HAGISO in Yanaka, Tokyo, houses a café and exhibition space, as the smallest of cultural centers. My background is in architecture, but I have managed the building since 2013. Although HAGISO draws many visitors, this is ensured by the charming district of Yanaka itself, so turning the area at large into a hotel to offer an authentic local experience over a day-long stay is what the hanare concept is all About.
After guests check in at HAGISO, they learn About bathing at a public bath and dining at nearby restaurants. This is a wooden building, more than 60 years old, and the fact that it was so ordinary gave us freedom in renovation.
We hope hanare changes how guests see the district. Changing people's awareness through the design of facilities, services, and the like may discourage efforts to "clean up" neighborhoods, which is a factor of unwanted gentrification. In regulating the flow of people in an area, inns have a role to play. Essential considerations include what demographic the district welcomes, how guests should conduct themselves, what they gain from their stay, and how they feel on departure.
Drawing on what I learned from hanare, I founded the Japan Machiyado Association, which encourages inns to develop close community ties, and ties to other such inns. We want to connect inns across Japan who believe that accommodations should be citywide in scope. By tapping local resources, even hotels without any special technology or facilities can offer guests a memorable stay, which will probably also please the community. What keeps us interested in hanare operations is the fascinating nature of this work. As we enjoy ourselves doing what we can, if it ends up helping people, then that would make us happy.