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Japanese towns adopt own rules to curb home-sharing

Residents wary of trouble as practice quickly spreads

Japan's home-rental market is projected to reach 200 billion yen ($1.76 billion) in 2020.

TOKYO -- With Japan set to legalize Airbnb-style home rentals nationwide next June, towns in Tokyo, Kyoto and elsewhere are readying their own regulations to assure residents worried about the business model quickly taking root in the country.

Tokyo's Ota Ward -- the first in the nation to introduce home sharing under a special economic zone program -- on Friday passed new restrictions, forbidding home rentals starting in June 2018 in residential areas where hotels or inns are not permitted.

According to the Japan Tourism Agency, the rules are the first local ordinance concerning the practice known as minpaku.

Similarly, Shinjuku Ward is poised to vote on new rules on Monday that prohibit renting out space to travelers from noon Monday to noon Friday and require owners to save complaints from nearby residents or businesses for at least three years. Setagaya, Nakano, Bunkyo and other wards in the capital are also planning to set regulations.

Local governments are acting fast in light of residents' growing concerns. Many are anxious about strangers walking around their neighborhoods or using the homes for illegal activities. There are also concerns about manners, especially in dense cities. Since July 2016, Kyoto has received 2,800 complaints related to noise or improper garbage disposal from vacation rentals.

Even popular tourist areas are ready to adopt new regulations. Kyoto's framework, for instance, requires managers to reside within 800 meters of the property in order to respond to emergencies or complaints in about 10 minutes and prevent unauthorized minpaku from spreading. In residential areas next to popular tourist sites like Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple, vacation rentals will likely be limited to January and February when tourism is relatively light. 

Hokkaido is also mulling a plan that would only allow home sharing near elementary and middle schools during vacation days. Nagano Prefecture in central Japan is even considering banning the practice outright in Karuizawa, a popular resort town.

Homeowners can begin registering vacation rentals in March. Although Japan is pushing vacation rentals as a way to boost visitors, local governments are pushing back with strict rules. 


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