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Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006


Nuptials and moldy tatami


Angelie asks what kind of business licenses are needed to open a Bed & Breakfast here in Japan. "I went to the local city office and walked away with tons of information on opening a ryokan . . . which is not what I had in mind at all."

She says that with all the laws surrounding that type of facility, she would have to build a place twice as large as initially planned. "Also, do I need to make any special changes to the layout of my home if I provide home-stays for students from abroad instead of operating a B&B?"

The nearest thing to a B&B in Japan is the "minshuku." Since there is no national Minshuku Association as such, Angelie is best advised to go back to her local City Office (which sounds helpful if not very laterally-inclined) and ask how to contact her local Minshiku Association, if such a thing exists. But basically most forms of accommodation come under the jurisdiction of the Ryokan Association, so you may find yourself back where you started.

The Japan Ryokan Association, headquarters in Tokyo's Otemachi district, approves 1,415 ryokan atop a pyramid of 58,003 nationwide (the Web site is at www.ryokan.or.jp ).

Whenever you open any business that offers food and accommodation , there will be rules about fire and hygiene. But in my experience the minshuku is a pretty flexible accommodation option; I've slept in the oddest places, but always with a warm welcome and place at the table -- and if the official minshuku was full, some accommodations were instantly created next door, at a neighbor's house. I suspect a lot of people are operating like this, quietly, not advertising, but allowing the word to spread.

In wanting to create a B&B British style by the book, so to speak, Angelie may well be setting a precedent. If not, we'd like to hear from anyone who runs such an operation.

Japanese-Jewish nuptials

This query is for J.'s friend-of-friend: a woman looking for a rabbi to marry her son, who is Jewish, to a Japanese girl, in Nagoya.

"The rabbis at the Jewish Community Center in Tokyo and at the temple in Kobe are quite orthodox and would not marry a mixed couple."

Apparently the woman is thinking of flying a rabbi from the U.S. for the ceremony, but her kind friend is wondering if there might be somebody in Japan who could do it.

To confirm J's information, I spoke to Rabbi Henri Noach of the Japan Community Centre at 8-8 Hiroo, 3-Chome, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150 (03-3400-2559; fax (03) 3400-1827).

He confirmed that he does not marry mixed couples -- meaning one is Jewish, the other not -- but that if the fiance is willing to study toward conversion, he does offer courses and also teaches one-on-one.

There are what Rabbi Noach calls "reform vintage rabbis," who will marry couples of different faiths. "But not in Japan," he informs.

Assuming that the Japanese fiancee is choosing not to convert, and that a civil ceremony is insufficient on her American Jewish partner's part, has J's friend-of-a-friend tried contacting the larger U.S. military bases, where in Yokosuka and in Okinawa, for example, the religious needs of Jewish troops are acknowledged, and maybe there is more flexibility.

Moldy tatami

M & R write: "Our tatami has gone green with mold and smells really bad. We want it replaced but our landlord seems reluctant. Is there anything we can do?"

Yes, complain to the "fudo-san" (real estate agent) through whom you rented the property.

Ask them to come and look. Then say you want the mats replaced. Ask them if they would live in such conditions. Show that you are not being unreasonable and let them do the negotiations with the landlord.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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