Guest houses rooted in the local area enrich Sapporo sightseeing trips Jin Hirano & Orie Iimuro

Cheap accommodation where you can stay overnight without meals, known as guest houses, are secretly becoming popular, particularly among younger people. Many of them are rooted in the local area, and their appeal is that you can enjoy a sightseeing holiday where you get a familiar feel for the lifestyle of the area, without having to depend on the guidebooks. We asked Jin Hirano and Orie Iimuro, who run guest houses in Sapporo and Nagano respectively, how to enrich one’s travels.

Even women traveling alone can feel at ease at these cheap guest houses.

A guest house is a type of accommodation where you can stay without meals relatively cheaply. The rooms are primarily shared dormitories, with a shared bathroom and toilet, and there is also a shared lounge and kitchen area. It is characterized by an atmosphere which makes it easy for fellow travelers to interact. Moreover, another part of the charm of Mr. Hirano’s Sapporo guest house and Ms. Iimuro’s Nagano guest house is the fact that you can talk directly with the owners.

“A variety of people, of all nationalities, ages, genders and occupations, come and stay at the guest houses. There are also women-only dormitories, so there are also many women traveling on their own who come to stay. All travelers have a flat relationship, so exchange of information and conversations start spontaneously in the lounge, and there is an atmosphere in the room where anyone can make friends, regardless of nationality. It is basically accommodation without meals, so you can get information on local cafés and eateries, as well as recommended points by the locals. Therefore, a characteristic feature of guest houses is that you can communicate with the town with a feeling of being close to the community. Even for places you are visiting for the first time, you can connect with local information via guest houses, and through the exchange of information with the kinds of people you would not normally meet, you may broaden your own travel horizons”

Sightseeing trip guidance that only Sapporo locals can provide

The guest house must carry many cards to suit the guests, say the two owners. A person’s interests are not limited to his/her nationality, and they find out exactly what each person is looking for and introduce places which will suit them.

“Even if there are things we do not know, we can introduce them to local people who are likely to have the answer. After interacting with the locals, when they visit us again they say ‘Thank you for that other time!’, and before you know it, you have become friends. When I first came to Nagano on holiday I didn’t know anyone at all, so having someone you can go and visit is a big change”, says Ms. Iimuro.

“We introduce places in Sapporo which we think are nice in our daily lives. If they say ‘I want to see Sapporo from high up’, a local resident can introduce them to Asahiyama Memorial Park. A familiar recommendation is Nakajima Park. It is a Japanese garden with paths you can stroll along and a large pond, and I like the fact that, depending on the angle, you can see tall buildings and the scenery changes”

Consider your relationship with the Sapporo community on your sightseeing trip

“There are people who come to stay with us, who say that they have visited many times and would like to live here. During their travels, they fall in love with Nagano, meet people, make trips back and forth, and they come to see the features of the city and what they should do. A guest house may be perfectly suited to being the first place to find out about the town”.

“There are many people who make various important decisions on their travels, and standing at the crossroads of people’s lives, as we often do, there is some pressure; however, when I hear that fellow guests have become friends with each other and meet each other again elsewhere, I feel a simple joy in the knowledge that these lodgings create opportunities for people to meet”, says Mr. Hirano.

In the guest house lounge there is a notebook for exchanging information, and it contains travel memories written in various languages. Moreover, there is also a space for flyers and free papers listing local events, as well as information on other recommended guest houses located all over the country. The guest house functions as a hub which provides travelers with useful information and enriches their travels. Even those of you who have never traveled alone before, why not use a guest house as your base as you go around the town? And, next time you come to Sapporo, it may well be to visit someone.


AddressMinami 8-jo Nishi 1-chome 13-92, Chuo-ku, Sapporo


Jin Hirano
Born in Tochigi in 1981. Since his student days, he has traveled alone in Asia, Latin America and Europe. He moved to Sapporo in 2006 while he was still a company worker, and he resigned from his job in 2008. That same year, he opened the “Time Peace Apartment” guest house, next to Nakajima Park.

Orie Iimuro
Born in Hyogo in 1980. In 2010 she opened “1166 backpackers”, a boarding house where you can stay the night without meals in shared rooms, in front of Zenkoji Temple in Nagano. The guest house aims to act as a conduit, calmly connecting the local people with those tourists who are not fully satisfied with the information featured in guidebooks. She got married in 2012, and has since been dividing her time between living in Sapporo and Nagano.