The amazing disappearing hotel room
We're back to Japan again for a rather shocking story about hotel accessibility. The Toyoko Inn in Yokohama, which was completed in December 2005, complied with the city ordinance when it opened in so far as it had both an accessible guest room and a disabled parking bay. Inspectors came out on the 27th of December, saw that everything was fine, and granted the hotel an operating licence with effect from the 5th of January. So far so good.
However, as soon as the hotel had been granted its licence, it was "renovated". The accessible room has been turned into an ordinary guest room and a linen room, and the parking facilities (which included the mandatory disabled parking bay) have been turned into a business room and a smoking area.
Norimasa Nishida, the President of the Tokyo Inn company, has admitted in a press conference that he approved the request to remove the disabled parking bay so that the lobby could be extended last September, in full knowledge that doing so would violate the Building Standards Law. He says he didn't know that the disabled hotel room would also be removed, but the "room was rarely used in the first place and he had approved similar changes at other hotels operated by his company".
(Lady Bracknell is not entirely sure how a conclusion can be reached that the room was "rarely used" when it appears only to have existed for about two weeks, but there you go.)
Now that this has come to light, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will require all municipal governments to inspect Toyoko Inn hotels across Japan for evidence of similar "renovations". Meanwhile, the Yokohama hotel is being returned to its original state . . .