A Minshuku in Kanazawa

A Minshuku in Kanazawa

Minshukus are Bed and Breakfasts Japanese style – traditionally based on people renting out rooms in their own houses – and so they’re the closest that most visitors are going to come to seeing how ordinary Japanese people live on a day to day basis. On arrival, expect to be served tea and a small snack in your room. Guestrooms are usually Japanese style, so get used to sitting, eating and sleeping on the floor. Fish eggs and rice

These fish eggs and rice were served as breakfast at the Ishiyama Minshuku in Utoro, Hokkaido
The only furniture may be a low table and some cushions. You’ll find your futon and bedclothes in a cupboard somewhere, along with a yukata – a casual cotton Kimono that you can wear around the Minshuku – and also sleep in. (There’s no need to take your own pyjamas when you travel in Japan, as wherever you stay, be it a hotel or a friends house, your host will provide some sort of sleepwear for you.)

Privacy isn’t usually such a high priority in Japan as it is in the West, so when travelling as a group, whether with friends, family, or work colleagues, everyone sleeps together in one room – even if that means covering the whole floor area with futons. After the sleeping arrangements, the biggest shock for Western visitors is likely to be the bathrooms. While many Minshuku are now ensuite, bathing is traditionally a social activity in Japan, so many Japanese prefer to use communal bathrooms with giant baths, even when private ones are available. Men and women bathe separately, sometimes in different baths, sometimes taking turns, but among members of the same sex modesty is unheard of – so it doesn’t pay to be shy. Smaller Minshuku often let couples and families use the bath privately on request, but they’d be unlikely to understand why anyone would want it all to themselves.

An evening meal (almost always authentic Japanese fare) and breakfast are usually included in the price, though sometimes one or both is an optional extra. Minshuku are very common outside the big cities, and even in Tokyo there are a few around, but usually a little bit out of the way. Most are budget priced (¥4,000 and up), but there are also top end Minshuku for those who want to mix luxury with homeliness. The Minshuku Network Japan has members from all over the country, and a foreigner-friendly booking system. The Japanese Inn Group also includes many Minshukus, many of them real bargains.

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