Instead of working from home, let’s find out what it’s like to work in a Japanese “beach house”.
Can the Shonan Summer Fairground function as an office?
SoraNews24 has a regular office in the Shinjuku area of downtown Tokyo, but many people work remotely every day, either in the field or from home. So it wasn’t such a big shock when we woke up and got an early morning text from our colleague Seiji Nakazawa what said:
“I’m going to work from home today.”
No, the surprise came a little later than Seiji sent us this snap he took from home.
For a moment we thought Seiji must be making absolute cash from his last idol gig as a songwriter because we don’t remember him owning a beachfront property. But it turns out that Seiji’s luxurious work environment isn’t the result of newfound wealth, but rather good old-fashioned pun.
You see, when summer rolls around in Japan, they build makeshift restaurants on the beaches. They serve food but are particularly popular for relaxing in the shade and having a drink, and some also offer lockers and showers. Basically, they’re like little homes for day trippers, and they’re called umi no iewhich does ______________ mean “beach houses”, and that’s the kind of house Seiji worked in from that day on.
Not every beach in Japan has umi no ie, but in the Tokyo area you can find them every summer on the Schonan coast, as the south-facing shore of Kanagawa Prefecture is called. In particular, there is a long line of umi no ie nearby Katase Enoshima Station.
As luck would have it, Katase Enoshima is on the Odakyu Railway network and only about an hour south of Shinjuku. So, taking the train to the SoraNews24 office was a particularly tempting detour for Seiji, and after thinking about it, he couldn’t find a good reason to fight that temptation.
As soon as he left the station, he was greeted by the coastal landscape and the scent of the sea breeze. After exiting the ticket booths, you’re only about a block from the beach, and Seiji began looking for an umi no ie to telecommute from.
Simple umi no ie have interiors and furniture that are essentially just planks of wood, maybe with a bit of bright paint. After all, they are only in operation in the summer and are dismantled again after the season. However, due to Shonan’s fashionable vibe, some fancier specimens can be found at Enoshima Beach, and Seiji decided to stroll into one of them.
Okay, maybe “stroll” isn’t the right word. Especially on the weekends, umi no ie are considered party venues. The kind of fun, high-energy get-togethers they do beer and sunscreen commercials about. Basically the kind of parties that Seiji, as someone who’s spent the first few decades of his life as an extremely shy guy, doesn’t have much first-hand experience with, so he wondered if he’d get weird looks from their co-workers and other customers.
However, his fears turned out to be completely unfounded. No one batted an eyelid when, after taking a seat and ordering a sparkling mineral water, he pulled out his laptop and started typing. That may be partly because it was on a midweek afternoon when umi no ie is doing rather poor business and sitting alone on a sofa wasn’t a problem, but in any case the staff were friendly and courteous.
So, as he sat listening to the sound of the waves and the wind caressing his hair, he thought to himself…
“That’s great. Why didn’t I do this years ago?”
Despite the heat wave Japan is going through, Seiji felt cool and comfortable. Umi no Ie are designed with their back half (which faces the sea) as open as possible and generally have solid wooden roofs so he was perfectly comfortable between the shade and the wind even without air conditioning. With a laptop and a smartphone to tether, he was ready to get to work… sort of.
As luxurious and stylish as it feels, there are a few things to consider when going from an umi no ie to telecommuting. First, this beautiful scenery can be a double-edged sword. Seiji was definitely feeling all sorts of positive vibes, which is always a plus for creative work like writing. That said, there’s also a tendency to stare at the horizon and just let your mind wander, dude, without trying to put your mind into things like “schedules,” “productivity,” or “everything my boss does to me.” said “to force I should do today.”
▼ Today’s article: The top five sandcastle ideas I came up with when I turned away in an umi noie
Problem #2: The background music, especially the volume. Umi no ie blur the line between cafe and bar, so many of them really want to maintain a lively, party-like atmosphere, and that often means loud music. Volumes are cranked up especially on weekends and Friday nights, but some pump out the party tunes even on weekday afternoons. This can make it difficult to focus on the work when it comes to the smallest details.
It’s also important to ensure you fully charge any required devices before showing up at an umi no ie to do some teleworking. While some offer smartphone charging services, you generally won’t find outlets at every seat like you would at a permanent coffee shop.
▼ Seiji eventually transferred to a Hoshino Coffee branch to finish the second half of his shift.
With all of that in mind, an umi no ie might not be the best choice for a full day’s work if you’re on a tight schedule and really need to hit some tough productivity goals. But as a place to emotionally recharge while brainstorming free-form concepts?
As Seiji said, it’s something he should have tried years ago.