Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fitting out your shop space in Tokyo

So.. we have a space! I've been looking casually for a couple of years and seriously since the end of summer last year, and just a couple of weeks ago came across a beautiful little space that was within budget, our application was approved and we have just signed and got the keys!

Even before you apply for a space, it's useful to know some of the requirements and terminology for fitting out the space to have it meet your needs and the requirements of your local health department (保健所 / hokenjyo).

Measuring out the space

If you're looking online in Japanese, fitting out a shop space is called 内装 / naisou, and this is often carried out by a contractor called a 大工さん / daiku-san (joiner/carpenter), or a 建築家 / kenchiku ka (architect/builder). In some cases you'll go through a 'designer' who would work with you on a plan for the space then probably have a team of daiku-san, and other workers to carry out the practical tasks. I've heard of people fitting their spaces out themselves too.

If you can meet the contractor at your space, or the space you're planning to apply for, they should be able to give you a detailed quote for the work you would like carrying out. Bear in mind that equipment (設備 / setsubi) and kitchen equipment (厨房機器 / chubou kiki) won't be included in that quote, and that some specialist work related to gas and electricity may need to be carried out by other people and be charged for separately.

I've seen it written on Japanese forums about reform and space-fitting that a general rule of thumb to calculate is about 100,000 yen per tsubo (坪) of space for the most basic naisou work (this would be roughly 30,000 yen per square metre). This would mean a 25m place is looking at a 750,000 yen before materials and equipment are included. Of course you'll find spaces and contractors that will need more or less than this, and it depends on what you want them to do, and what is required by the local hokenjyo as well.

If you look at the hokenjyo requirements for a food business permit you can see that they fall into a few main categories. Please note that the information to follow is just based on my individual understanding at present, and is not an exhaustive list. Please consult with your own health department and with professionals for definitive guidance. Here are just some thoughts to help you get started:

Plumbing 排水 / haisui
  • If your business uses a lot of oil, for frying etc., then your hokenjyo will probably require you to have a drain in your kitchen floor. If there isn't already one in the space, or if you can't make one as you are above the ground floor of a building, then this involves creating a raised platform for the kitchen, and fitting a drain under that platform. Prices for this work are likely to start from a few hundred thousand yen, but will vary from space to space.
  • Grease traps are not specifically required by most hokenjyo, although they are a good idea, for the environment and to avoid blocking up the neighbourhood's pipes. However there is a chance that another body, such as the water company may ask you to fit one depending on your type of business. Grease traps can be fitted under the floor, or small sized ones can be placed under your sink.
  • Refer to your hokenjyo's requirements on specific numbers of and sizes of sinks. The staff hand-washing sink needs to have a fixed soap dispenser permanently attached to the sink.

Ventilation 排気・換気 / haiki, kanki
  • Your hokenjyo may require separate air conditoners in place for the customer area and the kitchen area. Consider the need for 200v plug sockets and ventilation pipes to take the exhaust air out of the building. Also consider whether you can place air conditioner box on the outside of the building, and where.
  • You will need to fit an extraction fan, and if you have a gas range you will need this to be connected to an extraction hood of a suitable size over your gas range.
  • My hokenjyo requires that all wall and ceiling surfaces in the kitchen area are flat and easy to clean. This means that exposed pipes, especially the round ones that carry exhaust air out of the building, will need to be boxed-off so that all surfaces are flat. This is to prevent build-ups of dust falling into food you are preparing.

Electricity 電気 / denki
  • What is the current amperage level for the property? Look at the electric breaker box at the property and you'll see 20A, 50A etc. Amps x Volts = Watts means that a 20A property running on a regular 100V Japanese 単相 / tansou / single phase circuit system has a total maximum capacity of only 2000 Watts. In addition the total *safe* capacity should be only up to 80% of that amount so this example actually only allows you to use 1,600 watts safely, which isn't much if you are planning to use an electric oven.
  • Calculate your electrical load capacity needs by adding up the wattage for each of the pieces of equipment you plan to use, not forgetting anything already in the space such as lighting. The wattage information is available on the product label itself, and in the manuals.
  • The amperage for your property can usually be increased if you require it, check if it's ok with the building owner and consult with your electric company and contractor. Your electricity provider will carry out the work (the lady at Tokyo Electric said it takes about 20 minutes and is usually free for 100V systems) and your contract with the company will also need to be increased. For Tokyo Electric, 60A appears to be the maximum available for 100V systems - but it will depend on your property.
  • In addition to single phase electricity, some properties also have commercial-use 3-phase (三相 / sansou) systems in place. I'm not completely in-the-know about these yet, but believe the rate of electricity is cheaper than single-phase, but that you'd probably have the two systems running concurrently and pay two electric bills each month. Even if you have a single phase system, it is possible for your electrician to use it to fit some 200V sockets (for some air conditioners and electric ovens etc.). 
  • Lighting in the kitchen also needs to be flat and easy to clean. Fluorescent tubes for example need to have box covers over them.

Gas ガス
  • Even if there is a gas pipe in the property, check whether the property has a gas meter or if you will need to have one fitted. If you can't find the meter then you can ring the gas company to ask if the address has been previously registered for gas and they should be able to tell you.
  • Also see above regarding ventilation.

Knowing the activities you plan to carry out and the requirements of the hokenjyo to allow you to do them, should be able to help you choose a space with a fuller knowledge of the likely total cost. Go along to a local hokenjyo to ask specific questions you may have even before you have your space.

As for me, lots of work to do... more updates to follow!