Backpackers' is a form of accommodation that is popular among those who enjoy economical trips, and like to meet people from all walks of life. However, there had been no accommodation of this style in Japan, except for youth hostels as a similar form until recent years.
Morinoki, started business in 1999, can probably be the first inn that names with the prefix Backpackers' in Japan. This backpackers hostel has been popular among overseas tourists as well as the Japanese with its comfortable atmosphere and reasonable price system.
We interviewed Masaki Harada, the proprietor of Morinoki, on February 18, 2006.
Thank you very much for sparing time for this interview today.
Harada: No problem. I am not so busy today, for the guests, several students from New Zealand, have left for the next destination. Welcome to Morinoki! It's very nice of you to come and see me!
The guests from New Zealand were the boys and girls visited Otaru, Hokkaido as part of the sister-city exchange programs, weren't they? This traditional Japanese-style house might have been quite interesting for the overseas youth. Well, could you tell me how you came up with the idea of this backpackers' hostel?
Harada: I started this inn on 22nd of September in 1999. I have been in New Zealand with my wife for some time before. During our time in New Zealand, we sometimes stayed at backpackers' and one of them in the country was really nice. We liked the hostel very much. Then, I wanted to do the same kind of business in Japanese style.
I see. Your experience in New Zealand was precisely described in your book "Aotearoa no Hitsuji Sagashi". However, what's the characteristic of your Japanese-style backpackers'?
Harada: The lounge is genuine Japanese-style. The things associating with Japan; Tatami mats, Tokonoma (alcove), kakejiku (hanging scroll), Kamidana (household Shinto altar), are all in this room. Overseas guests are really pleased with this setting. In summer, you can enjoy the view of our Japanese garden from the room, too. And even Geisha, as part of Japanese culture.
"Geisha!?" Are you sure?
Harada: Well, I'm joking, of course, but I always try to have our guests relaxed in the cozy Japanese atmosphere as if they were at their own home.
Morinoki seems to be well-equipped as an inn.
Harada: We have all fundamental facilities, bunk beds with bedding, you can take a bath or a shower every day, doing laundry is of course OK. High-speed internet access is available, too.We don't provide meals because we would like our guests to enjoy varieties of Otaru's delicacies as much as possible since they come to Otaru. Fortunately, Morinoki is convenient to the street, and it allows you a lot of options about food and drink. You can also do your own cooking in the kitchen, if you like.
As regards breakfast, I bake bread in the morning, and serve it to the guests free of charge (it will be charged from April, only 200 yen, though), so you can enjoy fresh bread for your breakfast if it has been ready fitting with your schedule.
Morinoki is advantageously located to the tourists coming to Otaru by ferryboat, for Ferry Terminal is near here.
I feel like staying at here, I am a local, though. How much is the charge, by the way?
Harada: ¥3,400 for the first night, ¥3,200 from the second night. We have only two dormitories for men and women. But we can arrange the rooms exclusively for a group, too. Other than cash, credit cards; VISA, MASTER, etc. are acceptable for payment. Please refer to our web page for details.
The charge is quite reasonable. I really would like to encourage more people to stay in Otaru at least a few days turning this wonderful and reasonable hostel to advantage.
To conclude the interview, could you give a message to the overseas quests to Otaru?
Harada: Otaru is a city of great diversity. You have a lot of options for shopping for example, from a retail shop to a huge shopping mall like "Wing Bay Otaru", if you want more varieties, Sapporo, the metropolis, is in the vicinity.
In summer, beaches you can enjoy bathing are close at hand. Going for a drive to enjoy spectacular coastal view as far as to Shakotan areas is also fun.
In winter, skiing, of course. If you would like to try diverse ski fields, you can extend your sphere to Kiroro Resort, or Niseko. It is hardly known to the public that outdoor activities such as rock climbing, day walking, sea kayaking are all available here in Otaru, too.
I would like as many people as possible come and enjoy themselves in Otaru where is certainly a center of various activities as I have mentioned.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Harada is not only the Morinoki's proprietor, but also is a teacher of Japanese as the second language. He is a qualified and experienced teacher who gives appropriate lessons from the beginners to the advanced according to their levels and needs.
Preparatory lessons for the Test of Proficiency in Japanese are available. Intensive course with accommodation is also provided.
Please refer to Morinoki web for details. Why don't you make inquiries if you are interested in learning Japanese?
4-15, Aioi, Otaru