Can the Shonan summertime party place work as an office?

SoraNews24 has a regular office in downtown Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood, but on any given day we’ve got a lot of people working remotely as well, whether in the field or telecommuting from home. So it wasn’t such a shock when we woke up and had an early-morning message from our coworker Seiji Nakazawa which said:

“Gonna be working from the house today.”

No, the surprise came a little later when Seiji sent us this working-from-the-house snapshot he took.

For a moment, we thought Seiji must be absolutely rolling in cash from his recent idol lyric-writing gig, because we don’t remember him owning beach-front property. But it turns out Seiji’s luxurious working-from-the-house environment isn’t a result of newfound wealth, but good old-fashioned wordplay.

See, when summer rolls around in Japan, they build temporary restaurants on the beaches. They serve food, but they’re especially popular as places to relax in the shade and have a drink, and some also offer locker and shower facilities. Basically, they’re like a little home-away-from-home for day trippers, and they’re called umi no ie, which means “beach houses,” and that’s the kind of house Seiji was working from this day.

Not every beach in Japan has umi no ie, but in the Tokyo area, you can find them every summer on the Shonan coast, as the southern-facing shore of Kanagawa Prefecture is called. In particular, there’s a long row of umi no ie near Katase Enoshima Station.

Katase Enoshima, as luck would have it, is on the Odakyu train line network, and just about an hour south from Shinjuku. So it was an especially tempting detour for Seiji as he rode the train towards the SoraNews24 office, and after giving it some thought, he couldn’t find any good reason to try to fight said temptation.

Pretty much as soon as he stepped out of the station, he was greeted with coastal scenery and the scent of sea breezes. After exiting the ticket gates, you’re only about a block away from the beach, and Seiji started looking for an umi no ie to do some teleworking from.

Simpler umi no ie have interiors and furniture that’s essentially just wooden planks, maybe with a little bit of colorful paint. They’re only in business during the summer, after all, so once the season’s done they get dismantled. Because of Shonan’s fashionable atmosphere, though, you can find some fancier examples mixed in at the Enoshima beach, and Seiji decided to saunter into one of them.

OK, maybe “saunter” isn’t the right word. Especially on the weekends, umi no ie have a reputation as party places. The kind of fun, energetic get-togethers that they make beer and sunscreen commercials about. Basically, the kind of parties that Seiji, as someone who spent the first few decades of his life as a painfully shy guy, doesn’t have much first-hand experience with, and so he wondered if he’d get strange looks from the staff and other customers.

His fears turned out to be entirely unfounded though. No one batted an eye when, after taking a seat and ordering some sparkling mineral water, he pulled out his laptop and started typing away. Part of that might be due to the fact that it was a weekday afternoon, when business tends to be pretty slow at umi no ie and using a sofa seat all by himself wasn’t an issue, but in any case the wait staff was friendly and accommodating.

So as he sat there, listening to the sound of the waves and feeling the wind gently tussling his hair, he thought to himself…

“This is amazing. Why didn’t I do this years ago?”

Even with the heat wave Japan is going through, Seiji felt cool and comfortable. Umi no Ie are designed so that their back half (which faces the sea) is as open as possible, and generally have solid wooden roofs, so between the shade and the wind he was perfectly comfortable even without any air conditioning. With a laptop and smartphone for tethering, he was ready to get to work…kind of.

As luxurious and stylish as it feels, there are a couple of things to be aware of if you’re going to telework from an umi no ie. First, that beautiful scenery can be a double-edged sword. It definitely had Seiji feeling all sorts of positive vibes, which is always a plus for creative work like writing. That said, there’s also the tendency to stare off at the horizon and just, like, let your mind wander, dude, without trying to force your thoughts into things like “deadlines,” “productivity,” or “doing anything my boss told me I’m supposed to do today.”

▼ Today’s article: The top five sandcastle ideas I had while zoning out in an umi no ie

Issue #2: The background music, specifically the volume. Umi no ie blur the line between a cafe and a bar, so a lot of them really want to cultivate a lively, party-like atmosphere, and that often means loud music. The volume specially tends to get turned up on weekends and Friday nights, but some pump the party tunes even on weekday afternoons. That can make it hard to concentrate on work if you’ve got to get down to fine-point details.

It’s also important to make sure you fully charge any necessary devices before you show up at an umi no ie to do some teleworking. While some offer smartphone charging services, in general you’re not going to find power outlets at every seat like you would at a permanent brick-and-mortar cafe.

▼ Seiji eventually moved to a branch of Hoshino Coffee to finish the second half of his shift.

Taking all that into consideration, an umi no ie might not be the best choice for a full-day of work if you’re on a tight schedule and really need to hit some hard productivity targets. But as a place to emotionally recharge while getting some free-form concept brainstorming done?

Like Seiji said, it’s something he should have tried years ago.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]