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Japan's countryside lures remote workers amid pandemic with old residences, fast internet

People are seen working in a historic building in Mima, Tokushima Prefecture, on March 11, 2021. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

MIMA, Tokushima -- Satellite offices, which previously attracted attention thanks to the Japanese government's regional revitalization measures, are now gaining new traction among workers and businesses wanting to move their bases to remote regions as teleworker numbers rapidly increase and workstyles diversify amid the pandemic.

    Tokushima Prefecture on the west Japan island of Shikoku has found success luring remote workers by utilizing its speedy fiber optic network and abundance of old houses.

    The 150-year-old Mori residence in the historical Udatsu section of the prefectural city of Mima, a popular tourist destination, is one structure that has drawn remote workers. The area around it is nationally designated as an important preservation district for historic buildings. The old folk house used to be vacant, but was renovated in 2017 and launched as a satellite office hub. Currently, four people including employees at G&C Consulting Co., headquartered in Kyoto's Nakagyo Ward, whose services include providing advice about regional revitalization, work in the residence.

    Employees at G&C Consulting Co. are seen working in the yard of the Mori residence in Mima, Tokushima Prefecture, on March 11, 2021. (Mainichi/Ryoichi Mochizuki)

    "I enjoy working in a historic building," said 28-year-old G&C Consulting employee Daichi Misu, with a smile. "I'm grateful that there is no commuter rush and no traffic jams. As I can take walks through sightseeing spots for refreshment, my work efficiency has improved."

    In addition to being rich in nature, Tokushima Prefecture has good optic network coverage, and there are many old folk houses that are not used. The prefecture has also actively promoted the area as a destination for remote workers, making it one of the most popular locations among Japan's 47 prefectures for companies to set up satellite offices. The Consumer Affairs Agency's Strategic Headquarters for Frontiers of Consumer Policy is located within the Tokushima Prefectural Government headquarters, making it the first national agency to have its functions relocated to a remote region since the Meiji era (1868-1912).

    The Tsurugi Municipal Government in the same prefecture, meanwhile, has been operating part of the mansion of a former village head as a coworking space. There are also plans to renovate a vacant former governor's house and convert it into a satellite office, and such moves have helped to vitalize the areas.

    (Japanese original by Ryoichi Mochizuki, Osaka Photo Department)

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