The Guardian

Zen dens: tiny offices help boost desk space in Japan

- Gavin Blair

Japanese design is renowned for its minimalism, and for keeping things simple and uncluttere­d.

So it’s no surprise that a leading housebuild­er is trying to tackle the lack of space for pandemic-era working from home by marketing a tiny home-office building that can be constructe­d adjacent to houses in just two days, fine weather permitting.

The so-called Hanare Zen is a 91cm-wide and 1.8 metre-long building equipped with power sockets, a counter-type desk and very little else.

KI Star Real Estate began taking orders for the Hanare Zen on 6 September, hoping to find a market among those struggling to work in cramped homes.

Hanare means separate or detached in Japanese, while Zen is written in both the Chinese character for Zen Buddhism and the alphabet.

“We had already created the Hanare building as a kind of storage space, and with the situation in the pandemic, the idea came about to develop the Hanare Zen as a work space,” said Chisa Uchiyama, a spokespers­on for KI Star. “The use of ‘Zen’ in the name represents the minimalist concept of stripping down the size and features to only what is necessary. It is designed for people who have difficulty in finding a comfortabl­e space to work in their home.”

The Hanare Zen costs 547,800 yen (£3,600) and is available in Tokyo and the surroundin­g prefecture­s.

For some of the 70% of Tokyo’s population who live in apartments, and would be unable to use a constructi­on like the Hanare Zen, working in cars has become a way to find some peace and quiet. Demand is up for a range of accessorie­s to support in-vehicle working, including stands for computers that fit on to steering wheels, folding desks, mini-fans, portable batteries and screens for windows to block outside distractio­ns.

In Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, the Tokyu Railway Company has renovated old train carriages and converted them into remote working spaces that can be rented for 200 yen (£1.30) an hour at its transport museum. The company has also repurposed some of its ticket kiosks at stations into shared office spaces, which it began offering for rent in July. Falling passenger numbers and sales of commuter passes due to the pandemic had reduced demand for its ticketing services.

Even after the pandemic is under control, 90% of Japan’s major corporatio­ns that have implemente­d remote working intend to continue doing so, according to a survey by the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

The government has asked people to work from home as much as possible during Japan’s state of emergency declaratio­ns, to avoid crowded public transport commutes in the cities and to reduce the chance of infections in workplaces.

The current state of emergency, the fourth since the start of the pandemic, has been extended in Tokyo, Osaka and 17 other prefecture­s until the end of the month.

A lack of digital infrastruc­ture at many companies and the need to go into offices to stamp documents and receipts with official seals has also made full remote working difficult for many employees in the public and private sectors. This month Japan launched a new digital agency to address such issues and accelerate the digitisati­on of the economy.

 ??  ?? ▲ Hanare Zen home offices, which measure just 91cm wide and 1.8 metres long, can be built in as little as two days
▲ Hanare Zen home offices, which measure just 91cm wide and 1.8 metres long, can be built in as little as two days
 ?? IMAGES: KI STAR REAL ESTATE ?? ▼ The office’s interior, which comes complete with a basic desk and power sockets
IMAGES: KI STAR REAL ESTATE ▼ The office’s interior, which comes complete with a basic desk and power sockets

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