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Guesthouse offering pilgrims knitted bags, rice balls wins Shikoku best hospitality award

Cloth bags used to wrap "onigiri" rice balls for guests at the Minshuku Tamura guesthouse in Kochi Prefecture are seen in this photo courtesy of Minshuku Tamura.

TOKUSHIMA -- Minshuku Tamura, a guesthouse in the small coastal city of Tosashimizu in the western Japan prefecture of Kochi, has been given the distinction of providing Shikoku's best hospitality in 2019, in a decision by a union comprising tourist associations for the island region's four prefectures.

The guesthouse was praised highly for its practice of presenting a lunch of "onigiri" rice balls wrapped in hand-sewn bags made from old kimonos for guests departing in the morning for the Shikoku Buddhist pilgrimage, in which travelers visit 88 temples in a circular route throughout Shikoku Island.

The "Shikoku Omotenashi Kangeki Taisho," or award for inspiring hospitality in Shikoku in English, has been held annually since 2016. The 2019 organizers considered 68 candidates recommended by tourists for their hospitality, ingenuity and other strengths.

Manager of Minshuku Tamura Masatoshi Matsuda, 59, sometimes takes guests to sightseeing spots by car, and also enjoys fishing by the sea with them. Matsuda took over the operation of the guesthouse from his parents-in-law a year and half ago. "If the guests are happy then I am too. I didn't do it thinking I'm doing something special. I will continue doing things at a relaxed pace," he said.

(Japanese original by Akira Ino, reporting from Tokushima)

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