Plenty of room for passions to grow

February 21st, 2012 by Felicity Hughes

Though Japan is a nation of passionate hobbyists, it’s also a country in which space is at a premium. This poses a dilemma for otaku who spend years amassing huge toy collections, gearheads who want to work on their greasy motors, or arty types who want room in which to slap around some paint without ruining the tatami. Rather than renting out a cheap apartment or storage space, a new solution has been supplied by Reise Hobby, a company that offers versatile units for hobbyists to rent.

Founded in 2006 as a subsidiary of Reise Box storage company, Reise Hobby now own 30 buildings in Kanto and Kansai that house more than 200 “loft” or “maisonette type” spaces. Each space has two floors with private access via a garage door; the lower garage area serves as a workspace, while the upper area can be used as a storage space. This style has proved extremely popular, according to Nikkei Trendy: When the company opened up their new Tama Center in December 2011, half the units were snapped up on the first day they were first offered for sale.

Though users are generally male, the kinds of hobbies they pursue are diverse, ranging from those who want to store bikes or cars to artistic types to avid collectors. Some people rent units just to have a private space of their own, sort of like a secret club house. Units do not come cheap: A 41-sq.-meter unit at their Tama Center, for instance, costs ¥84,000 a month. However, on the plus side, these spaces are well-equipped with toilet, water supply, air conditioner, 50 kw electricity supply a month, electrical outlets and free Internet access. Add to this the freedom to customize the space as you please and these units look increasingly attractive.

If the rental fee still seems steep,  there are places where you can rent time in a shared space. The increased interest in railways, for example, has resulted in a number of businesses offering track rental time on train dioramas. Models IMON, for instance, offer track time in locations across Tokyo, in Harajuku, their rental layout costs¥2,100 for just under two hours and rental of trains comes extra. Since 2010, the Akihabra Washington Hotel even has a special room for densha otaku (train geeks) who can bring along their own trains and whizz them round a diorama of Akihabara for a rather pricy ¥23,000 a night.

The rent-a-space entrepreneurs are also amateur seamstresses. As we mentioned a few years back, there’s been a surge of interest in “remake” fashion (restyling second-hand clothes) and some stores like Sewing Machine Cafe & Lounge Nico, which opened in Setagaya in September 2011, have caught on to this and are offering sewing machine time for budding clothes designers for a small fee.

For some, hiring a space in which to practice their craft becomes the step from being merely an enthusiast to becoming a full-fledged professional. In our next post, we’ll take a look at how new kinds of shared rental spaces are cutting down costs and helping budding entrepreneurs build connections.

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