Even if you’re traveling by yourself, you’ll never be alone since you’re on a 24-hour live stream.
Traveling in Japan can be surprisingly affordable. In recent years, a slew of new rail passes have made getting from Point A to Points B, C, and D far less expensive, and at the same time convenience stores and casual restaurant chains have been rapidly improving the quality and variety of their food offerings.
Hotels, though, seem to be getting pricier, due to a sustained domestic travel boom and Japan’s rising popularity as a destination for international tourists. So we were surprised when we found a hotel in Japan that offers a room for just 130 yen (US$1.20) a night!
Located in Fukuoka City, Business Ryokan Asahi is about a 15-minute walk from the Tenjin neighborhood, the town’s primary shopping and entertainment area. What’s more, the unbelievably cheap 130-yen rate isn’t some middle-of-the-week special, but available on Fridays and weekends too.
Business Ryokan Asahi
OK, so there’s got to be some sort of catch, right? Yes, there is, and it’s big one…or maybe we should call it a weird one? In any case, to stay in the 130-yen room, you have to agree to let the hotel live-stream your stay on its YouTube channel.
To clarify, you don’t have to be a famous YouTuber, influencer, or any other category of online personality, nor do you have to give a performance or really do anything that makes for compelling viewing while you’re staying in the room…but that makes it weirder, right? You’re essentially just exchanging your privacy for a cheap hotel room. What kind of weirdos would agree to those terms?
The weirdos at SoraNews24, that’s who! We fearlessly sent our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki to check the place out, and so last Friday night he was standing in Business Ryokan Asahi’s lobby, checking in.
As the clerk handed Masanuki his key, he reminded our reporter that the camera in his room would be constantly broadcasting, and so asked him to refrain from lounging around in the nude. Masanuki was agreeable to this stipulation, because we don’t pay him to get near-naked (that’s what we pay Mr. Sato for).
Making his way to the second floor and down the hall, Masanuki found himself standing in front of the door to Room 8.
What sort of weird, possibly kinky interior decor would be waiting for him inside this voyeuristic accommodation?
Oh, a totally normal Japanese-style guestroom, with tatami reed flooring, a folded futon sleeping mat, a low table, a TV, and a hot water kettle. Clean and well-maintained, it looks like the kind of studio apartment a college student or someone starting their first job out of school might live in in Japan. Really, the only weird things are the coin-operated heater/air conditioning unit (100 yen for two hours, so running it for four means you’re spending more on climate control than the room itself)…
…and, of course, the web camera-equipped PC, with the lens pointed right at the center of the room.
Now, there are a couple of things that make that alleviate a bit of potential awkwardness. First off, like at a lot of inexpensive ryokan (Japanese inns), there’s no in-room toilet or shower. Instead, those are shared facilities down the hall, and out of the video broadcast area.
Second, the live stream is video only, with no sound. The reasons for this is to avoid copyright infringement complaints for music that could be heard from the in-room TV, but it also means no one will hear you talking to yourself, humming, farting, or producing any other sort of audio.
On the other hand, the compact dimensions of the room, coupled with the simple, traditional Japanese-style furnishings, means that when you’re in the room, you’re on camera. There’s no blind spot or furniture to hide behind, so the whole world got to watch as Masanuki brushed his teeth.
Not enough Masanuki for you? Then please enjoy this nearly two-and-a-half-hour version, compete with roughly 30 minutes of him lying down in his futon with his eyes closed (you are allowed to turn the lights off when you’re sleeping, by the way).
While the camera is supposed to broadcast nonstop, on Masanuki’s visit the laptop glitched out at some point during the night, so viewers weren’t treated to his entire stay. The hotel says it plans to upgrade to a more reliable, dedicated web camera in the near future, though.
Now, the one thing we haven’t addressed is why Asahi offers such an odd package. The management told us that Room 8 is the least-often booked room in the hotel, and they thought this would be a good way to convince people to stay in it. Granted, they’re only making 130 yen each time, but that’s 130 yen more revenue than they’d be getting if it sat empty, plus helping spread the word about an otherwise ordinary ryokan that most people would never have heard of.
Because of the unorthodox conditions, some online booking sites seem reluctant to carry a listing for Asahi’s lives-stream room, but if it sounds like a fair deal to you, you can always contact the hotel directly and ask for the hyakusanjuen no heya, or “130-yen room.”
Business Ryokan Asahi / ビジネス旅館あさひ
Address: Fukuoka-ken, Fukuoka-shi, Chuo-ku, Kiyokawa 2-6-2
Check-in 3 p.m.
Check-out 11 a.m.