Reuters/Asahi: New “minpaku” law stifles homesharing with tourists, on grounds insinuating foreigners are “unsafe” for children walking to school! (or ISIS terrorists)

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a new twist to the “Blame Game” often played whenever there’s a foreigner involved with any economy in Japan.  I started talking about this in earnest in my Japan Times column of August 28, 2007, where I pointed out how NJ were being falsely blamed for crime, SDF security breaches, unfair advantages in sports, education disruptions, shipping disruptions, and even labor shortages (!!).  That soon expanded to false accusations of workplace desertion (remember the fictitious “flyjin” phenomenon of 2011?) and looting, despoiling sumo and fish markets, and even for crime committed by Japanese!  More here.

Now we have recycled claims of disruptive NJ tourism.  But as submitter JDG points out, this time it’s getting mean.  In the same vein of a World Cup 2002 Miyagi Prefectural Assemblyman’s claim that visiting foreigners would rape Japanese women and sire children, we have official insinuations at the local government level that renting your apartment or room out to NJ would be “unsafe” — not only for Japanese in the neighborhood, but for children walking to school in Shibuya!  (Or, according to the JT update below, NJ might be ISIS terrorists.)  At this point, this is hate speech.  Dr. Debito Arudou

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In Japan, new rules may leave Airbnb industry out in the cold
REUTERS/ASAHI SHINBUN, April 23, 2018,  courtesy of JDG, with underlined emphases added
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201804230010.html

Japan’s new home-sharing law was meant to ease a shortage of hotel rooms, bring order to an unregulated market and offer more lodging options for foreign visitors ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Instead, the law is likely to stifle Airbnb Inc. and other home-sharing businesses when it is enacted in June and force many homeowners to stop offering their services, renters and experts say.

The “minpaku,” or private temporary lodging law, the first national legal framework for short-term home rental in Asia, limits home-sharing to 180 days a year, a cap some hosts say makes it difficult to turn a profit.

More important, local governments, which have final authority to regulate services in their areas, are imposing even more severe restrictions, citing security or noise concerns.

For example, Tokyo’s Chuo Ward, home to the tony Ginza shopping district, has banned weekday rentals on grounds that allowing strangers into apartment buildings during the week could be unsafe.

That’s a huge disappointment for Airbnb “superhost” Mika, who asked that her last name not be used because home-renting is now officially allowed only in certain zones.

She has enjoyed hosting international visitors in her spare two-bedroom apartment but will stop because her building management has decided to ban the service ahead of the law’s enactment.

“I was able to meet many different people I would have not met otherwise,” said Mika, 53, who started renting out her apartment after she used a home-sharing service overseas. “I may sell my condo.”

Mika added that if she were to rent the apartment out on a monthly basis, she would only make one-third of what she does from short-term rentals.

The ancient capital of Kyoto, which draws more than 50 million tourists a year, will allow private lodging in residential areas only between Jan. 15 and March 16, avoiding the popular spring and fall tourist seasons.

Similarly, Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya Ward will permit home-sharing services in residential areas only during school holidays, with certain exceptions, so children won’t meet strangers on their way to class.

In short, renters and experts say, the new law is doing more to hurt than help, even as a record 28.7 million tourists flocked to Japan last year, up 19 percent from the year before. Japan aims to host 40 million foreign tourists a year by 2020.

Yasuhiro Inaoka, who manages about 15 properties for Airbnb hosts in Tokyo, says the net effect of the law is “banning individuals from offering home lodging.”

‘STRANGE PRACTICE’

Central government officials say that excessive local limits could defeat the law’s objectives, but that they cannot force local governments to loosen their policies.

Restricting home rental due to vague concerns that foreigners are unsafe or that it is a strange practice goes against the concept of the new law,” said Soichi Taguchi, an official at the government’s Tourism Agency.

The annual cap of 180 days for home sharing and stricter rules set by local governments is a victory for the hotel industry, which opposes private properties being used for tourist accommodation.

“While each city and town is unique, we believe that by following the national recommendations, all Japanese cities and communities will be able to benefit from the growing economic opportunity provided by home sharing and short-term rentals,” said Jake Wilczynski, spokesman for Airbnb in Asia Pacific.

About 62,000 Airbnb listings have sprung up in Japan, far smaller than other major tourist destinations, such as Italy, which has 354,400 listings, or France, with 490,000.

Elsewhere in Asia, Singapore allows home sharing, but requires a minimum period of three months. Two Airbnb hosts were fined S$60,000 ($45,800 or 4.9 million yen) each by a local court in April for unauthorized short-term letting.

Hyakusenrenma Inc., a Japanese rival to Airbnb, has 2,000 listings for its “Stay Japan” service, and online travel agency Booking Holdings’s Booking.com and Chinese agents have also entered the Japanese market.

The new law requires home owners to register rental properties for short-term stays with the local government by undergoing fire safety checks and submitting proof that the owner is not mentally disturbed.

San Francisco-based Airbnb said it would obey the new law and remove all the non-compliant listings from its site by June.

But the company is also confident the number of listings will bounce back and eventually exceed the current level because Japan still has a great deal of potential to expand, said country manager Yasuyuki Tanabe.

“We will have clear rules for home lodging, which will encourage more people to list their properties,” Tanabe said.

HOTEL LICENSE

One alternative for home renters is to apply for a hotel license. That process has been simplified to relax requirements for a reception area and no longer mandate a minimum number of rooms.

One 42-year-old man who asked not to be named has gone this route. He stopped renting out Airbnb apartments in Tokyo and instead obtained a license to run a five-room hotel out of a converted traditional wooden “machiya” house in Kyoto.

He still advertises on his property in Kyoto on Airbnb and the hotel license frees him from the 180-day limit.

“With the hotel license I can provide the service all year round,” he said.

But for many, this isn’t an option because their buildings won’t allow home-sharing at all, regardless of licensing.

When the land ministry asked apartment management unions to decide whether to permit short-term rentals, only 0.3 percent of them nationwide said they would, according to the Condominium Management Association.
ENDS
==============================

UPDATE JUN 30:

— Japan Times also reports on the backlash to this policy, with the same undertones, except this time foreigners might be “terrorists”. Excerpt:

Implementation of minpaku laws lambasted
The Japan Times, June 30, 2018
BY MARK SCHREIBER
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/30/national/media-national/implementation-minpaku-laws-lambasted/

[…]
On its morning program on June 15, NHK Radio chimed in with its own justification for the crackdown on minpaku. Citing the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks by ISIS terrorists in Paris in which 130 people were killed and another 413 injured, the broadcast implied that minpaku might serve as a base for terrorists — despite there being no evidence that the attackers in France had availed themselves of online booking services.

Nevertheless, at the urging of the Metropolitan Police Department ahead of the 2020 Olympics, minpaku hosts will be encouraged to report any “suspicious behavior” on the part of guests, including refusing to allow their passport to be photocopied, referring to a memo or other separate document when transcribing their own name or address, or when the actual number of staying guests turns out to vary from what was initially reserved.

“It’s possible terrorists will choose to stay at minpaku, where identification checks are vague,” explained Isao Itabashi, head of the Research Center at the Council for Public Policy, during the broadcast, adding, “So it’s important that along with sharing data on suspicious guests, the minpaku operators liaise closely with the police.”

Full article at https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/30/national/media-national/implementation-minpaku-laws-lambasted/
==============================

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11 comments on “Reuters/Asahi: New “minpaku” law stifles homesharing with tourists, on grounds insinuating foreigners are “unsafe” for children walking to school! (or ISIS terrorists)

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Ok, so now AirBNB is legally classed as ‘minpaku’ and under that classification, the police are asking private individuals who let out rooms to NJ to ILLEGALLY photocopy NJ passports!

    I imagine a lot of people are going to say no. It’s a huge identity fraud risk.

  • The timing of this post on debito.org is amazing. I own a small condo in Hachioji, and just yesterday, we had a vote on 民泊禁止 (Ban on Homesharing).

    The paper that was sent out to owners (35 owners in total) was problematic. In its text, it mentioned lots of negatives and very few, if any positives (strongly biased wording). Would you like a copy? I’d be happy to provide you with one.

    Then, when it came to the actual vote, that’s when things got really, really suspicious.

    In our condo association, 75% of unit owners must agree before a bill is passed. We have 35 unit owners, so it would require 27 votes to ban homesharing.

    Most of the owners don’t live here. Many of the units are empty. And at yesterday’s meeting, only three regular owners plus the 理事長 (board chairman), plus a representative for the corporation that manages the condo, showed up.

    Yet, here were the results:
    29 votes in favor of the ban
    1 vote against the ban (my vote)

    Fishy?

    So many owners voted absentee? Wow, that’s an incredibly high turnout for normally too-apathetic-to-vote Japan…

    EVERY SINGLE ABSENTEE VOTE was in favor of the ban? Fascinating…

    The number of absentee votes was just high enough to result in the bill to ban homesharing being passed regardless of how the people voted in the condo owners’ association meeting? Wow, what a coincidence!

    — Yes, please provide us with a copy of the paper sent to owners. debito@debito.org.

    • We just had the same thing. I suspect the reason for the votes is the way the proxy papers are set up. Basically everyone is probably going to vote ‘yes’ to every motion.

    • — Here is Charles’s answer. Thanks Charles. Debito

      Hello Debito-san,

      Here is a copy of the bill that was circulated to all the condo owners (including me). People could vote absentee or in person, prior to 6/30, or on the day of the in-person meeting (as I did).


      (Click to enlarge)

      I have already made my point on your website about how I think the voting was rigged. I highly doubt more than 80% of residents really responded with a 賛成. The condo association claims that 29/35 of the owners responded with 賛成, but I say “Yeah, right.” I mean, many of the units are unoccupied and I would suspect that many of the owners are difficult to reach, living in other parts of Japan, or being children that have inherited a condo from an elderly person, etc. I highly doubt they actually got 29 people to reply 賛成 to the bill.

      I would also like to call your attention to the following things:

      First and foremost, the final paragraph, which talks about many negative aspects of 民泊, mentioning virtually no positives. It seems extremely biased to me.

      Please also note 改正後, 1:
      「組合は、専有部分で有る住戸部分を住居としてのみ使用し、他の用途に供してはならない。」
      Is it just me, or is this extremely vague and far-reaching? Here’s my translation of it. Admittedly I’m only N2-level, which means my reading leaves A LOT to be desired:
      “As for the Association, the part that is the dwelling unit, that is, the part for personal use, will be used only for residence, and may not serve other purposes.”

      This seems to basically ban any activity except eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom. Wouldn’t this also prevent me from tutoring students in English at my place? Or doing a wide range of other things unrelated to 民泊?

      Anyways, keep up the good work. I hope my document was helpful to the cause.

      Sincerely, Charles (seven year-resident of Japan, owner of a very small condo)

  • “It’s possible terrorists will choose to stay at minpaku, where identification checks are vague,” explained Isao Itabashi,”

    It bears repeating to Itabashi that … ALL THE TERRORISM IN JAPAN has been committed by JAPANESE PEOPLE.

  • If you just say the word “terrorists” it gives you an excuse to follow it with any nonsense that you care to say. Consider:

    “It’s possible terrorists will choose to stay at minpaku, where identification checks are vague,” explained Isao Itabashi,”

    Hmm…. Pretty incompetent terrorist if their identification labels them as a terrorist. Those terrorists are all being thwarted now by diligent hotel staff on the lookout for those terrorist IDs. Oh, you means that’s not how it works??

    You mean the terrorists are on a watch list that is held by customs and immigration and is referred to when entering the country? Oh, I see. No need for nosey parkers at the minshukus is there! Or will you just keep annoying people by illegally demanding irrelevant ID based on lookism. Keep it up oyajis.

    Oh you mean…

  • Er, last I checked hotels and services do NOT have a right to scan any passport or even check if other idea is provided. This sounds outright illegal.

    • Jim Di Griz says:

      Yes, it is illegal. The Japanese police have a long history of duping hotels into thinking that they have to break the law and photocopy NJ guests passports.
      I’m not sure what purpose they think this harassment serves, since all NJ visitors show their passports to immigration upon arrival and are obliged to fill out a disembarkation card which tells immigration where they intend to stay whilst in Japan.
      The Japanese police are simply using this as a tactic to spread the narrative that NJ are ‘dangerous’ and that the police are ‘doing their job’ by ‘protecting’ and ‘warning’ hotel staff.
      It’s all 100% dependent on the fact that jet-lagged NJ tourists, facing a severe language barrier, at the start of expensive ‘once in a life time’ trips to Japan, will back down and hand over their passports rather than make a scene, start their vacation with a bad experience, or find themselves having to frantically find an alternative hotel.
      If all tourists just said no, hotels would have to decide pretty sharp if they prefer to keep breaking the law, or have paying customers instead.

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