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Ota Ward to start accepting applications for 'minpaku' lodging services for foreigners

Ota Ward Mayor Tadayoshi Matsubara, center, speaks at a meeting of the 'Tokyo metropolitan urban revitalization subcommittee' of the central government's National Strategic Special Zone Council for the Greater Tokyo Area, at the Ota Ward Office in Tokyo on Jan. 25, 2016. (Mainichi)

Tokyo's Ota Ward presented its regulations and guidelines to the central government on Jan. 25 for allowing private house and condominium owners to offer accommodations called "minpaku" services, such as "airbnb," to foreign visitors.

    Ota Ward, designated as one of the "National Strategic Special Zones," is to start accepting applications for operating such services from prospective business operators on Jan. 29. The ward office says it will take about two weeks to screen applications. Therefore, Japan's first business operators will likely be approved for providing "minpaku" services as early as mid-February.

    According to the Ota Ward Office, there were inquiries or requests for advice from a total of 118 business operators as of Jan. 19. A ward official says, "There will probably be applications covering at least 100 rooms by the end of March and at least 1,000 rooms by the end of this year." Presented to the "Tokyo metropolitan urban revitalization subcommittee" of the central government's National Strategic Special Zone Council for the Greater Tokyo Area are regulations that provide for detailed rules in line with the implementation of the ward's ordinance as well as guidelines for business operators to offer "minpaku" lodging services.

    The regulations define the distance in which neighbors must live for the need for minpaku operators to notify them in advance of their lodging services. These include users of other structures that are within 20 meters from the walls of their structures, and users of structures that are across the road and within 10 meters from the walls of their structures.

    Furthermore, the regulations require business operators to keep lists for at least three years which contain visitors' names, addresses, occupations, contact numbers and addresses, nationalities, passport numbers and length of stay.

    The guidelines require service providers to put systems in place through which they can give visitors information directly or by phone on emergency evacuation and emergency medical services in foreign languages. As for ways of handling waste products generated by users of such services, the guidelines also stipulate that such waste can "be treated properly" as business-related waste.

    Ota Ward is to enforce its "minpaku-related" ordinance on Jan. 29. It will also start holding briefing sessions on Jan. 27 for business operators who want to seek approval of their services. An Ota Ward official said, "While the number of foreign visitors to Japan is likely to top 20 million per year, the hotel capacity utilization rate in the ward is exceeding 90 percent, threatening to outweigh full capacity soon. We desperately feel the need to provide 'minpaku' services ahead of anyone in the country."

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