Airbnb sets down roots in a rural Japanese community

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YOSHINO, Nara Prefecture–Airbnb Inc., the online homestay network, has branched out by helping local municipal authorities build a log cabin for visitors here.

It is the first project of its kind to be undertaken by the U.S.-based company.

A key attraction of the two-story facility is that it relies on locally grown timber, including the famed Yoshino cedar that was used over the centuries for architectural wonders such as Osaka Castle.

The Yoshino Sugi no Ie (Yoshino Cedar House) stands on the bank of the Yoshinogawa river and is designed to be shared by tourists and the local community alike. It will start full-fledged operations in February at the earliest.

The lodge offers a panoramic view of the Yoshinogawa river from a huge glass window. The first floor is mainly a community space, but is equipped with a kitchen, a toilet and a shower room. The second floor has two bedrooms, one for four people and the other for three people.

The facility is the first step in a community house project initiated by Airbnb, which enables people to list or rent short-term lodging in residential properties around the world. The project aims to help revitalize local areas.

Re: Yoshino to Kurasu Kai (Re: association for living with Yoshino), consisting of business operators in the forest industry and other entities in Yoshino, will manage the facility.

Earnings from the operation of the facility, which exclude operating costs such as labor cost and utility charges, will be saved in a newly set up fund, and it will be used for the region’s activities.

“This is the first ever on the planet where you have a homestay with a community center. As a result, the living room is also a gathering space for many, many groups within Yoshino,” said Cameron Sinclair of Airbnb, who heads the project, during the inauguration ceremony on Dec. 5. “And we hope to see this idea replicated in many rural communities around the world.”

He added, “For me this is my sixth visit to Yoshino. And the most beautiful thing about this town is the relationship of everybody with nature.”

Teruichi Ishibashi, 38, executive director of Yoshino Chuou Mokuzai Co., a wood company, is planning programs where the lodging guests can experience woodworking and learn how to fashion disposable chopsticks.

“We can convey charms of Yoshino to the world,” said Ishibashi. “I hope the facility will be the place where local people can drop by casually and communicate with traveling guests.”

Travelers can make a reservation to stay at the house through the Airbnb website. The accommodation fee will be around 10,000 yen ($86) for a room. Additionally, 2,500 yen will be charged for cleaning.

 

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