Recently we have seen the word “workation” a lot. The term is a combination of the words “work” and “vacation” and refers to working while travelling away from home. Since the Japanese government has been supporting workation in Japan, there has been a surge in the number of accommodation providers offering workation plans.
What’s more important during workation, work or holiday? It doesn’t matter what your focus is, it can be 50/50. It can take many forms, from a few days of paid time off to group training to refreshing yourself on the road.
We’ve put together some examples to show you what a work holiday really is, the benefits and what to look out for. If you’d like to try it out for yourself, we’ve also included 10 of the most popular cities for you to consider doing workation at.
What is Workation in Japan?
Workcation started in the US in the 2000s and has been spreading in Japan since around 2019 as a way to use up paid holidays and revitalise local communities. The idea is to make it easier for people in Japan to take paid holidays by allowing them to work while on holiday, rather than having to worry about their colleagues reaching out or having their work pile up.
However, a working holiday does not mean that you are allowed to work while on paid leave. The law requires that there is a clear distinction between “work leave” and “paid leave”, and that each type of leave is counted separately.
Even if you are on holiday, if you work, even for a short time, it is still working time, but there are often cases where you are not paid or asked to work. In order to improve this situation, some companies have started to formalise work holidays.
What are the different forms of workation in Japan?
Companies’ work holiday schemes
Japan Airlines introduced a system in 2017, where the workers participate in repairs to the Kumano Kodo while working in Shirahama Town, Wakayama Prefecture. They encourage individuals to adopt this system and create an environment where they can work and take time off, such as attending regular meetings from home or on the road.
Nomura Research Institute holds regular workcations in an old private office in Tokushima Prefecture. About five system engineers stay at the office for a month and interact with the residents after their normal work.
Facilities specifically designed for work trips
Considering the strength of Wi-fi and also security, new facilities have been created exclusively for workers.
Mitsubishi Estate opened “Workcation Site Nanki-Shirahama” in Wakayama Prefecture in 2019, which can accommodate up to 16 people per company for 100,000 yen per day.
Inns and other accommodation facilities are increasingly offering workcation plans. Many hotels and inns are now providing Wi-fi and other communication facilities, as well as offering substantial discounts for long-term stays and plans that do not include meals.
In order to encourage people to stay in Japan for a longer period of time and experience the good points of the region, and to increase immigration and human exchange, local governments are also taking part in workcations.
In Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture, Akizuno Garden has set up a teleworking environment in an old primary school building. During the workcation, participants can experience farming and exploring the area.
The benefits of workation in Japan
It’s easier to take long holidays
If you want to take a week off but can’t because you have a meeting to attend on one day, with workation, you can take a long trip by having a remote meeting during your holiday. You don’t want to work while you’re on holiday, but if you can get in touch with work when you need to, it’s easier to take time off. You can also turn random public holidays into major holidays.
Less stress and more refreshing
It’s refreshing to work in an unusual place, neither in the office nor at home. Even if you work the same hours as you do in the office, you can look out of the window and see greenery. It’s a different level of enjoyment. You can stay in a resort with your family, work in the morning when they are at the beach, hang out with your children in the afternoon and work again later in the evening.
New motivation and ideas
A change of environment can refresh us in more ways than we can imagine. Interacting with locals, sightseeing and other local experiences can lead to new ideas and motivation.
Things to pay attention to during workaction
Track and manage actual working hours
Check your company’s rules and regulations on how to calculate your working hours and wages during your vacation. The cost of travel and accommodation varies, depending on whether it is treated as a business travel expense or whether it should come out of your own pocket.
Choose a holiday destination with the facilities you need for work
Wi-fi is a must, but depending on if you prefer to work alone in your room or in a large workspace with a sense of freedom; or if you want a work table and printer, make sure to choose a holiday destination that has the equipment you need, according to how you want to work.
Beware of work-related data breaches and computer theft
Be careful about information leaks due to poor Wi-fi security in your accommodation and other places of travel, as well as the theft or lost storage of computers containing important data.
10 Best city in Japan for workation
1. Amami Oshima, Kagoshima Prefecture
Amami Oshima is about 2.5 hours to 3 hours by plane from Haneda / Narita. It is an island with abundant nature that has gained a lot of attention since its registration as a World Heritage Site. Experience yoga in the wilderness, and traditional dances, get in touch with the local people and history and enjoy your time here as if you were living on an island.
2. Taketomi Island, Okinawa Prefecture
It takes about 3 hours by direct flight from Haneda to Ishigaki Island. Taketomi Island is about 10 minutes by high-speed boat from there. It is for those who want to enjoy a long and leisurely stay on the island, away from the busy daily life.
3. Goto Islands, Nagasaki Prefecture
It takes about 2 hours from Haneda to Nagasaki Airport, then about 30 minutes from there to Goto Tsubaki Airport. Goto City has a church selected as a World Heritage Site and is said to be the most beautiful beach in Japan. The sea, mountains, and food are incredible here, and you can enjoy communication with the islanders. Although it is a remote island, more and more people are coming here for workation.
4. Nanki Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture
It takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Haneda to Nanki Shirahama Airport. The beautiful blue sea, the world heritage Kumano Kodo and the hot springs are all amazing to help you enjoy and relax.
5. Onna Village, Okinawa Prefecture
Less than 3 hours by plane from Haneda and about 1 hour by car from Naha Airport, you will arrive at Onna Village in Okinawa. Here, you can work while enjoying the extraordinary and resort feeling in front of the sea. By staying in the central part of the main island, you can easily move around the island, and on holidays, enjoy sightseeing tours on the main island and cafe tours in Okinawa.
6. Karuizawa, Nagano Prefecture
Convenient access from Tokyo by Shinkansen in about 1 hour and 10 minutes, Karuizawa is a resort area that you can easily go to. On holidays, you can enjoy shopping at outlets in addition to nature, so it is a spot for two birds with one stone. There are many villas in Karuizawa surrounded by mountains. The remote working environment is also in place, and there is a wide variety of restaurants and shops that are indispensable for long-term stays.
7. Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture
It takes about 45 minutes to get here by Shinkansen from Tokyo Station. It’s close to the city centre, so it’s a nice place to stay just in case you need to return suddenly if something goes wrong. You can enjoy the seafood while being healed by the hot springs at the Ogori-juku. During Spring, the Atami Plum blossoms are also very beautiful.
8. Furano / Biei, Hokkaido
From Tokyo, it takes about an hour and a half from Haneda to New Chitose Airport. Then, it takes about 2 hours by car from there to Furano. It is full of popular scenic spots such as the blue pond, “Biei Hill” which became famous for posters in commercials, and the road which is said to be “the most beautiful road in Japan”.
9. Seto Inland Sea, Ehime Prefecture
Autumn is the best season to go cycling. A great way to enjoy the islands of the Seto Inland Sea by cycling around the 60km Shimanami Kaido that connects Onomichi City in Hiroshima Prefecture and Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture. It takes about an hour and a half from Haneda to Hiroshima Airport. From there, it takes about 50 minutes by car to Onomichi, the entrance to the Shimanami Kaido.
10. Yatsugatake, Nagano Prefecture
About 2 hours by car from Tokyo or about 2 hours by limited express train from Shinjuku station, you will arrive at Yatsugatake. With mountains, forests and valleys, you can work in an open space while feeling the magnificent nature.
What do you think about workation? Will you visit one of these places for workation? With the popularity of workation and the increase of acceptance in this culture in Japan, we can see that both domestic and international companies have slowly adapted this into their working culture. Hope you will get to enjoy workation and be able to use this opportunity to discover the less well-known side of Japan.