Posts Tagged ‘women-only’

Qusca: a good place to nap on the job

Friday, March 1st, 2013

A bed at Qusca

A bed at Qusca “nap cafe.” Photo by Rebecca Milner

Qusca, Japan’s first “o-hirune cafe” – literally “nap cafe” – opened last December in Tokyo’s Akasaka neighborhood. The name speaks for itself: It’s a place to go for a quick rest. The area is a business district, and Qusca (which is for women only) is targeting businesswomen who work in the area.

In Japan, the word “cafe” has come to be synonymous with any sort of third space. Manga kissa (kissaten is the old Japanese word for coffee shop) are essentially places where people go to read manga (and, increasingly, to watch DVDs, play video games, sleep and even, if rumors are to be believed, have sex). Coffee is available, but incidental.

Qusca, too, has a coffee shop element: a space where customers can read magazines, charge their mobile phones, use the WiFi and have a cup of coffee, tea or juice. But its raison d’être is the nap room. Here, under dim lights, there are two single beds and four reclining chaises. Each is draped in netting – which sort of looks like a mosquito net – offering some privacy. There are lockers for valuables, a shelf of pillows and blankets, and a vanity table stocked with hair irons, hair spray, lotions and even cosmetics.

The vanity table at Qusca nap cafe. Photo by Rebecca Milner

The vanity table at Qusca nap cafe. Photo by Rebecca Milner

Japan is often portrayed as hyper-clean, almost sterile, but Qusca isn’t the only place where people can dip into shared cosmetics (there is sanitizer for the brushes). Cluxta, which is essentially a well-stocked powder room with an entrance fee in Ikebukuro station, has been running for several years now, and it also has a wide selection of shared makeup and hair-freshening supplies. Cluxta is a space for women in transition – a recognition that, for better or for worse, women wear many hats and would likely take advantage of a place to change those hats. Qusca seems to run on similar logic.

When I visited Qusca on a weekday around 5 p.m., I was the only customer. The receptionist told me that Qusca sees the most customers during the lunch hour, which makes sense: It’s the only sanctioned free time in a traditional office structure. However, with more research supporting spurts of productivity interspersed with periods of rest, encouraging employees to take advantage of such sleeping spaces might be a good idea.

In college, my friends and I used to fantasize about a place like Qusca. We’d drive from campus to the nearest city, about 45 minutes away, to go shopping or to a museum and then stay through the evening until the early morning, eating, drinking and dancing. But to have a space in the interim to rest, and to put on the sort of eye makeup that looks ridiculous in daylight, would have been ideal.

Qusca costs ¥150 for 10 minutes. This sounds awfully cheap until it isn’t, though the price includes all the coffee and juice you can drink. At 30 minutes it equals the price of something elaborate from Starbucks. At two hours, you’d get more value out of visiting a public sauna, which, in addition to having a resting area, also has hot baths and saunas. Still, the hour I spent at Qusca left me relaxed and refreshed and I would visit again. I’d love to see nap cafes go ubiquitous, like Starbucks. Because how many times have you bought a cup of coffee when all you really wanted was to get off your feet and use the bathroom?

Sure, you can catch some sleep on the subway – certainly many people do – but Qusca is betting, like Cluxta and Ippuku, the “smoking cafe,” that people would pay a little extra to sleep, put on makeup or have a cigarette in a more congenial setting, which puts an interesting spin on the concept of small luxuries.

Danshikai: deals for dudes’ night out

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Following on the success of the joshikai trend, which saw pubs and hotels offering discounts to all-female groups, the service industry has been setting its sights on repeating the same thing for men with their promotion of danshikai — all-male get-togethers. According to Money Zine, a number of hotels and izakaya (pubs) are now offering special danshikai deals.

Ryofukuen in Izu is offering beauty treatments ... to groups of guys.

Currently on restaurant database site Guru Navi, there are 117 establishments offering special packages to men-only groups. A closer look, though, reveals that the danshikai offers, which are often all-you-can-drink deals, are simply repackaged joshikai campaigns. Seeing as all-male groups have been frequenting izakaya since time immemorial, it’s hard to see danshikai as being anything other than the standard lad’s night out … only cheaper.

But what about a weekend away with the guys? Will the joshikai-vacation formula work for men? Is the average Japanese male keen to bunk up with his buddies? Well, if  he is, there are 40 offers from hotels and ryokan available on trip-planning site Rakuten Travel.

Most danshikai campaigns amount to a night’s lodging at a cheap rate, but with a few extras thrown in. At Daitokan in Ito Onsen, for instance, it costs just ¥5,000 per person per night (for a group of four or more), and this price includes a free “danshikai map” of the area. Ryokufuen in Izu provides a men’s beauty treatment as part of their plan.

Sweets plans have also surfaced. Last year the danshikai plan at The Hilton Odawara Resort & Spa offered a choice of nomihodai (all you can drink), tabehodai (all you can eat) and a “sweets plan” (all the cake you can eat) … and according to Money Zine, the sweets plan proved to be a hit.

Is this a sign of the herbivorous times? The link has yet to be made, but whatever the case may be,  if there are indeed large groups of men out there hankering for beauty treatments and all-you-can-eat-cake pig-outs, their needs will be indulged, at a discount.

Joshikai jamboree: Girls check in for a night out

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

No boys allowed. Hotel slumber parties for women only.

No boys allowed. Hotel slumber parties for women only.

Recently hotels across Japan have started offering special packages and huge discounts for weekday guests.

Having visions of a romantic getaway? That’s not exactly what the hoteliers have in mind. These deals are strictly for joshikai, women’s get-togethers. Credit for this trend should go to the second coming of those New York City ladies who brunch (“Sex and the City 2” made almost ¥1.3 billion in Japan in less than a month) and marketing aimed at encouraging single women in their late twenties and thirties spend their disposable income. According to Yahoo Value Insight, there’s been a significant jump in the number of restaurants,  spas and hotels offering women-only services this year.

Some hotel packages have special themes. All the slots for the “Sex and the City” package at the Royal Park Shiodome Tower sold out. Rooms on this plan come with clothes inspired by the movie for playing dress up and taking pictures. The Sweets Stay at a triple room in the Akasaka Excel Hotel includes room-service delivery of a whole cake with seasonal fruits.

During office-party season in March and April, the Shinagawa Prince Hotel had a mid-week package for about half the regular price per person based on the selling point that it’s near the train station. “You work hard, why not enjoy a little luxury and then roll right into work the next day?” the campaign suggested.

The Royal Park Hotel in Nihonbashi has a Summer Skin Care package. A stay comes with a gift pouch of skin treatments including bath salts, and the room has three special este treatment machines from Panasonic’s NanoCare line: the Night Steamer, Ion Steamer and, er, a hair dryer. They also have a “woman traveler desk” set up in the lobby.

Tokyo Disney Resort has a package for mothers and adult daughters, with a choice of several nearby hotels and entrance to the park.

The Westin in Ebisu now has a Ladies’ Executive Plan that comprises a dinner, including the hotel’s own branded beef from molasses-fed cattle; use of the executive club lounge; and a luxe room with touches, like a marble vanity, meant to appeal to women.

At the cheaper end of the spectrum, Super Hotel City Kumamoto, way down in Kyushu, will guarantee two rooms next door to each other so groups can hang out and enjoy the on-site natural hotspring all together. They don’t mention too many fancy amenities, but prices start at under ¥2,500 per person per night.

Nozomi Hattori, a 37-year-old librarian living in Tokyo, spent a night at the Westin in Ebisu with two girlfriends. They got individual spa treatments at the hotel’s Le Spa Parisien, then ordered room service and watched DVD’s. “It wasn’t too expensive, but it was luxurious,” she says. “I felt like a celebrity.”

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