When plans for Japan to host this week’s G-8 summit at Toyako were first announced, innkeepers in Hokkaido began to fret over the suitability of their accommodations for foreign visitors. Certainly the deluxe hotel suites used by foreign heads of state would be adequate; but the prospect of handling the overflow from the sizable national delegations, which included aides, support and security staff at the summit, had the local innkeepers on edge.
Sure enough, the evening tabloid Nikkan Gendai (July 8) reports, when the approximately 2,000 members of the foreign government contingents and media correspondents began converging on Toyako, the innkeepers’ anxieties proved prophetic.
“This is a hot springs district, so naturally most of the rooms are Japanese style, with tatami,” says a representative of the local innkeepers association. “But some of the visitors demanded Western-style rooms.”
Since facilities in Toyako were insufficient to accommodate all the visitors, some are being dispersed to Noboribetsu and other nearby resort towns. Previously the local ryokan (Japanese inns) had converted a portion of their tatami rooms to Western style years before, when they expanded or remodeled, but the overall capacity was still insufficient, and some of the foreign visitors had to be put up in tatami rooms. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs tried to encourage the foreign governments to use these rooms, but to no avail.
“When they adamantly refused to sleep on tatami, some inns laid down carpets and brought in large beds for the tatami rooms,” says Nikkan Gendai’s source. “Naturally this all had to be done at the owners’ expense.”
After the leaders of the four African nations of Tanzania, Senegal, Ethiopia and Ghana attended the extended conference on July 7, they immediately departed for Tokyo.
“That’s because of the dearth of suite room facilities in Sapporo hotels,” explains a local hotelier. “Many Africans are physically big and the beds and rooms were too confined. Apparently in their home countries these people lead a quite affluent lifestyle.”
Pristine Toyako may have been selected as an ideal venue for world leaders to discuss the global environment, but in the eyes of foreign visitors, the area’s “living environment” gets failing marks, Nikkan Gendai concludes ironically.© Japan Today