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I just learned of a very interesting kind of minimal budget accommodation in Japan principally for people on bicycle and perhaps motorbike tours called "ライダーハウス" - "riders' houses".

There is an article on the Japanese Wikipedia, but not on the English Wikipedia, and Google Translate tries very hard but doesn't manage to do a perfect job.

Where can I find a resource telling me about these accommodations, especially a resource to help locate them?

For instance, some of the things I'm wondering:

  • Are non-bikers welcome too? Hitchhikers for instance?
  • Can you normally leave your luggage there while you go exploring, and would that normally be safe?

(I'm not expecting answers here addressing my example questions, only the overall question for sites that would have info including those kinds of answers.)

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1 gives quite a number of results, though a central directory of them might be asking a bit much. They seem to be rather seasonal too, so a directory would be always out of date. – Greg Hewgill May 9 '14 at 2:51
Well an info source that gave us more info about seasonality would be good. Directories of things known to be seasonal still exist though since they know they have to try to keep up to date. – hippietrail May 9 '14 at 3:09
There are a couple of external links at the bottom of that Wikipedia page too. I can't read Japanese, but they appear to have lots of dots on a map... :) – Greg Hewgill May 9 '14 at 3:10
Oh I overlooked the external links - thanks! – hippietrail May 9 '14 at 3:13
might be like WarmShowers - the couchsurfing for cyclists site? – Mark Mayo May 9 '14 at 3:22
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Riders' houses are super-budget dorms, often run on a non-commercial hobbyist or community-supported basis, and not uncommonly entirely free. As the name says, the primary audience is bikers, both motorized and pedal-powered, but anybody is welcome. However, as they've often located in places that are hard to impossible to reach by public transport (abandoned houses, former train stations on closed branch lines, spare rooms in large rural houses, etc), in practice it's difficult to make use of them without your own wheels.

The main difference between a riders' house and a backpackers' dormitory is that you have to bring your own sleeping gear, meaning a sleeping bag etc (mattresses are usually provided). This is mostly for legal reasons, since otherwise they would be considered inns and the owners don't want to deal with the resulting paperwork. Long stays at riders' houses are also frowned upon and some go so far as to ban stays of over one night, so no, they're generally not good bases for exploring an area.

And yes, there is a directory of them, called Hatinosu (pron. Hachi-no-su), in Japanese only. The name means "bees' nest", because for obscure reasons the nickname for bikers in Hokkaido is mitsubachi-zoku, the "honeybee tribe". To this day you'll find more riders' houses in Hokkaido than the rest of the country combined, although the Hokkaido biker boom peaked in the late '90s and the numbers are trending down. Also note that since nobody in their right mind bikes in Hokkaido outside the short summer season, the vast majority are only open from June to September or so.

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Thanks for the answer! I stayed in my first one last night. It is a former shop attached to a house in ノシャップ, far north Hokkaido. It is open all year but I'm only the third guest this year. It wasn't as cheap as I expected at 2000 yen (or 2500 with futon). I've paid less for a real bed in a hostel including Wi-Fi. I still liked it though. Before checking out I went for a walk down the west side of the cape to Fujimi where I stumbled upon another ライダーハウス with a sign saying 750 yen. It was good to have a heater and a shower for one night but now it's back to 野宿 (-: – hippietrail May 10 '14 at 3:51

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