July 10, 2016

exploring Tokyo workspaces

I’ve visited six open workspaces in Tokyo in the past two days with the goal of immersing myself in the freelance and tech culture here. I also want to find a space to stay at regularly to work and to study.

Check out my map and read below for my first impressions.

PoRTAL

Quick visit here. It’s a cozy space, calm. There was no reception, so I didn’t do much beyond walk about and check the meeting board. As it was late in the day, most people were working or wrapping up. The location is easy to access in busy Shibuya, with reasonable pricing.

Connecting the Dots

Another Shibuya location, small yet busy. There’s a very helpful job posting board with “give” and “take” sections, depending on whether you’re looking for help or offering services. There was no reception and everybody was working, but I did notice that there were multiple conversations in English. I think I would come back to this location to make new contacts on occassion, but I don’t see myself going regularly.

The Hive Jinnan

North of the main Shibuya bustle in the trendy Jinnan neighborhood, The Hive was a pleasant find. The manager grew up in Houston, TX – so communication was very easy for me. Overall, this might be the best location for foriegners in Tokyo. Space, however, is limited. The Indian hotels startup, OYO, has rented out most of the office space for the time being.

I do plan on getting a “cafe” membership here.

CO-BA Shibuya

Another very nice and busy coworking space. It’s just south of the main Shibuya junction, maybe a 10 minute walk. CO-BA felt traditional in some ways ( slippers at the door, for example ) in a way I didn’t sense at the other spaces I visited. I imagine it may feel comfortable for a Japanese person. I got the sense that it’s best for a more established small firm than for an individual. The staff is bilingual and very nice.

AWS Loft

This space had the best view of the locations I visited. But it was more difficult for me to commute. I left my hotel in Nihimbashi to arrive around 10AM; for some reason, I found the station at Meguro more confusing than any other I’ve passed through. The building, too, was tricky to enter, but this may be because it was the first large office building I had visited and I wasn’t used to the reception pattern.

Unfortunately, the AWS Loft left me with the strongest impression of being an outsider. I think it’s the Amazon culture in general. The space was structured like a distribution center, all the way to the elevator bays decorated like cardboard shipping boxes. The layout, too, was very expansive an alienating. It felt like a typical antisocial coder space, except that even if I tried to communicate my Japanese isn’t strong at all.

Needless to say, I didn’t like this space and don’t plan to return.

Yahoo Lodge

After seeing AWS Loft, I expected the Yahoo Lodge to be much the same. It’s very different; people actually collaborate. Upon entering, the reception explained to me that the space is for collaboration, not coworking. I think this emphasis makes it much more attractive – despite not having many English-speakers. There’s an open cafeteria, which gives the whole space the feel of a college breakroom.

The young man at the reception was also very helpful signing me in, which involved getting a Yahoo.jp account. He spoke broken English, but still an improvement on my broken Japanese. I’m very greatful for his help.

I think I will come back to this location. I want to do so with a Japanese speaking collaborator, however, so that I can have an easier time meeting people.

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