Workation – The Key to the Recovery of Japanese Tourism

by | Jul 4, 2020

Several years ago, the Japanese government coined the phrase “workation”, a combination of vacation and telecommuting that could ideally be done from some beautiful natural location like a seaside resort or cabin in the woods. It was promoted as a means to combat the growing problem of karoshi 過労死, death by overwork, which leave it to the Japanese to come up with a word for. Additionally, workation would encourage Japanese workers to use their vacations not only during the insanely busy travel periods of Golden Week and Obon but throughout the year. Of course, companies could easily get behind this idea because, after all, their employees weren’t going to be completely untethered from their work responsibilities.

The literal backbone of the workation movement was the national fiber network, enabling high-speed Internet to be accessible from even the most remote parts of the country. The government pushed these infrastructure projects forward with loads of funding and encouraged businesses in small rural towns to get connected to them. One of the first adopters of the workation idea was the beachfront town of Shirahama in Wakayama Prefecture, where wifi coverage allows you to take your Zoom call on the beach with a seaside background that isn’t a virtual one.

I was surprised to learn that one of the other early adopters of workation was the town of Karuizawa in Nagano Prefecture, where I spent a few days doing photography work for a local Christian retreat center. The playground of Tokyo’s powerful and wealthy since the Edo Period (the former Emperor met the Empress on the tennis courts in Karuizawa), I wouldn’t have expected Karuizawa needed to enhance its reputation as a workation getaway.

Of course, everything changed in the Spring of 2020 when the coronavirus crisis struck and Japan slammed the doors on foreign tourists and tourism fell an astounding 99.9% virtually overnight. 4 months later, the roadmap for reopening the country to foreign tourism is as murky as ever. This is why workation has risen to the forefront of Japan’s tourism industry as a means of saving the economy.

For the foreseeable future, domestic tourism is the only tourism that will be going on in Japan, and unfortunately, Japanese workers aren’t the most reliable at taking a vacation. Work culture shames those who dare to exercise their right to take a vacation as it is seen as placing a burden on all the employees still at work. Workation, therefore, is the perfect solution, allowing workers to continue to shoulder at least part of their work responsibilities while also encouraging people to sustain the tourism economies of the rural parts of Japan.

The government is pushing the already aggressive fiber network infrastructure project dates up even further and practically begging local cities to take advantage of it by creating spaces for Japanese workers to take workation. Some towns have taken the call seriously, even renovating old buildings using public funds to be used as shared office spaces for mobile or vacationing workers.

Of course, the majority of work I did in Karuizawa did not require heavy Internet usage, but if it did, the cabin we stayed in was equipped to handle video conferencing calls and file transfers. Later this month, our family will be heading up to another part of Nagano Prefecture and I will be testing out the workation environment there a little more heavily with daily Zoom calls and working on shared files using Google Suite. I’ll report on that later, but for now, enjoy a few photos of the relaxing forest greenery of Karuizawa.

Like what you're seeing?

Let’s talk about how I can help your business in creating custom content promoting your products and services!

Tokyo Street Fashion Inspired By Houseplants

"The city is so hard. Just cement on top of dirt on top of rock. Even weeds have trouble growing here." Butsu Shoku kicks at the asphalt beneath her feet. The long vine of pothos trailing down her sleeve swings freely. Butsu is part of...

The Vegetarian Food Culture of Kyoto

Kyoto is certainly rich in Japanese tradition and cultural history, but how well does it fare when it comes to vegetarian cuisine? I found out on a recent business trip to the old capital.

Hello Again, 2020

With the state of emergency triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic lifted across all of Japan as of yesterday, is it too late to salvage the year 2020?

Could Yamaguchi City Become the New Kyoto?

In 2023, writer Craig Mod created quite a stir in the sleepy town of Morioka in Iwate Prefecture by naming it as his pick for places to visit in 2023 for a New York Times article. A media frenzy ensued (especially here in Japan, where...

How Hachiko the 100-year-old Dog Still Inspires a Nation

Japan's most beloved dog, Hachiko celebrates his 100th birthday this month, or in dog years, his 700th birthday, which is approaching Dog Methuselah years. Of course, dear Hachiko is no longer with us, having crossed the Rainbow Bridge in...

Learning to Fly (A Drone)

Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. Against my better judgement, I am learning to pilot a drone. The fact that I am...

When You Have A Dream Job

A former friend introduced me to Craig Mod's Ridgeline, a fascinating little newsletter about Japan, long walks, and writing, in random order. I say former friend because no true friend would introduce me to such an addictive source of...

A Time To Grow

I’ve wished my life wouldn’t pass me by so quickly, that I would have time for myself. And now that my wish in some twisted way has come true, why am I not doing the things that I always said I would?

The Green Mile – A Long Road of Practicing Tea Ceremony

What the world’s worst tea ceremony student has learned through practicing tea in Japan, and it isn’t about tea at all.

The Alien Among Us

You may find yourself at peace in natural surroundings whose love for you isn’t so unrequited… but the image of Kinsaku Baru will haunt you, in a wistful way not entirely unpleasant, and it will change you.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This