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Efforts of Hidabun 9 Shikinejima, Niijimamura, Tokyo
The first universal room on Shikinejima
Located 3 hours from Tokyo by the high-speed jet ferry, Shikinejima Island is famous for its transparent sea, hot spring, beach and fishing. On this island, there is a guest house renovated its entrance and some guest rooms to be barrier-free.
The landlady of Guest House Hidabun, Mitsuyo Hida, told us their efforts and various impacts they felt from making it easily accessible.
Inspired by an Advisor on Barrier-Free Lodging Facilities
Shikinejima Island is a small island with an outer circumference of around 12km. There is no large hotel but only home-like guest houses and Japanese inns. Buildings are exposed to the sea breeze, so a lot of maintenances are needed. As there are more guests who are not used to tatami, we have been thinking whether our guest house matches the modern era and about renovation.
At the same time, we heard from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry that an Advisor on Barrier-Free Lodging Facilities of Tokyo will come to the island. We thought that this guest house would not be able to be renovated. Yet the service was free, and it was not bad to get advice on where we can renovate, so we applied without thinking much.
Utilizing the subsidy for barrier-free lodging facilities support
Buildings on Shikinejima have high floors for ventilation. Our entrance also has a step of 30cm. According to the advisor, the difference of height can be eliminated by making a slope in front of the entrance. There was also a possibility to utilize the subsidy for barrier-free lodging facilities support from Tokyo.
There were some rooms which were not used often on the ground floor, so we decided to change them into universal rooms.
As the discussion went on, we decided to change some rooms on the ground floor into western rooms which are accessible by wheelchairs, and the shared toilets, sinks and bathrooms on the same floor to barrier-free design.
As a result, there are total four wheelchair-accessible western rooms with two beds. Three of them do not have a washroom so guests can use the shared toilet and bathrooms, while one room is equipped with a barrier-free toilet and shower.
For many guest houses, there are a male bathroom and a female bathroom, and sometimes strangers need to use the bath together. With a modular bathroom and a shower room, guests can use them privately. Since the bath is only used by guests in the same room at one time, it is popular among families with children and the elderly.
Barrier-free is achieved by making a slope in front of the entrance, but it was difficult to remove the step at the entrance, so we prepared a portable slope to eliminate the problem.
Accessibility also for staff
There is only a wall between the staff area and the guest bathroom. Yet staff needed to go through the dining area to the bathroom for cleaning frequently, so it was troublesome.
We discussed this point with the advisor, and he advised that though the height might not be enough, we could make a door linking to the kitchen, so we installed a door.
With this, our staff experiences easier accessibility, and the access to the bathroom was improved so stress was removed.
Also, for the slope in front of the entrance, we feel that it is useful for different kinds of people, not just for wheelchairs or strollers. For example, it is more convenient when we load or when guests carry their suitcases or fishing equipment.
As we are getting old, a good working environment and access are very important for us to continue our job.
Wider customer base with choices of room and meal
The biggest impact I felt from the barrier-free design is the wider customer base.
We kept the original elements of the guest house on the first floor so there are shared dormitories and Japanese rooms. We also have long-term-stay plans with a monthly rent of around JPY60,000 for dormitory. There are Wi-Fi, shared kitchen and dining room. Some young people use the cheap room for workcation, some spend their time by sharing the food they made with other people staying together. For the universal room on the ground floor, there are more elder people and families who choose plans with meals and wish to enjoy a private trip.
After making the facility barrier-free, wheelchair users told us that they wanted to go to islands but were about to give up because of the lack of barrier-free accommodation, until they learnt about our place and came. There were also guests who could only get up from beds and they came because of the recommendation from other hotels.
Many choices are available now depending on the guests’ budget and purpose. In the past, the majority was young people. Nowadays, there are also elder people and people who are willing to pay more for privacy.
Since the rate of western room is higher than that of dormitory, at first we were worried that people will not pay for these expensive rooms in a guest house like this. However, there are more guests choosing western rooms now and our worry on occupancy was unnecessary.
I am glad that we boldly decided to become barrier-free. It is more convenient for staff, and we can now welcome many types of guests as a significant result.
The population of Shikinejima is low and the relaxing atmosphere makes you forget it is Tokyo. Please come to enjoy the beach, fishing and to refresh.
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