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Tokyoites leaving bustle behind as pandemic proves catalyst for change

47 Comments
By Su Xincheng

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Can you imagine how awesome it would be if this led to the repopulation of small towns and greater investment countryside? Japan could become a frontrunner in a local business revolution... or not. Probably not.

38 ( +38 / -0 )

My dream life in Japan would actually be working remotely while living in the countryside in an old Japanese house where I could do every sport imaginable right at my doorstep, grow my own food, and have the time and energy to interact with my neighbors living several feet away instead of mere inches away and separated by thin plywood. If teleworking does (hopefully) stick in Japan, I hope people decide to move back to the countryside and decongest cities. Not only will it help more remote places attract more investment, it will help people live better lives instead of living from a box-sized home to a box-sized workspace on a daily basis.

31 ( +31 / -0 )

We'll see two big shifts: one away from the cities, and one to business districts as redundant office space is converted to residential, and maybe a third - bargain hunters and the 'new poor' escaping to what's left in between.

What's left won't be pretty so long as tax regulations encourage owners to leave derelict buildings intact, and rewards developers for building on 'green' virgin plots rather than redeveloping existing sites.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Unless you're in party mode, living in central Toyo is just dumb.

19 ( +23 / -4 )

Unfortunately, as tempting as it sounds and attractive too, once the pandemic is forgotten by everyone, which will be within a couple of weeks of coming up with a vaccine, everyone will just return to their prepandemic live styles, so the urban areas will continue to grow.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

I would love to live in IZU or on top of a mountain if I can work remotely. IZU Dreaming.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Once life gets back to normal, Tanaka-san and Suzuki-san will go back to live in their lunch boxes in Shibuya and Shinjuku and ride crowded trains every morning.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

It's up to individual thinking to make it happen, if you don't like what's on TV you change the channel life is the same don't like it change it, it's only you who can decide what life your going to live.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Japan had a chance to change after their 3/11 disaster but they didn't. Life and businesses returned to "normal." Despite knowing that tsunamis are a part of Japanese life, surfer guy bought a house on the beach; life returned to normal. I imagine the same will be for this pandemic. The old farts who still control the country will stick to their old "normal" ways. I think one good indicator of change will be to keep an eye on whether Japan will go the way of PDF digital signatures and get rid of their hanko system. If so, this will be a major step toward decentralizing the work place.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Can you imagine how awesome it would be if this led to the repopulation of small towns and greater investment countryside? Japan could become a frontrunner in a local business revolution... or not. Probably not.

It would be awesome! But I'm not holding my breath.

My dream life in Japan would actually be working remotely while living in the countryside in an old Japanese house where I could do every sport imaginable right at my doorstep, grow my own food, and have the time and energy to interact with my neighbors living several feet away instead of mere inches away and separated by thin plywood.

Same here.

If teleworking does (hopefully) stick in Japan, I hope people decide to move back to the countryside and decongest cities. Not only will it help more remote places attract more investment, it will help people live better lives instead of living from a box-sized home to a box-sized workspace on a daily basis.

agree 100%

 The old farts who still control the country will stick to their old "normal" ways. I think one good indicator of change will be to keep an eye on whether Japan will go the way of PDF digital signatures and get rid of their hanko system. If so, this will be a major step toward decentralizing the work place.

excellent point

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I worked and lived in Tokyo long time but I did not like life in Tokyo and people there. They are living a hard life to survive in a big city. People are selfish and unfriendly. Their hands are full taking care of themselves and do not have room to care others. Distances to other people are big. Even brothers and sisters and relatives though they live in the same Tokyo, they do not have close relationship. Tokyo is not a civilized place to live.

14 ( +15 / -1 )

@vanity maybe I wouldn't go as far as saying Tokyo isn't civilized, but I would be lying if I said its people weren't cold. I'm in Itabashi, a bit more on the outskirts, and the people there have are and have always been kind, for the most part. If you're going to live in Tokyo, I suggest you pick somewhere a bit out of the way from the hustle and bustle.

Really cool reading about everyone's dream living situation. Makes me think about my own...

9 ( +9 / -0 )

It all sounds so nice, that is until one realises that living in most of these areas requires personal transportation to do the tiniest of things.

Want to go get a drink at the convenience store, get on your bicycle ride for 10 to 20 min or get in the car and drive there.

Rain, show etc...will make taking the bicycle a pain so more cars, then the small suburb roads will be even more fun to drive (yes sarcasm).

Been there done that, sorry no thanks.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

vanityofvanities agree 100%

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Until the public schools introduce computing as a subject into the curriculum,then freedom to live in the countryside won’t be much of an option...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@vanityofvanities

Not sure where you lived in Tokyo but I have lived many years in North East working class neighbourhood (shitamachi) and recently move to another shitamachi neighbourhood.

I have made far more friends had good neighbours friendly helpful neighbourhood associations than the close minded nothing new follow the old rules and the "you people are not from here" attitude we had living in the countryside/suburbs.

Tokyo is not a single place,it is 23 cities sure Chuo, Minato, Shinjuku,etc... Are not places to live if you want to be social with neighbours, if that is what you want then Adachi, Kita, Katsushita, sumida, Taito, etc...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@kurisupisu

Computers, try more like school buses first!

When I was living in the Suburbs it was to far for my the primary school children to walk, even the public bus stop was far and at best 4 an hour. I and many parents had to drive their children to school and pick them up. Many actually used scooters to bring 6,7,8 year old children to school.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Anyone ever ask why most people living in the suburbs have a driver's licence and most families have more than one car (usually a full size and one or to Kei cars)?

Because everything is far, public buses are far a few between at non rush hour and stop service early.

My 2 adult Children living in Tokyo don't drive and gave no interest is doing so they don't even have a license. But all their former university friends from outside Tokyo this includes Saitama,Chiba, Kanagawa, and further all drive all have cars.

So as I found out it was cheaper housing but in the end I needed a car and that cost, even a good used car needed a loan, insurance, taxes, gas, tires, etc... In the end monthly cost came to the same as living in Tokyo (yes the living space was larger) and everything had to be planned out well in advance and if by any chance you forgot to pick something up, it meant getting back in the car and driving to the nearest store/conbini.

In Tokyo I can walk out of my place and I have the choice of 3 conbini and 2 supermarkets in less than 5 minutes walk.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

So the crowded 40min morning commute will be commuted to 2hrs?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yeah I live in Tokyo, not central, but I don’t consider people to be cold and selfish. Without understanding what people are going through it seems very unfair to use those labels. I do think they may come across that way sometimes but Tokyo can be a pretty unforgiving place to live.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I worked and lived in Tokyo long time but I did not like life in Tokyo and people there.

I have lived in Tokyo in Setagaya for 13 years and it does not grow on me. I NEVER say or have said good morning or hello by anyone except my immediate neighbor and gym ojisan in spite of being in a residential neighborhood. If I walk down a sidewalk or street I usually try to give way to other persons but as a gaijin who should know my place it happens frequently that usually men will actually change paths to come at me head on. Perhaps this is my imagination? I asked my friend who just visited from Okinawa and he was immediately surprised at how pushy and rude persons are on the subway even if it is not crowded. Prior to Tokyo I lived in Osaka and Kobe for 5 years and I cannot recall any memory of similar constant rude and chilling cold behavior. So, if you have a different experience in Tokyo then that is great, but for me it is a place that I moved to for work and will be happy to leave.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I lived in Japan in countryside for a few years, but I didn’t like it.

Even I am not young anymore, I moved back to Tokyo and I am very happy here.

I need a lot of people around me, the noise and the scent of Tokyo.

I disagree with Vanityofvanities.

The people in Tokyo are very very nice to me. Everywhere I am, and everywhere I go they are open and helpful.

In the countryside I lived before, the people there are not used to foreigners and they always kept distance to me. They are too shy and foreigners looks suspicious for them.

In Tokyo, it is completely different. People are open and they like to talk to me.

I feel home here, and that is important.

In the countryside I felt lonely and depressed.

But the good thing in the countryside are the small Izakayas, run by Mom and Pop since many generations.

But luckily I found similar places also here in Tokyo.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@Reckless

You live in what may be the snobbiest neighbourhood in all of Tokyo 23 wards.

I will avoid Setagaya at every chance I get.

Dredded place!

Move to some place more working class .

Setagaya people don't even accept other Japanese not from the area or money.

Adachi,Arakawa, Taito, Sumida,Edogawa,,Kita, etc....

These are great places. Now that said, if you go live near Ueno park, Asakusa, or other similar places then don't expect to much ,stay away from those type of place and Shitamachi areas are great.

I just moved 6 months ago to a different shitamachi area, everyone says hi, all my neighbours offered help settling in gave advice on local trash pickup ( how late I can be putting it out,etc..) best stores for vegetables, or where has the better prices for meat etc...

Shitamachi is the way to go if you live in Tokyo .

5 ( +7 / -2 )

No real change between countries about their capital. All depends if you have a family or not first, then if your work allows telework or not.

People tend to move much more so neighbor relations arr becoming more than secondary and superficial at best. Nothing new.

Demography also starts to make real estate prices drop allowing more choice.

Living an hour from downtown has never been a problem for me. I prefer having a garden than to live in a rabbit cage but that's not in Japan where weather negates most of the year that positive point about one's place.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am hoping to get my hands on some properties outside of Tokyo before the mass exodus begins.

It really seems like at least 1/3 of workers will not go back to daily work in Tokyo office buildings after this is done. Probably even more the longer this lasts.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

With this new normal of remote working in mind, I moved two weeks ago from a very modern three-year-old 21st floor tower mansion eight minutes by train from Tokyo Station to an equally modern three-year-old 7th floor apartment in Saitama 34 minutes to Tokyo Station. Positives: Less city noise (traffic, construction, endless sirens from fire and police); cleaner air (can smell it in the air-dried clothes); rent (40% less for an apartment that is 15% smaller); cheaper gym membership. Negatives: everything in Tokyo much further away; countless great restaurants no longer nearby; temperature about a degree hotter, less of a cooling breeze.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I've freelanced in the countryside and love it. I do lots of outdoor stuff, we grow some of our own food, and have a big beautiful house. Where we live is 5-6C cooler than the city and gets lots of pretty snow in winter.

The comments about cars are spot on. Every adult even in semi-inaka needs a car and they cost a lot of money to run. I think most people underestimate or are in denial about the full cost of car ownership. If you are a couple, two cheap second-hand cars even can easily cost you a million yen a year when you run the numbers. That's with low purchase prices and free parking.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I sold the mansion years ago and moved out to the country. Now I got my own food supply, went to horse and rarely have a need for a car, we use solar powered bikes and our own energy. Electronic power is now fully solar but available if needed, water is ground and we use rain water tank for crops, life is not bad. Plenty of wood for heat and cooking low gas costs, low electronic costs, not bad.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@rgcivilian1

If I was going to do all that, I would move back to Canada, more space cheaper, lower medical cost.

Don't get coming to a country with limited space and going off grid.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

my dream was to get out of Sapporo (its cityness and its climate), and move further south, somewhere warmer, and without snow.... a small town next to the ocean, somewhere with cheap real-estate, handy to a big city for the occcasional visit for the things it offers. my Guardian Angel led me 'by chance', to Onjuku, on the Bōsō, which checked every box on the list of criteria. suits me anyway.....

(´ ▽`).。o♡

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@jiji Xx

Where by any definition is Bōsō "handy to a big city for the occcasional visit".

As for warmer sure compared to Sapporo but seriously cold wind swept wet writer, heavy rains in rainy season and worse in typhoon season. Did 6 month there it was like a prison sentence.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I understand the benefits of teleworking.

But my biggest worry is to start setting rigid ethics that plague there workplace to them crawl it's way into digital meetings.

It would be a nightmare honestly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why not work from home, when you can reclaim both your sanity and 10 hours a week of time? Just commuting for most people adds the equivalent of a week per month to their schedules.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My dream life in Japan would actually be working remotely while living in the countryside in an old Japanese house where I could do every sport imaginable right at my doorstep, grow my own food, and have the time and energy to interact with my neighbors living several feet away instead of mere inches away and separated by thin plywood.

I'm currently renting an older Japanese home in the countryside (Kumagaya), growing my own veggies, but I'm not talking to my neighbors much. Its a nice lifestyle, but recently the rain and mosquitos make working in the garden or playing sports a distant fantasy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Unless you're in party mode, living in central Toyo is just dumb.

Nope. I’m rarely in party mode these days. Museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, izakaya, live events, expos etc. are more my thing.

Tokyo - accept no substitutes if you’re into these dumb things.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

“Tokyo is not a civilized place to live.”

Completely agree

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Christopher Glen

“Tokyo is not a civilized place to live.”

Really? Low crime,safe streets, polite people, nice neighbours, clean streets,great safe efficient public transportation, easy shopping.

Name one major city outside Japan with all that!

Name a mind size city (note the city part). That is even close to the same .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The article tittle is a bit strange.

I highly doubt many of those leaving to the suburbs are actually from Tokyo.

Few if any actually born and raised in Tokyo are going to do any thing of the sort.

It is mostly new arrivals who originally came from the countryside/suburbs that are leaving.

I don't foresee anyone born and raised in places like Setagaya moving out even less the shitamachi Edo-ko .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For the guy mentioned at the start of the story, living by the sea and surfing every day are certainly advantages. But he is probably single. If he had a family, it might be a different matter.

 There is actually a reverse trend for older people to move back into high-rise apartments in urban centers. That’s why all those Mori projects are going up. There is a huge one being built now in Nishi-Azabu which will be a small community. And the athletes village for the Olympics will be converted into apartments and they have all been sold.

Wealthy older people want to come in from the suburbs and live in these communities where they have everything they need. There are supermarkets, medical clinics and so on. Serviced apartments like Oakwood also fill this need.

For other people, the city offers superb restaurants, museums, nightlife, sports facilities, parks, cinemas, etc, etc.

 I think it would be a shame if office buildings in places like Marunouchi and Otemachi emptied out. Think of the thousands of restaurants, cafes and lunch vendors that service these buildings. They would go bust. Business districts are the heart of a city. Seeing them empty is depressing, like empty hotels, airports and theme parks. I saw a photo of Melbourne’s city center last week. It looked like a ghost town.

 Teleworking will suit some but it’s not for everyone (including me). I like the city but I also enjoy weekend visits out of Tokyo. And while I wish I had a bigger apartment, I'm content.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If I'd been expected to live and work in Tokyo for any length of time, I don't think I'd still be here.

The concrete jungle/tokyo sabaku is not for me.

It tickled me to read that I'm more or less living the dream life of several posters, mutatis mutandi. Out in the sticks working from home, clean, fresh air, grow my own veggies, friendly with the neighbours. I prefer my nice reasonably modern house to a much more difficult to keep clean and roach-free old Japanese-style house, and the lack of public transport (20 minute walk to the nearest station) means that when my driver/husband isn't available I get around most of the time on my bike; the regular exercise, added to long daily walks with the dogs, keeps me fit.

As for Few if any actually born and raised in Tokyo opting to leave the big city, it was Mr cleo, born and raised in Shibuya, who first suggested we move here; I can't imagine him ever wanting to move back.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@cleo

Why is it that some people always think pointing out the exception means anything.

30 years in Shitamachi area raised 2 , all our friends are shitamachi all my children's friends shitamachi none would leave, most building double kitchen houses as is the very big standard around real Tokyo.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Why is it that some people always think pointing out the exception means anything.

It just shows that not everyone fits what passes as the standard mould in your experience.

The MiL has lived all her married life in Tokyo, would never dream of moving; she was shocked and appalled when she heard where we were moving to. But she doesn't fit the mould, either; she was born and raised in deepest darkest Ibaraki.

No point getting upset about people having a different view. If you and your family and your friends and your children's friends are all happy living in shitamachi, that's fine. It's not for me, though.

Invalid CSRF

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@cleo

My problem is with the article. Poorly researched.

One example no background on where this guy is from or if he is originally from Tokyo.

I know a few surfers in Tokyo all but one is not originally from Tokyo.

My son and Daughter's friends from University that originally came from outside Tokyo have or are trying to move back closer to where they are from.

But as Edo-ko neither my children nor any of their original tokyoites would even care to.

Mr. Cleo drives not one of my 2 adult children even have a license, nor do any of their Tokyoites friends they see no need, this alone makes moving anywhere without good public transportation a problem.

I wish one of them would get a driver's license because I am getting tired of driving them and their friends everywhere (when no public transportation or they miss the last train). I know I could say no but my daughter knows just how to butter up Papa.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If people left the cities for the country side, this would start a revitalization of the country and perhaps enhance the national economy for the better.

For me, I love the sea of Japan and Ishikawa and will never leave here. I get stress when I visit Osaka for shopping even for just a few hours. The largest cities I enjoy are Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Nagano.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He is probably one lucky IT worker, most can't even move. If the head office is in Tokyo then they would want to see your smile at least once or twice a week just to keep an eye on you and make sure you know who your boss is, especially if you are a woman.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

AntiquesavingJuly 27  09:05 am JST

It all sounds so nice, that is until one realises that living in most of these areas requires personal transportation to do the tiniest of things.

Want to go get a drink at the convenience store, get on your bicycle ride for 10 to 20 min or get in the car and drive there.

Rain, show etc...will make taking the bicycle a pain so more cars, then the small suburb roads will be even more fun to drive (yes sarcasm).

If your idea of a good life is being able to walk to buy a sugar drink from a kombini, the countryside is definitely not for you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If your idea of a good life is being able to walk to buy a sugar drink from a kombini, the countryside is definitely not for you.

I personally prefer to live where I can walk/cycle/train and not need a car.

I couldn’t care less about a sugary drink.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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