How to Choose a Traditional Japanese House for a Successful Minpaku Business

Top 5 Essentials: Smart Property Selection

Are you interested in starting an Airbnb business with a traditional Japanese house?

This article will provide you with five key points to help you choose the right property.

What You'll Learn in This Article

● How to Find Traditional Houses Suitable for Airbnb Operations

● Essential Knowledge for Owners and Renovation Tips

Author:Airhost Digital Marketing Team

Two Main Ways to Find Traditional Houses

Online or Offline to search the property of Japanese Old house

Before check the 5 points, let's talk about how to find these traditional houses.

When you start looking for a traditional house, you generally have two options: online and offline.

Online Approach

To help you search online, Here's the list of useful websites specialized in traditional houses.




A matching site for traditional houses, collaborating with the National Association for the Revival of Traditional Houses, offering unique search filters and reliable information.


Features nationwide listings of affordable vacant houses and traditional houses, with daily updates available via Twitter follow.


Supports countryside living and relocation, providing a wide range of property listings including traditional houses and log houses.


A bulletin board connecting sellers and buyers of houses directly, with search options for specific categories like traditional houses.


A corporate site offering extensive property listings in rural areas, along with abundant information on relocation.


Lists countryside properties primarily in the Kansai region, including houses over 50 years old.


A Fukuoka-based real estate agency specializing in traditional houses, offering listings in Kyushu and introducing old tools and items.


A service that connects people who want to give away a traditional house with those who wish to acquire one. The association registers these houses based on information gathered from on-site inspections

Besides these sites, you can also search online using phrases like "Kominka available 〇〇(Aria)" or "Kominka minpaku 〇〇(Aria)".


For offline scenarios, there are two patterns as below,

Exploring by Foot

If you have a specific area in mind for your guesthouse operation, try exploring that area on foot.

Look especially in regions known for their traditional houses or areas where old homes are still standing.

If you find a potential property, consider asking local real estate agents or, if you're feeling bold, inquire with neighbors or local shops.

Visiting Local Real Estate Agents

In countryside areas, there are often small real estate agents who are well-versed in the local landscape.

These agents might have connections with traditional house owners, landlords, or landowners, and could provide valuable insights about the area.

Once you have a potential property in mind, use the following five points to check if it's suitable for guesthouse operations.

Point 1: Location Confirmation

Point 1 : Is it suit for operating Minpaku ?

When considering the location, check the following three points:

  • Is it a region where managing a guesthouse is allowed?

  • Is it not in an urbanization control area?

  • Is it attractive to guests?

Let's see these points.

Is it a region where managing a guesthouse is allowed? (Check the zoning)

Once you have a rough idea of where you want to start your guesthouse, make sure to check the zoning.

What is zoning?

Zoning refers to areas where rules are set to limit the types of buildings and their purposes. In the case of guesthouses, operations are only permitted in designated zoning areas.

While 'traditional houses' may bring to mind country-side areas, not all countryside locations allow for Minpaku operations.

Whether you are operating under the Inn Business Law, the new Minpaku law, or as part of a special zone Minpaku will determine the permissible zoning for operation.

For more detailed information, please refer to the following article.

Checking if it's Not in an Urbanization Control Area

While confirming the zoning, also ensure that the area is not an urbanization control area.

What is an Urbanization Control Area?

These are areas where development is restricted. New constructions or expansions are generally discouraged, and as a rule, operations of lodging facilities like inns are not allowed.

However, some local governments may permit specific types of guesthouse operations within urbanization control areas.

For example, in Yokosuka City, Kanagawa Prefecture, it is stipulated that 'farmhouse guesthouses' are permissible even within urbanization control areas.

Reference Page: For Those Considering Guesthouse Operations (Minpaku) in Urbanization Control Areas -Japanese- | Yokosuka City Urban Development Guidance Division

If considering a traditional house guesthouse in an urbanization control area, the best approach is to directly check with the respective local government.

Does the Location Appeal to Guests?

When choosing a location, it's important to consider whether it is attractive to guests.

Here's a table to illustrate some key points:

What to Consider

Selection Criteria


Ideal Property

Secluded and solitary house preferred

A location physically distant from neighbors is preferable to prevent noise issues


Should be easy to understand and accessible

Choose routes that are easy to navigate, safe, and well-lit! Comforting for tourists

Unique Experiences

Can guest get any special experience?

Views of Mount Fuji, clear streams, rural landscapes, fishing, and farming experiences are great pluses

While keeping these factors in mind, find a property that matches the concept you have set for your guesthouse.

For tips on deciding the concept for your traditional house guesthouse, refer to the following article:

Related Article▼

Guesthouse Operation:How to Choose a Concept that Attracts Guests (comeing soon)

Point 2: Check Registry Information and Owner status

Point 2 check the status of the registration and owner

Once you've found a property, ensure to check:

  • Registry Information

  • Property Owner status

Checking Registry Information

Registry information reveals when and by whom the house was built, and who currently owns it. Older houses sometimes remain registered under previous owners' names or may not have properly recorded details.

If the house is still registered under an old name or lacks proper records, updating or re-registering could take one to two years, so be cautious.

Verifying Owner status

Determine the current owner of the old house. With older properties, it's common to find them still registered under the names of owners from several generations ago.

In some cases, obtaining consent from all family members who have inherited the property might be necessary, which can complicate and lengthen the process.

Point 3: Structural Assessment

Point3 check the Structural Assessment

Next, to determine if an old house is suitable for use as a guesthouse, you should verify the following aspects:

  • Seismic Resistance

  • Compliance with Fire Safety Laws

  • Insulation, Airtightness, Seismic Resistance, Pest Control

Let’s see each of these points.

Is There Adequate Seismic Resistance?

Generally, old houses, typically those built over 50 years ago, are considered unlikely to meet the new seismic standards implemented in 1981. Even if the building met the standards at the time of construction, its seismic resistance might have weakened due to aging.

To safely use an old house as an accommodation facility, it’s crucial to conduct seismic assessments and, if necessary, include seismic reinforcements in your renovations.

For more on seismic assessments, the Japan Seismic Diagnosis Association’s official website can be a helpful resource.

Compliance with Fire Safety Laws

Meeting the safety standards set by fire safety laws is also crucial for guesthouse operations. This includes ensuring escape routes, installing fire extinguishers, and setting up emergency lighting.

Reference page: For Those Using Old Houses for Lodging, Restaurants, and Retail Stores|Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Fire and Disaster Management Agency

Related Article▼

Minpaku Law Japan Explained: Ryokan Business Law or New Minpaku Regulations

Don't Forget Fire Safety Laws in Guesthouse Operations  

Point 4: Renovation

Point 4: Renovation

When renovating an old house, consider the following points:

  • Insulation, Airtightness, insect pest control

  • Parking Area

Let's see these detail as below

Insulation, Airtightness, and Pest Control

To ensure guest comfort, it's essential to improve insulation and airtightness. This often involves modernizing the plumbing as well as heating and cooling systems.

Don’t forget about pest control too!

Related Article▼

Key Points When Renovating for a Guesthouse    (coming soon)

Parking Area

Check if it’s possible to set up a spacious and easily accessible parking area.

Consider accommodating beginners and foreign drivers.

A parking area that can accommodate 2-3 cars is ideal, especially for groups of friends or multiple families staying together.

Point 5: Securing Cleaning Staff

Point 5: Securing Cleaning Staff

While choosing an old house property, it's wise to also consider potential cleaning services.

In rural areas where old houses are common, there tend to be fewer cleaning companies compared to urban areas.

If the property is close to your residence, you might manage the cleaning yourself. However, if it's far away, you'll need to find a cleaning service.

For detailed guidance on finding cleaning services, refer to our upcoming article!

Related Article▼

【Guesthouse Operation】Finding a Cleaning Service (coming soon)


We’ve covered five key points in choosing an old house suitable for guesthouse operation.

Finding the property and setting it up for accommodation is just the starting line.

Running a guesthouse operation single-handedly from the get-go can be challenging. It’s the modern way to delegate tasks to professional services, allowing you to focus on business strategy.

For more detailed guidance, check out this article:

For those starting from scratch in guesthouse operation▼

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

If you are considering using an old house for guesthouse operation and need advice or are thinking about management services for success, feel free to consult with AirHost!

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