Shizuoka – Hundreds continue to take refuge from a massive mudslide a week ago in central Japan, but rather than typical evacuation lodges in school gymnasiums, many have been greeted by hotels.
The disaster occurred in the resort town of Atami in Shizuoka Prefecture, less than an hour from Tokyo by high-speed train. Local hoteliers have offered to accept those who could not return home due to the mudslide, which left at least nine dead, and 20 people are still missing.
The new WelCity Yugawara welcomed around 90 people on July 3, the day of the disaster.
“I could rest in a clean tatami room,” said Kenji Aikawa, a 51-year-old chef. “Plus, I could bathe in a hot spring and relax. “
A hot spring hotel is a world apart from a gymnasium, where disaster evacuees typically sleep on the floor in large numbers with little or no privacy.
The New Akao Hotel told the city government the day after the disaster that it was ready to welcome the evacuees.
After receiving a formal request from city officials to accept a group of elderly people to evacuate from a care facility near the disaster area, the hotel spread futons over a large tatami room usually used for banquets.
He also provided rice balls and pork and vegetable soup to others affected by the disaster.
“We thought about what we could do as a hotel,” said Shinobu Kamei, a spokesperson. “All the hotel staff came together” to help, she said.
As of Friday evening, a total of 572 people were staying at the Atami New Fujiya Hotel and Hotel New Akao. Most of the evacuees were staying at Atami New Fujiya, which decided to extend the initially planned stay by one week, until July 16, to accommodate the evacuees.
“This is a major and unprecedented disaster for Atami,” said Kamei of the New Akao Hotel.
“Because Atami is a tourist site, there are many accommodation facilities. We don’t know how long the situation requiring evacuation will last, but we would like to offer full support, ”she said.
Some small-scale accommodation facilities in Atami have also started accommodating evacuees free of charge.
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