National / Media | Japan Pulse

Cheaper deals in Japan sometimes come at a personal cost

by Kaori Shoji

Contributing Writer

Although the cost of living in Japan is expected to increase in 2020, wages are forecast to remain about the same. This means consumers are constantly on the lookout for better deals, while businesses are scrambling for ways to cut prices and still protect their bottom line.

With this in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising to come across businesses that attempt to get a little extra mileage out of any deal by requiring their customers to accept something in exchange for the cheaper offer.

In short, fair’s fair — depending on your point of view.

A good example of this made headlines last month when a hotel in the city of Fukuoka called Business Ryokan Asahi started to offer what looks like being the cheapest accommodation in Japan.

The hotel is offering a room to guests for ¥100 per night. However, there’s a catch. Guests who stay must first agree to live-stream their activities on YouTube whenever they’re in the room. The name of the account on YouTube? You guessed it — One Dollar Hotel.

Tetsuya Inoue, owner of Business Ryokan Asahi, hopes the videos will pique people’s interest and entice inbound tourists to give the hotel a try.

Inoue, who inherited the hotel from his grandmother last year, got the idea from a visiting British tourist who live-streamed his stay in his room and apparently attracted a lot of likes.

Inoue installed a camera in a room at the hotel and switches it on whenever a guest arrives.

The camera does not show the shared bathroom area and guests are allowed to turn the camera off when they’re undressing or simply wish to have some privacy.

The hotel also warns guests against showing any personal information on camera, including their address or credit card details.

Thankfully, nudity is prohibited as is any sexual activity — or, what the website refers to as “lewd acts.”

When no one is booked into the room, Inoue turns a camera on inside his reception area so that the world can watch him as he works, and to ensure there’s always a live feed coming from the hotel.

Guests are also welcome to stay in other rooms, which cost between ¥2,500 and ¥3,500 a night.

The YouTube channel has already attracted more than 14,000 subscribers in the space of a few weeks.

Once it accumulates more than 4,000 viewing hours, Inoue will be able to put advertising on the channel and monetize it.

However, Business Ryokan Asahi isn’t the only business that expects something in return for a discount.

Renting a car can be an expensive business, but Guts, which operates rental franchises nationwide, is able to offer vehicles at ridiculously low rates.

Customers can rent a two-door vehicle for ¥2,000 or a four-door sedan for ¥2,500 over a 24-hour period. A week’s rent for the cheaper option comes to a little more than ¥7,000.

In exchange for the cheap rates, customers give up the right to choose a specific model and/or color. And the color scheme is often appalling: mud brown, rat gray … you get the general idea.

If you’re extremely unlucky, the only vehicle available on the day might be the franchise’s light truck imprinted with the company logo emblazoned on the side.

Meanwhile, Luna Park in the city of Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, offers a wide variety of rides for next to nothing. Most rides cost ¥50 each, although some options cost as little as ¥10.

The park charges no admission fee, and parking is free, which means a person can try out all of the rides for just ¥500.

The catch? In this case, customers aren’t required to do anything special in exchange for the low prices, but they will have to put up with a set of rides designed for children aged 10 or less.