Chatty, charming guesthouses draw foreign visitors

Reasonably priced guesthouses in Tokyo have been attracting travelers from overseas since Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

Such accommodations are popular among foreign visitors as they provide a relaxing atmosphere where it is easy to communicate with other travelers as well as locals, though shared rooms, lavatories and shower facilities are the norm.

Guesthouse "toco." in the Shitaya district in Taito Ward, Tokyo, opened four years ago in a renovated 90-year-old traditional private house. A Japanese-style garden outside the veranda of the wooden house creates the atmosphere of Japan's good old days.

Though guests must share rooms, lavatories and shower facilities, the cost is affordable, starting from ¥2,700 (S$32) per night. As the living room includes a minibar that opens at 7 pm every night, guests can enjoy chatting with other guests and Japanese locals who visit the bar lounge.

The Yomiuri Shimbun Foreign travelers chat in a guest room with bunk beds, tatami mats and an irori fireplace on a wooden floor at a guesthouse in Nishi-Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo.

Guesthouse owner Takuya Kirimura, 29, said, "About 80 per cent of our guests are foreigners. Talking with local residents who come to drink at the bar provides a source of pleasure for them."

Keeping love alive

Another popular guesthouse is "Khaosan World Asakusa Ryokan & Hostel" in the Nishi-Asakusa district of Taito Ward, Tokyo. As the renovated building was formerly a "love hotel" constructed during the economic bubble years, the guesthouse has intentionally maintained some rooms with their amorous atmosphere.

The cost of such rooms, which are popular among tourists, starts from ¥2,200 (S$26) per person.

General manager Masahiko Magome, 32, said: "[Not only guests, but] most of our staff are backpackers who go traveling on holidays. That's why we can be a little 'out of the box' in the services we offer to guests."

One of the guests, Christian Curz, 30, a graphic designer from Mexico, said with a smile that the guesthouse is reasonable and unique with friendly staff members, adding that he plans to tell his friends and family members about such charming accommodations in Tokyo.

Such accommodations, which many locals have not heard of, may give foreign travelers a chance to know the real Tokyo.

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