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Tourism boom drives Japan to convert offices into hotels

12 Comments
By Junko Fujita

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This is where Japan's lax zoning laws really shine. Converting an old, mostly disused office into an hotel in one year? Back in Canada, it would likely take 5 years to make a zoning change proposal to the city, have the planners and urbanists pester the developer with a lot of obscure rules, require changes to the façade or digging more parking under the building, then facing NIMBYs in public consultations, just itching to shoot down the project, it could even end up with voters asking for and getting a local referendum to vote on the project, or extorting the developer to build parks or whatever in exchange for the building permit. By the time the project finally gets off the ground, the tourism boom would had turned to bust.

In Japan, one year and it is done.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

This is quite exciting! This is probably the best way Japan is preparing for increasing tourism that I've heard of. Its more cost-effective and efficient, not to mention eco-friendly, to reuse old office buildings that have become too "outdated" in an era that has also seen office vacancy rise.

I find office buildings (and most Japanese architecture) from the late 1970's and 1980's intriguing in a way...its use of shiny chrome and glass blocks reminiscent of that glamour-filled, bubble time period.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

M3M3M3, you provide an example of why I'm more and more opposed to local "democracy" in urban planning, which is in fact allowing the tyranny of a few permanent whiners to prevent cities from evolving. Some zoning laws may be justified, but a few simple rules focused on avoiding a few negative externalities, like the Japanese have, is all that is needed. I'm not a developer, I'm an urban resident who loves dynamic cities that grow and live, and people like you are the reason many cities are stuck in a runt, never evolving, just slowly dying while suburbs sprawl more and more because developments pushed away from cities have to go somewhere.

As to Venice, you have been had. Wheeled suitcases have not been banned, the ban affects only handcarts and transpallets used by city's merchants to carry goods, the weight and regular passage of them on old pavement is damaging them. Tourists don't travel with their suitcases all the time, they only do it once when going to the hotel, and once when leaving, as these suitcases are cumbersome.

Again, you prove how people who WANT to find a reason to oppose something will come up with anything at all to rationalize their irrational opposition to projects.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is just a glorified capsule hotel. I'd hate to see what the "rooms" are like in the bunkbed hotel.

This is exactly what I was going to say when I saw the above photo. They even have the pull down shutters like they do in those capsule rooms.

Then again, you can argue it's about getting what you pay for. It's slightly more expensive compared to a capsule hotel, though slightly bigger. I'd think it's still a good value for budget travelers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I live next to an office building and I'm not sure I would want it to be converted into something called a 'bunkbed hotel' for thrifty Asian tourists who would be rolling their noisy suitcases up and down the sidewalk day and night. You can call it Nimbyism but developers have to respect the local residents.

Don't mind if I do, you NIMBY.

Thanks for providing an example of opposition based on irrational fears. You're worried about noise due to foot traffic?! That's strike one, but it should be enough to discredit your opposition alone, but let's continue. Not only that, but hotels actually generate very little noise and activities, because most patrons will not be there most of the day as they will either be exploring or doing business during the day, coming back in the evening just to relax and sleep. Finally, we're talking of an hotel in the middle of AKIHABARA, which is already crawling with people all day long. People who choose to reside in Akihabara know how it is already, they shouldn't get to protest and force thousands of people to relocate their activities elsewhere.

Have a good look at the photo that goes with the story and you'll see what they are talking about. A 'room' like that would probably violate human rights legislation in other countries!

And another irrational opposition. You might not want to sleep there, but you're not forced to, no one is being forced to. I think it's good that people have the choice to sleep there if they want, to save money. Not everyone is the same, and just because you feel you would need more space, doesn't mean that everyone needs more space too.

People are different from you, learn to tolerate rather than try to force everyone into your mold.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is just a glorified capsule hotel. I'd hate to see what the "rooms" are like in the bunkbed hotel.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Another ¥1,000 buys you space to open a suitcase. What does this mean? The room is otherwise smaller than your fully-opened suitcase?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hi kchoze, firstly I sympathize with your desire to live in a dynamic and growing city, I share your desire to some extent. However, would you concede that your desire is actually an entirely subjective preference? Some people in Vancouver might want new modern buildings, but people in Stockholm might want to preserve the character of the area by restricting building height and use. I hope you agree that both are equally laudable goals depending on the circumstances.

Just out of curiosity, would you characterise your position as advocating for more expansive property rights or limiting property rights?

I'll have to defer to your expertise about Venitian handcarts but from the articles I've read, it was the suitcases that were driving people crazy (even though they haven't been banned). Having lived in central London I can assure you that there is no worse way to be woken up at 5am than by a column of suitcases rolling down the street. It's a real thing, not some excuse.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Moonraker

Have a good look at the photo that goes with the story and you'll see what they are talking about. A 'room' like that would probably violate human rights legislation in other countries!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Bad news. Our cozy and calm city surroundings will be invaded by more tourists.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Hi kchoze, I think your comment illustrates why consultations are so important. They highlight problems that developers might not have even considered.

You seem to be unaware that the biggest and most annoying source of noise caused by tourists is the constant clickity clack of suitcase wheels on pavement. Venice has gone as far as to try to ban suitcases without rubber wheels. It drives people who live next to hotels crazy. What is your suggestion? Just to say too bad, f-you local people, I want my hotel?

Nothing wrong with hotels, but there are proper places to put them and that's why most countries have zoning laws. I suspect you've had a project rejected in the past?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I live next to an office building and I'm not sure I would want it to be converted into something called a 'bunkbed hotel' for thrifty Asian tourists who would be rolling their noisy suitcases up and down the sidewalk day and night. You can call it Nimbyism but developers have to respect the local residents.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

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