big departure from the cultural norm"? That's an odd statement, especially when the newsletter even mentions minshuku one paragraph earlier!

But that's trivial stuff. Let's put it aside and close with a note for the traveler: Information on this under-appreciated way to lodge in Japan can be hard to come by in English, but seek and you will find. Start with the Minshuku Network (behold the 90s-retro stylings of this site!), and get yourself booked for some Japanese bed and breakfast. (Futon and choushoku. Whatever.) Like a bed-and-breakfast, quality and particulars can vary hugely – but if you find the right home accommodation with the right family, you can have an unforgettable experience.


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