Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living Shanghai is the Hakuhodo Group’s China think tank, established in Shanghai in 2012 as a fully owned subsidiary of Hakuhodo Inc. The organization supports the marketing activities of corporations in China, making use of sei-katsu-sha research expertise accumulated in Japan, at the same time as developing insight and providing recommendations locally in China on new lifestyle possibilities for the future. One of the Institute’s activities is reporting on Chinese sei-katsu-sha.
One trend to hit China’s urban areas recently is hōng pā [home party] rental room services, which are especially popular among young people as intimate places to congregate. Hōng pā users vary widely; the services are used just as often for casual drinking sessions with company coworkers as they are for family gatherings spanning multiple generations. And an increasing number of businesses appear to be renting hōng pā for training spaces and off-site meeting locations. In just the Shanghai area alone, there are more than 800 rooms available, according to online searches. The phenomenon is not limited to Shanghai; similar situations have been reported in Beijing, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Chengdu, and other leading urban areas.
A hōng pā dining room
In talking to co-workers recently who have used the services, I realized hōng pā are somewhat different from what I imagined home parties to be like. Most locations are run by individual business owners. In addition to homeowners simply renting out space in their homes, there are others who invest tremendous energy and imagination into the spaces. To take just one example, one ambitious owner completely renovated his maisonette-style condo, decking out each purpose-specific room with different furnishings, appliances, and devices, and offers the condo as an all-purpose entertainment complex.
On entering the home, you find a series of unique rooms, ranging from a theater room with a large-screen TV for viewing movies to a cosplay room with rental outfits, as well as separate rooms for mahjong, video games, reading, and many other forms of entertainment. The partygoers are free to wander around the rooms and have fun doing different activities with their friends. Although home parties seem at first to have an air of collective teamwork about them, hōng pā participants tend to split into smaller groups and enjoy themselves. It’s almost like visiting a theme park, with the partygoers enjoying what they want when they want.
Hōng pā entertainment rooms: a theater room, a cosplay room, a mahjong room, and a video game room
Chinese youth, who find conventional eating-drinking-chatting home parties a little stale, are constantly seeking out new forms of consumption. In turn, other sei-katsu-sha are freeing up their assets (homes) and lending them out to meet this demand. It’s easy now for sei-katsu-sha to match needs and offers, thanks to the proliferation of the Internet. Advances in IT technology are also driving the everyday sharing economy among sei-katsu-sha, a phenomenon which is definitely picking up speed in China, as it is elsewhere. The sharing economy not only answers consumer demand for convenience and affordability; it is also having a substantive impact on the growing variety of spaces people live and interact in and on generating new forms of consumption-based entertainment. Hōng pā party spaces are just one example of this.