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Tokyo Blues

Tech.

— Green-working Is Smarter

Financially supported by the Ministry of the Environment, national parks across Japan have improved their WiFi access and create actual workstations among the trees, dedicated to all the people who work remotely but who don’t want to confine themselves to the house.

The phenomenon has been named “workation”, meaning work + vacation. Although people are still wary of long-distance travel, the proposal to make parks outside the city more tech is a first step towards returning to movement and trips out of town, trying to support local economies.

“We want people to engage in remote work while relaxing in an environment away from their usual daily life,” says an administrator at the Setonaikai National Park hotel. And since the Japanese are the ones who believe in a good example, we recently also saw the environment minister, Shinjiro Koizumi, taking part in an important meeting comfortably seated at his workstation in the middle of a lush national park.

Design.

— Music to Touch

In Japan, specialised shops are witnessing the return of that musical medium that ruled until the 90s: the music cassette. This boom is driven by Generation Z’s nostalgics not wanting to resign to the disappearance of the mythical magnetic tape and all those “organic sounds” contrasting with the digitally modified tracks.

“The true quality of the sound, the retro vibe, and the packaging are what attract customers towards the cassette,” says Showa Jimbocho Tacto music store manager.

The data shows that the Japanese music market is already dominated by sales of CDs and vinyl, which with physical music contributes 68% of total recorded music revenues. The bottom line is that people want a tactile listening experience that allows for a more informed approach than just clicking on a recommended playlist via algorithm. Music still needs design, a physical experience at the same time beautiful and functional. And perhaps even the effort of rewinding the reels to listen to the music and the retro-futuristic quality of the tapes is a ritual to which, after 30 years, we still want to go back.

Lifestyle.

— The Drive towards a New Sociality

A hikikomori is a person who has physically withdrawn from social life. In recent decades, this social phenomenon has greatly expanded in Japan, reaching a number approaching ten million people. Historically, Japan has always been a collectivist society, with people living in extended families alongside multiple generations, but since the 1970s, Japanese people have grown increasingly individualistic.

The number of single-parent households has steadily increased to become the most popular housing choice nationwide. Until today. With the pandemic, it seems there has been a new turnaround: even the loneliest hearts and hardened singles are gearing up to live, once the pandemic will allow it, a more social, shared, and community-focused existence.

Journalist Manami Okazaki states, “Japanese youth still want their privacy, but after seeing the extremes of a life in solitude, being a hikikomori is no longer an aspiration for anyone.”