Future Japan Kamakura

Escaping The Megalopolis

You could say that COVID was the straw that broke the camels back, but for the past few years, we’d been considering leaving Tokyo. The question had always been “where do we move?”, to which we never had a good answer.

The tipping point came after spending the past 6 months crammed into a small studio apartment 23 hours a day with nary a wall to divide us or the zoom calls we needed to carry out for work. In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t a big problem but we knew it was time for a change of scene.

COVID narrowed our options to the point where staying Japan became the only answer. This was no bad thing since, despite the country’s lacklustre response to the crisis, Japan certainly isn’t fairing as badly as other parts of the world and the past 7 years living here have been overwhelmingly positive.

Kamakura soon became the clear choice since we wanted to remain within an hour of the capital whilst being able to afford somewhere with more space and a lot more greenery. We found a house to rent within a lush green valley 25 minutes walk from the train station.

The past month has been a whirlwind of organisation, packing, and unpacking but we made it! We’ve been here two weeks but already I’m feeling the positive effects of clean air, space, light, nature, and an absence of commercial bustle that is hard to avoid in a metropolis.

After 15 years living in megacities (London, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Tokyo) it feels like I’m coming full circle back to a city of a similar size to the one I grew up in. Despite the different cultural context, it feels comfortable and familiar. I could repeat cliché’s about country-folk being friendlier and less self-absorbed, but it’s true!

I look forward to sharing more of Kamakura in the future.


Postscript

My wife and I both work in the tech industry and no doubt it is a privilege to be able to up-sticks and move with a month’s notice. Some people might call this ‘urban flight‘ but I see it as an acceleration of an inevitable trend as cities become more expensive and less habitable while faster internet connectivity has made working from home viable.

The debate about whether working in an office is more productive or conducive to serendipitous breakthroughs seems dated at this point. There are undoubtedly times when getting a team together in the same room is advantageous, but as most knowledge workers will attest to, the 21st-century open-plan office is about as conducive to focused work as sitting in the middle of Grand Central Station.

The concentration of power and money in big cities may continue for a while post-COVID but with our ecological systems on the brink of collapse, I’m not sure this is sustainable. I hope that the rest of my life will be characterised by a reversal in the global tide of migration into the cities and back towards the areas that the previous generation abandoned. A brighter future seems to rest in smaller communities where the focus is on supporting each other rather than getting rich quick.

Author

Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Tokyo. Prior to this, he lived in China and still returns frequently to continue exploring this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

6 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Tiago says:

    Totally agree with the postscript. I’m also working in tech and office work (mostly) doesn’t make sense to me. We’ve been so much more productive and effective, but, it is “funny” to see managers trying to get people to come back. When there aren’t people to “manage” it seems that some jobs are irrelevant, to be honest. These are the people that want to fight the future of the new working in my view.

    Anyway, when I visited Japan for 3 weeks, having visited Kamakura, that city was always my top favourite where I could live and grow old. Even though there are tourists, it was still quite okay, I think. Sea at the front and mountains at the back, what’s not to love?

    I wish you lots of luck in your new place!

    1. David says:

      Cheers Tiago, it will be interesting to see what Kamakura is like if/when the tourists return. Aside from the economic impact, I suspect the locals are enjoying the break from having to deal with the pesky foreigners!

      I suspect you are right about middle-management; for people whose jobs were to sit in meetings all day, it’s going to be harder for them to justify their existence now that there is no work to be “performed” any more. It will be fascinating to see what the situation looks like in another 1-2 years.

  2. David says:

    Nice David!
    You’re not alone man Fanny and I have been looking at actual property…
    I look forward to hearing more about the Japanese countryside 🙂

    D

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