How to Start a Vacation Rental Business in Japan: A Beginner's Guide from -Air Host- a Pro Host

The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Vacation Rental in Japan

For those wanting to know about the necessary information and procedures to start a vacation rental business in Japan:

In this article, we provide a comprehensive step-by-step guide to success, covering the basics and rules of vacation rental management, the process of getting started, and methods for attracting guests.

Why not step into the world of vacation rentals in Japan, the hospitality business of the new era?

What you'll learn in this article▼

The process of starting a vacation rental in Japan

Essential knowledge for those starting a vacation rental

Efficient techniques for managing a vacation rental 

Author:Airhost Digital Marketing Team

3 Key Points to Know If You Want to Start a Vacation Rental!


Before diving into the vacation rental business, it's essential to get a grip on the following 3 points:

  • The business model of vacation rentals

  • The indispensable laws surrounding vacation rentals

  • Financial considerations when managing a vacation rental

Let's delve into each one in detail.

What's a Vacation Rental?

A vacation rental is a business model where individuals rent out their residences for short periods.

One distinct feature of vacation rentals compared to hotel stays is that guests can immerse themselves in the local culture and lifestyle.

Additionally, owners can make the most of their vacant rooms or properties, potentially earning extra income.

Guide to Rules and Compliance

Understanding and adhering to national and regional laws is crucial.

You must operate according to one of the following regulations in Japan as follows:

  • Hotel Business Law

  • Special Zone Vacation Rentals

  • New Vacation Rental Law (Residential Lodging Business Law)

Reference site: What is a Private Lodging? | Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare

We plan to explain each law and rule in an easy-to-understand in the following articles.

Real Costs of Initial Investment and Operation

When starting out, the primary initial costs include:

  • Purchasing or renting a property

  • Renovation expenses

  • Costs for furniture and amenities

  • Fire safety equipment and fireproofing installation costs

Of these, it's especially important to be aware of the costs associated with fire safety equipment and fireproofing.

For instance, the costs can be broken down as:

  • Automatic fire alarm systems: Typically ranging from tens of thousands to several hundred thousand yen

  • Fireproofing installation: Ranging from 2 million to 5 million yen

Vacation rentals have high standards for disaster prevention, requiring installations like fire alarms and evacuation equipment. However, under certain conditions, not all fire safety equipment is mandatory.

For example, if a single-family home's bedroom is less than 50㎡, there's no need to install fire extinguishers. Instead, residential fire alarms are required (applicable when the homeowner is present).



below 50㎡

above 50㎡


Automatic fire alarms

Guest bedroom

For rentals with the homeowner present and guest bedrooms under 50㎡, the same rules as regular homes apply. Just installing a fire alarm in the bedroom is sufficient.

Fire extinguishers

Total area of the rental

Install fire extinguishers on basements, windowless floors, or floors above the third level with an area over 50㎡.

Evacuation route

Floor area of guest bedroom

If it exceeds 50㎡, an evacuation route is required.

Fire safety equipment inspection

Fire safety equipment

Conduct an inspection and maintenance once a year.

Note: For rentals without the homeowner present, the same fire prevention measures as hotels and inns are required.

Reference: Starting a Minpaku(Japanese) | Fire and Disaster Management Agency

For a more detailed explanation, we plan to elaborate in the following articles.

Related Articles

What are the fire regulations for vacation rental management? Explained by a pro (Coming Soon)

As for operational costs, they mainly consist of:

  • Cleaning fees

  • Utilities

  • Internet fees

  • Restocking amenities

  • Labor costs (if hiring staff)

  • Management fees (if outsourcing to an agency)

In reality, most vacation rental owners don't spend much on advertising, focusing instead on ranking higher within OTAs (Online Travel Agencies).

Once stable guest traffic is established, there's a trend to utilize social media, Google Maps, and booking engines targeting repeat customers.

Related Articles

Mastering Vacation Rental Management! Top 3 Tips to Maximize Profits (Coming Soon)

How much does it cost to start a vacation rental? Explained by a pro (Coming Soon)

How to Start a Vacation Rental in 6 Steps


To start managing a vacation rental, follow these step-by-step guidelines:

Step 1: Property and Area Selection

When selecting a property and its location, consider the following:

  1. Decide on a general area where you want to search for properties.

  2. Evaluate if the location of potential properties is suitable for vacation rental management.

  3. Check for places that are likely to attract your target audience and have good transportation access.

  4. Confirm the presence of bustling areas, tourist needs, cultural backgrounds, and tourist spots.

  5. Check for sunlight, noise, surrounding environment, and safety.

  6. Ensure nearby essential facilities (like convenience stores or supermarkets).

  7. Confirm if the area allows vacation rentals based on the Inn Business Law.

It's crucial to analyze the needs of your target audience and choose the right property.

For more details, check out our upcoming article:

Related Article

How to Find the Perfect Vacation Rental Property (Coming Soon)

Step 2: Obtain Necessary Permissions and Submit Notifications

To start a vacation rental, you need appropriate permissions and notifications.

Specifically, you'll need to notify based on the Residential Lodging Business Act and submit safety measures based on the Fire Service Act.

For more details, check out our upcoming articles:

Related Articles

Necessary Permissions for Vacation Rental Management (Coming Soon)

Fire Regulations for Vacation Rental Management Explained by a Pro (Coming Soon)

Step 3: Renovation and Equipment Preparation

Once you've chosen a property, it's time for renovation and equipment setup.

To encourage repeat business and positive reviews, create a comfortable space for guests and provide clean and user-friendly facilities.

For instance, ensure you have essentials like Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and kitchen equipment to support a comfortable stay for your guests.

For more details, check out our upcoming article:

Related Article

What to Know Before Renovating Your Vacation Rental (Coming Soon)

Step 4: Interior, Amenities Selection, and Photography

When choosing interiors and amenities, consider the following key points:

Key Points

Details & Actions

Creating a Livable Space

Consider amenities like washing machines and well-equipped kitchens for long-term guests.

Interior Coordination

Hiring a professional can save time and money.

Basic Amenities

Clean towels, bed linens, and bath products are essential.

Differentiation Tips

Offer items tailored to specific targets. For example, for families: washing machines with dryers, food processors, etc. Create a unique space (like with antique furniture).


Hire a professional photographer. High-quality photos can make a significant difference in how your property is perceived.

The key is not just to create a livable space but to incorporate items tailored to specific target audiences.

For instance, if targeting families with children, consider providing washing machines with dryers or food processors useful for making baby food. Offering such amenities can earn trust from families, leading to positive reviews.

Or, consider creating a space with a unique interior concept, like using antique furniture. Such properties can offer a distinct charm different from others.

Remember to take photos that capture the ambiance and unique features of the room after the renovation.

Always hire a professional for photography. The difference in presentation can be significant.

Upload the professionally taken photos to OTAs, showcasing the unique experiences guests can only get at your property.

Related Articles

Interior Coordination for Vacation Rentals (Coming Soon)

5 Tips for Designing a Vacation Rental Concept (Coming Soon)

Step 5: Register on Vacation Rental Sites (OTAs)

Vacation rental sites (OTAs) are platforms that connect guests and hosts.

Some of the major vacation rental sites include:

  • Airbnb


  • Rakuten Travel

  • Jalan

  • Ikkyu

It's possible to attract more guests by registering on multiple sites rather than just one.

However, managing reservations and communicating with guests can become complex if you're listed on many sites.

Tools like "Site Controllers," "PMS," and "Self Check-in Systems" can help streamline operations.

For more details, check out our upcoming article:

Related Article

Streamline Your Vacation Rental Management with Site Controllers (Coming Soon)

Step 6: Preparing for Vacation Rental Management and Launch!

Once everything is in place, it's time to delve into the specific preparations to ensure a smooth vacation rental operation.

1. Arranging Cleaning Services

A clean accommodation environment significantly influences guest satisfaction. Ensure you have a contract with cleaning services, and clarify the pricing and scheduling details in advance.

2. Preparing a Guidebook

To ensure a comfortable stay for your guests, prepare a guidebook detailing directions to the property, local attractions, restaurants, and instructions for using the room. It's also crucial to determine how you'll notify guests about this guide.

3. Preparations for Check-in

To facilitate a smooth check-in for guests, consider installing key boxes or smart locks. Clear instructions for the check-in process are essential.

Through these preparations, you'll be well-equipped to handle reservations from first-time guests without any hitches.

4. Improving Services Based on Guest Feedback

By gathering feedback, you can better understand guest needs and market trends.

Actively managing your property means taking guest feedback on board and continually refining your services.

Related Articles:

Why Really Need a Cleaning Service for Vacation Rentals? (Coming Soon)

Why a Guidebook (Welcome Guide) is necessary for Vacation Rentals (Coming Soon)

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Vacation Rental Profitability and Business Models


From here, we'll delve into:

  • Ways to profit from vacation rentals

  • Business models

Average Accommodation Rates and Profit Margins

Accommodation rates vary based on the area, property quality, and services provided.

Additionally, factors like seasons and events can influence pricing. It's essential to consider these when setting your rates.

Your profit margin will be the amount remaining after deducting operational costs (like property mortgage or rent, utilities, amenities, cleaning, etc.).

Related Articles

Is There a Trick to Setting Vacation Rental Prices? Expert Insights (Coming Soon)

Three Operational Styles: Self-management, Franchising, and Management Agency

There are three primary styles for managing a vacation rental business:

  • Self-management

  • Franchising

  • Using a management agency

Each style varies in terms of investment, operational scale, and associated risks.

About Self-management

The "self-management" style involves the property owner directly communicating with guests and handling all operations.

Advantages of Self-management:

  • High flexibility

  • Ability to operate according to personal preferences

Disadvantages of Self-management:

  • Challenging without sufficient time and resources

  • Certain conditions may apply (e.g., can't self-manage if the owner isn't present)

  • Handling everything from research, vendor selection, to daily operations can be very demanding

For those choosing self-management, it's crucial to implement systems that automate daily operations as much as possible. This includes site controllers for managing multiple OTAs and a Property Management System (PMS) for check-ins, messaging, and cleaning.

For more details on site controllers and PMS, we'll cover them in upcoming articles.

Related Articles

Achieve Smart Management in Vacation Rentals with Site Controllers (Coming Soon)

Managing daily operations and multiple systems isn't easy.

To reduce the burden, we recommend an all-in-one system that combines PMS and site controllers. AirHost offers such a system, which not only includes PMS and site controllers but also booking engines, smart lock integration, and payment processing. This system can automate your daily operations beyond your expectations.

If you're new to vacation rentals and need expertise, consider consulting with the experienced team at AirHost.

For those interested in AirHost's vacation rental management system, please visit this page.

About Franchising

"Franchising" involves leveraging the know-how and systems of an established vacation rental brand to expand your business.

Advantages of Franchising:

  • Access to existing operational expertise

  • Likely to have necessary equipment and facilities

  • Potential for higher brand recognition and easier guest acquisition

  • Support from the franchisor

Disadvantages of Franchising:

  • Limited operational flexibility

  • Harder to differentiate from other rentals

  • Royalty payments

About Management Agency

Using a management agency means entrusting various tasks related to property management and operations to a third-party agency.

This includes managing reservations, cleaning, check-in/check-out procedures, and guest communication.

A significant advantage is that property owners can reduce the time and effort required for daily management.

Furthermore, these agencies possess extensive knowledge and expertise in vacation rentals, offering support to ensure the owner's business success.

For owners aspiring to own multiple properties in the future, using an agency can be highly beneficial. For instance, while they can handle property search, renovations, and amenities preparation, the daily operations can be entrusted to the agency. This approach allows owners to explore new business opportunities.

AirHost also offers management agency services. For detailed service information, please visit this page.

Understanding these operational styles will help you choose the method that best aligns with your resources and goals.

Stand Out in Vacation Rentals! A Distinctive Marketing Strategy


In this section, we'll provide actionable marketing tips for those starting in the vacation rental business.

Succeeding in the vacation rental business isn't just about offering a fantastic place to stay. It's also about crafting a clever marketing strategy to capture the hearts of potential guests.

Here are the three main points:

  • Harnessing OTAs for vacation rental guest acquisition

  • Enhancing OTA appeal by matching with target guests

  • Boosting repeat rates by increasing fan base

Let's delve into each.

Harness OTAs! The Reality of Vacation Rental Guest Acquisition

For guest acquisition in vacation rental management, Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) are crucial.

Think about it. When planning a trip, many people turn to OTAs like Airbnb or to find accommodations, right?

Naturally, properties that rank higher or have excellent reviews on these platforms attract more attention.

To succeed in guest acquisition, it's vital to enhance your ranking and reputation within these OTAs.

While SEO for your website and social media presence is essential, establishing a strong position on OTAs should be a priority.

Related Articles:

Want to Succeed in Vacation Rental Business? Focus on Guest Acquisition via OTAs (Coming Soon)

Recommended List of Vacation Rental Sites (OTAs) Every Owner Should Check (Coming Soon)

Appeal to Your Target Guests on OTAs

Here are some tips to enhance your appeal to target guests on OTAs:

  • Understand the needs of your target guests

  • Equip your property with interiors and amenities that cater to them

  • Get professional photos taken and showcase them on OTAs

  • Utilize OTA filter features to reach your target audience

Let's break these down:

Understand the Needs of Your Target Guests

By understanding factors like age, family composition, and travel purpose, you can offer interiors and amenities that resonate with your target guests.

Equip with Desired Interiors and Amenities

By providing what guests are looking for, you'll naturally rank higher in OTA search results, leading to more bookings.

Get Professional Photos and Showcase on OTAs

Having professionally taken photos can effectively convey the charm of your interiors and amenities. The better your photos look, the more appealing your property becomes on OTAs.

Utilize OTA Filter Features

The degree of match between your property and potential guests can be enhanced by OTA's filtering settings.

Filtering for OTA

Ensure you set up your amenities and facilities correctly to appear in relevant search results.

Build Trust with Reviews & Repeat Business! Communication Techniques to Increase Fans

Reviews from guests not only attract new guests but also build trust.

To garner positive reviews, it's not just about offering a great experience but also about maintaining excellent communication with guests.

Take feedback seriously, use it to improve your services, and always aim for better guest satisfaction.

If you have your booking site, inform guests that they can book at the best rates there. Sharing the URL can help increase repeat bookings.

Boosting guest loyalty not only enhances your reputation but also reduces OTA commission costs, leading to long-term savings.

Tax Declarations for Vacation Rental Management


One aspect you can't ignore when running a vacation rental business is the handling of taxes.

Especially for those just starting out, knowledge about taxes and tax declarations is essential.

In this section, we'll cover:

  • The importance of tax declarations

  • Key points for managing taxes effectively

The Importance and Method of Tax Declarations

Income generated from the vacation rental business must be declared.

Tax declarations are a crucial process to calculate the accurate tax amount and ensure the correct payment to the government.

As a vacation rental owner, understanding which incomes and expenses to record and under which category to declare them is vital for smooth business operations.

Related Articles:

Is Vacation Rental Management a Hidden Gem in Side Businesses? (Coming Soon)

Do Vacation Rentals Require Tax Declarations? Are You Categorized Right? (Coming Soon)

Expense and Tax Saving Tips

Saving on taxes is key to maximizing your business profits. In vacation rental management, various expenses can be claimed, leading to tax reductions.

For instance, understanding costs related to property renovations or amenities provided to guests and leveraging these for tax benefits can make your operations more efficient.

Related Articles

9 Recognized Expenses in Vacation Rental Management! Share Tax Saving Measures

Risk Management for Trouble-Free Operations


The vacation rental business comes with various risks.

Understanding these risks and knowing how to manage them effectively is crucial.

Here, we'll introduce measures to address regional and building restrictions, safety precautions, and maintaining smooth relations with neighboring residents.

Regional and Building Restrictions and Troubles

Before starting a vacation rental, it's essential to check the regulations of the property's location and the building's management rules.

For instance, some areas or apartment complexes might have restrictions on vacation rentals. If you already have a target property, ensure you verify its eligibility for vacation rental operations.

You can check with the local municipal office.

Reference Page:Special Zone Private Lodging| Minpaku Vacation Rental System Portal Site

Ignoring set rules and restrictions can lead to penalties and other troubles. Always verify in advance and follow the appropriate procedures.

Fire Safety and Precautions

Ensuring guest safety requires proper fire safety measures in the property.

Regular inspections and maintenance are crucial to minimize risks of fires or accidents.

Additionally, providing clear emergency exits, evacuation routes, and installing smoke detectors are vital for a safe guest environment.

Reference Material: Starting a Vacation Rental(Japanese) | Fire and Disaster Management Agency

Relations with Neighboring Residents

Maintaining a good relationship with neighboring residents is essential in vacation rental management.

Establish clear rules to prevent issues like noise or waste disposal and ensure guests are well-informed.

Regular communication with neighbors and gaining their understanding and cooperation ensures long-term stable operations.

Remember, managing risks like neighborhood disputes or safety precautions is indispensable in vacation rental operations. Harmonize with the community and provide guests a safe stay. Also, don't forget to create a guidebook! Clearly outlining rules during the stay can prevent potential issues.


We've introduced the basics and steps for those interested in starting a vacation rental business.

While the vacation rental business holds many opportunities, it also requires legal knowledge and operational expertise.

By understanding the legalities and operational know-how and planning your business strategically, you can pave the way to success.

However, merely searching online for operational methods and expertise might not cover the vast array of information required for actual operations.

In this article, we've covered of basic knowledge to practical advice for a successful vacation rental business. Yet, relying solely on this information might not be sufficient.

In conclusion, professional support is indispensable.

Why not give AirHost a try?


Considering starting a vacation rental?

Let AirHost guide you. They offer expert support from OTA acquisition to daily operations. With AirHost, you can maximize revenue and guest satisfaction with less effort.

Dive into the rental industry confidently with AirHost by your side.

For Those Who Want to Operate on Their Own

In vacation rental operations, implementing a system is essential. Why not achieve efficient operations with AirHost's vacation rental management system?

For more on the vacation rental management system, check out this page.

For Those Considering Operational Support

Why not entrust your daily operations to the experienced AirHost? Allow AirHost to assist you in expanding the possibilities of a new vacation rental business by harnessing digital solutions.

For more on AirHost's property management services, please visit this page.(Japanese)

>>Get in Touch with AirHost

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