Stories From Coworking In Japan

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"From working in a 10' by 12' space with 11 other coworkers, to working above a restaurant (co-owned by the coworking owner) that only serves cilantro based dishes, and a coworking space that turns into a bar promptly at 6pm. I spent 77 days in Tokyo Japan, exploring their restaurants, bars, culture, and of course their ever growing freelance and entrepreneurial lifestyles." ~ Jimmi

Jimmi, a Boston based, freelance programmer/game developer spent 3 months living and coworking in Japan - Not knowing the language or having any cultural ties, he just threw himself into - One connection he was able to find; coworking!

Where do you start in a foreign country?

Prior to landing in Japan, referencing the Tokyo Coworking Wiki page was not very useful considering those were the few spaces to think of listing themselves on the English resources page. In reality, there are MANY more spaces in Japan.  When he arrived, Jimmi turned to the local space owners for recommendations. Luckily, it turns out that the coworking space owners in Japan are a friendly group who are happy to share resources and information on other spaces – even providing a map marking coworking spaces in Japan.

Coworking can be found in the strangest of places.  Think an empty concrete garage can't be a cool coworking space?

BEFORE:

Before

Open Source Cafe AFTER:

After

Full library on the left:

Library

Like coworking space in the US, spaces in Japan were very focused on creating a strong community, regularly hosting social, networking and professional events.  Open Source Cafe even featured a special event with Jimmi to share his experience as a freelancer in America:

Coworking in America

The Functions of Facebook

Surprisingly, most communication by coworking spaces is done through Facebook - some spaces even use their Facebook pages in lieu of a website.  One of the spaces, just a few blocks from where Jimmi was living, used their Facebook page to announce daily opening times, which just so happened to be whenever the space manager made his way in for the day.  Also, Facebook is treated much like Linked In is here.  Unlike people in the US, Japanese people 'friend' each other from the smallest of interactions, so needless to say,' Jimmi made a ton of new Facebook friends over the last 3 months - many of which he actually formed lasting relationships with.

Redefining the Business Card

He also found the use of business cards unique - beyond professional settings, business cards are passed regularly in casual settings as a standard form of introduction ... So, 'when in Rome,' Jimmi made up some temporary cards before he had more time to print up a fresh batch of business cards to hand out.  At first, he printed the cards completely in Japanese but quickly found that people were more excited to receive cards with the English language on them, so he had to revise.

Jimmi Jimmie2

Now check out Jelly Jelly Cafe (taken from the term Jelly meaning, a pop up coworking group/space) A focus on work and play - Jelly Jelly Cafe, a coworking space during the day - breaks promptly 6PM when it transforms into a bar! Or Pax  a coworking space situated directly above the Paxi House, owned by the same man, a restaurant that serves only cilantro based dishes! Why?  Because he thought the novelty of it would be a hit, and sure enough, it is!

Food Celebration

Its obvious that food and drink are a common component of most coworking spaces in Japan, in one form or another.  No need to be fancy, in fac,t many owners frequently hop over to the nearest grocery store to stock up on inventory selling cans of Pringles and soda.  As far as beer is concerned, its sold, its consumed ... the legal logistics are still a bit fuzzy.

Hotspot Hussle

Outside of hitting up many of the coworking spaces over there, and as you can imagine, there were tons of restaurants and sites for Jimmi to visit - but working on the go proved to be tricky with regard to hotspot access.  Jimmi discovered there were rarely, if any open networks. When he was able to find one, it would often require him to crouch outside of a restaurant to check email or hang out in a stairwell for a few minutes to pick up a signal he found weeks ago.

Coworking - The Melting Pot of Cultures

It's amazing how coworking functions across borders ... what was most incredible to hear about was how coworking allowed Jimmi to meet people he connected with easily, make friends to explore the city and nightlife with and most of all, to find one of the few cross cultural overlaps where the Japanese and American societies met, creating a natural bond!

Three months, dozens of coworking spaces and TONS of stories to tell - We're excited to haven Jimmi back with us and as you can see, they'll miss him too - His going away dinner in Japan!  Welcome back Jimmi!

Some more fun:

 

About the Author: Evona Niewiadomska is the Events and Digital Media Manager at Workbar.  As of January 2013 she is an independent Digital Media & Design Creative with a specialty for infographic design and social media strategy.  Check out her website, evonawiktoria.com or contact her via email evona.wiktoria@gmail.com or twitter @evonawiktoria.

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