When asked if he’d rather live in a mansion or a small, windowless space, photographer Won Kim openly admits he would choose a tight, “womb-like” space over a mansion any day. Small spaces “give me a feeling of security and coziness,” Kim tells Business Insider.
So when Kim stayed at a Tokyo hostel that provides its visitors with only a tight, one-person space made with untreated plywood, he felt right at home. Somewhere between a hotel and hostel, Kim describes this nontraditional space as a “guesthouse for backpackers in Tokyo” that is unlike other lodges in the city.
Although Kim requested the hostel’s exact location and name to remain anonymous, it became clear to him that the real story was the temporary set-ups within the business’ walls. He began documenting residents of the hostel, noticing the diversity of the travellers, and seeing how they utilised the little space provided to make it their own, even as temporary residents.
According to Kim, the hostel's residents are a diverse crowd, from backpackers to recent job-hunting grads, to regular workers stationed in Tokyo.
While Kim doesn't have exact dimensions, he notes the spaces are only big enough to hold a single mattress and a large suitcase, with just enough room left over for small personal belongings.
A person of average height cannot stand upright in these confined spaces, but at about $12 USD a night, this hostel's competitive prices keep travellers coming through.
During his time at the hostel, Kim met travellers from all over the world. Some were staying at the hostel for only for a few days, and some local residents had been there almost a year, making the space their more permanent residence.
However, Kim notes that these accommodations provide more alone time than hostels where you share bunk beds and rooms.
Due to Japan's high population density, hotels are known for making use of the little space they have. Capsule hotels, which simply provide a small bed in an enclosed space, are highly popular among short-term business travellers.
As far as cooking, showering, and other necessities, residents share a large kitchen and living room, and use coin-operated community showers.
Kim was sure to mention that these residents are not 'weirdo or crazy-minded' for staying in this hostel.
The mind-set these residents share, and a major reason for staying, is that they don't want to spend exorbitant amounts of rent in the notoriously expensive Tokyo, where hotels can spike to $516 a night.
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