Terahaku, the Airbnb of Japanese temples

Visitors can now book a room in a Japanese Buddhist shrine. On 15 June a new law goes into effect whereby any room can be registered as an accommodation. A tourist boom is expected in the coming years. For now, 100 temples have been registered.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – It will soon be possible to find nightly accommodation in Japanese Buddhist temples through the new Terahaku Airbnb service available this month, but customers should not expect any Wifi.

The new application stems from the growth in services like Airbnb, which have forced Japanese authorities to loosen the regulations on commercial accommodation and pass a new legislation.

The Residential Lodging Business Law goes into effect on 15 June and will give temples more freedom to receive paying guests. Under the law, any room or place can be registered as accommodation and then rented.

The new rules will allow many to benefit from the expected coming tourist boom, in particular with the 2019 World Rugby Championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Terahaku is written with the two ideograms: tera (temple) and haku (living room). Produced by an Osaka company, Waka, the application starts with more than 100 places available, including the Mii-deera, one of Japan’s largest Buddhist shrines.

For Megumi Okamato, a spokeswoman for Waka, the online service will help temples, "many of which are having financial problems and have plenty of spare room for this sort of activity.”

In the country’s history, temples and shrines have based their survival on the ability to adapt, sometimes changing their function, from schools to mental hospitals.

With applications like Terahaku, these places could undergo a new transformation and become popular hospitality centres.

What is more, they could revitalise rural areas that are in desperate need of economic activities.