Just wanted to point out some things about Airbnb (and “minpaku” style rentals in general) that many people don’t seem to realize:
- All Airbnb rentals in Japan are illegal.
Just like Uber is recognized for the unlicensed taxi company that it is, and is therefore illegal and non-existent in Japan, Airbnb is an unlicensed hotel business and is also therefore illegal but so far existent here.
2. Almost all Airbnb rentals are violating their leases and/or property agreements.
Most rental contracts specifically ban subletting to third parties, meaning the renters are violating their leases by putting their place up on Airbnb. But even if the lister owns their own condo, it might still be violating the building association’s rules. Only someone owning their own building (e.g. a house) would be likely to be breaking the law only.
3. Because of 1 and 2, guests risk being kicked out at a moments notice.
You can find your place to stay on Airbnb, go to Japan, unpack, and be in the middle of a nice vacation when all of a sudden the police, a property agent, or some other figure of authority (usually called in by disgruntled neighbors) shows up and demands that you leave immediately. And, because your place is totally in violation of the law and other rules, you have no choice but to comply. Now you’re stuck in the middle of a foreign land with all your luggage and no where to stay.
But hey, it could be worse. According to one person’s story I read, there was even a guy who knew he was going to be evicted from his apartment any day, and so decided to squeeze a bit of money out of the place before that happened by putting it up on Airbnb. The vacationer who booked the place was none the wiser of course, and so come back to the place after a day of vacationing around the city to find repo men taking all his stuff. Fortunately this vacationer had a Japanese friend who was able to explain to the kind men what the situation was, and they let him get his stuff out (even though they certainly didn’t have to, and, in fact, it was a risk to them to let him do so–they would have no way of knowing if he was only taking the things that were actually his). So not only did this person lose his place to stay in the middle of his vacation, he nearly lost all of his luggage as well!
4. Because of 1 and 2, guests’ bookings may be cancelled at the last minute before they even get there.
Not every black market deal gets concluded. Sometimes people get cold feet, or suddenly realize the illegal nature of what they’re doing, and decide to back out. You might have your big Japan trip all planned out with all your non-refundable tickets bought, etc. only to have the place your were planning on staying at pulled out from under your feet two weeks before you were set to arrive. Now you have to scramble around at the last minute to find a suitable replacement for the exact same dates.
Even if you find Airbnbs to be the cheapest options available, you might want to think of the increased cost of staying at a cheap hotel or guest house as being a kind of insurance. Because if your place gets cancelled at the last minute, you might wind up having to pay more than it would have cost you just to book a legal accommodation well in advance.
And if you get kicked out after you arrive, then you are literally losing money every minute you have to spend looking for a new place, not to mention the higher prices you’re now facing trying to find somewhere to stay tonight. If you simply divide the total cost of your trip by the amount of waking hours you are in the country, you will see that you are paying a significant premium just to be in Japan for an hour. Time spent scrambling for a hotel is time you are not spending enjoying your vacation, which is just wasted money. Why take those kinds of risks?
If you’re a solo traveler on a budget, stay at a cheap guest house. And if you’re a pair, share a business hotel room. If you plan to stay in one place for a while, look into renting weekly or monthly apartments. Cheap accommodation can be had anywhere in Japan. As this article points out, Japan is more than willing to build more hotel rooms when necessary; supply isn’t kept artificially low like it is in the West.
Also, Airbnb is a slimy company. You can’t look at a negative (or even semi-negative) article without some paid Airbnb employee or robot putting up pro-Airbnb comments. Look at this Japan Today article, for example:
A bunch of on topic comments with zero upvotes. And then there’s “Thunderbird” with a totally unrelated comment that reads like an Airbnb listing that somehow has garnered two upvotes. I guess Japan Today readers just really prefer comments that read like ad copy?
Or how about the comments from an article on “realestate.co.jp” discussing new regulations for Airbnb-style accomodation:
Up top we have Mr. Chu and Mark having the type of civilized discussion we’ve all come to expect of internet discourse. Then “Seadaddy66” claiming he would visit Japan more if he could use Airbnb, because they are just so much cheaper than hotels don’t ya know. Because apparently this person has never actually stayed at an Airbnb in Japan but knows that they are just so much better and cheaper? Also he leads with the standard Youtube bot spam transition “Huh, interesting” to try and distract from how his comment isn’t actually addressing anything in the article itself. Then “3ddie” somehow gets four upvotes (when even Mark’s “Go Fuck, Yourself!” only got one) with some ridiculous ad copy about how staying at Airbnbs in Japan was actually his favorite part of his whole Japan vacation!
Normal humans don’t speak in ad copy! But copy writers do, and Airbnb certainly has those on staff. Just look at their press releases about the hotel they built in Nara, one of the most popular tourists spots in Japan. Specifically it is located in Yoshino, which is not coincidentally the same name as the most popular variety of cherry tree in Japan. Yoshino is hugely famous for its thousands of cherry trees going up into the mountains, not to mention its historical significance due to its proximity to the old centers of power and culture (a lot of Kabuki dramas are even set in Yoshino).
“The house is designed for the rural village of Yoshino and its community. In all stages of the process, Samara looked beyond a traditional model of home sharing, keeping in mind an entire community rather than an individual host.
Aging populations and urbanization have diminished Japan’s rural villages, many of which face financial hardship and the abandonment of traditions. Most responses suggest either abusing natural resources or depend entirely on urban populations to innovate a way out of the impending recession. “
What the hell are you talking about Airbnb? What responses suggest “abusing natural resources?” And how is building a hotel not depending on “urban populations?” Are locals going to be the ones staying in the hotel? I’m pretty sure most of the guests will be coming in from “urban populations.”
The most hilarious thing, though, is that no where in the press release do they mention that fact that Yoshino is in Nara. That would risk breaking the myth that this is some backwater, unknown town far away from the population centers. Of course in reality Nara is right next to Osaka and Kyoto and incredibly famous.
Also, how is a purpose built hotel “home sharing?” Like it is literally not a home and was never even used or designed as one. Or when they said they “looked beyond” “home sharing” did that mean they looked beyond it to see the hotel standing in the background?
The saddest thing is that outside of an article on Business Insider, all the other news outlets seem to have swallowed Airbnb’s line. The Guardian compares building a hotel to “urban planning” and Salon goes so far as to say that Airbnb is “to transform Japanese fishing village into experimental community.” Yes, the entire town of Yoshino is being transformed by Airbnb, despite the fact that they built one small hotel there. Also, having a hotel now makes you an experimental community!
It’s all just so damn slimy. I have to go take a shower now.