*Note that during the pandemic, many of these co-working spaces have been changing their hours, limiting the number of users, adding or altering rules etc. Make sure to check their website and/or social media to stay up to date.
Let’s talk about the huge elephant in the tiny room – Japanese apartments are that tiny room and sorry, but you are the elephant. Working from home is challenging even in a nice big house, because you might need some change of scenery to break the monotony. In a small Japanese apartment that monotony sets in early, combined with a huge inconvenience.
The cafe stands between the home office and the co-working space, great for occasional work and meetings without any commitment or monthly payment. You can choose a different cafe each time, and if a cafe is digital nomad friendly, you might even have access to charging outlets, or discounted coffee refills. However, many cafes have put limits on how long you can stay (regardless whether you keep ordering things every hour), and the most unfriendly ones have started banning laptops and books.
*Hint: never go to Tsutaya & Starbucks collab cafes, as they ban everything except drinking a cup of coffee. They even ban meetings.
Even friendly cafes can sometimes be inconvenient – all seats taken, sometimes it’s too loud to make a phone call, sometimes you’re just not hungry and only need the workspace.
If you find yourself needing a more professional workspace more regularly, it’s worth looking into co-working spaces. They are much cheaper than renting an office, you don’t need to sign a long-term lease, you look more professional in front of clients, and you can meet and network with people. Tokyo has scores and scores of these spaces, and more are popping up. Here are several co-working spaces that stood out to us among the others.
1. Eat Play Works – Hiroo
One of Tokyo’s most recent additions, Eat Play Works opened in July 2020. It’s six floors of everything a great co-working space promises – food, fun, and work. ‘Eat’ stands for 1F and 2F that host an eclectic selection of micro restaurants and bars – sushi, burgers, vegan, pho, ramen, French bistro food, and even a retro Japanese ‘snack’ bar. This gourmet cornucopia is open to everyone, regardless if you are a member or not. ‘Play’ is mostly reflected in 3F and 4F, where members can lounge on the sofas, bring their pets, hang out with people on the terrace, and so on.
‘Work’ gets the most serious in the office and meeting space on 5F and 6F. In addition to the free drinks offered for members in Eat, Play, Works, there’s also a Blue Bottle Cafe brewing excellent coffee on the first floor. This co-working space offers mindfulness meditations and members’ only networking events. Everything in one neat, well-designed package, in the trendy Hiroo.
2. Bonus Track & Omusubi Estate – Shimokitazawa
Bonus Track opened in April 2020, in a more relaxed space just a few minutes away from the bustling Shimokitazawa station. The minimalist complex strives for comfort and a natural effortless feeling. It’s mostly comprised of cafes, restaurants and shops with indoor and outdoor seating. It feels like a small commune of neighbors who get along really well and share their backyards. This retail and eat&drink area is open to anyone, but there are working spaces that are for members only.
Members can work and do meetings in the area called LOUNGE, while in the HOUSE area they can cook, make food, take showers and so on. Finally, in the STAND area they can set up a pop-up store. Bonus Track is very good for people who are in the retail or food business, as it also offers these free booths for pop-up stores and events for members, as well as to non-members (rented and paid on an hourly basis). They also have a lot of options – from monthly membership to drop-in without reservation, and a lot in between like weekend only usage, weekday only usage, etc.
3. The Hive Jinan – Shibuya
Shibuya has always been welcoming to the coolest and the newest, so naturally a lot of co-working spaces have sprung up there. The Hive Jinan is one of the most talked-about, as it’s very welcoming and international. Started in Hong Kong, they also have locations in Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan, and Thailand. Their Tokyo location is sleek and comfy, with a great cafe on the first floor and an outdoor terrace. Their membership plan range from 90.000 yen a month for a private office, to more flexible options for occasional co-working space users from around 16.000 yen a month, and other options in between. Of course they organize a myriad of events and encourage networking.
4. The Tokyo Chapter – Roppongi
A well-known place among the expat community, the Tokyo Chapter is a co-working space paired with living space. That’s why it’s so popular with expats, who are notoriously discriminated in Japan when trying to rent an apartment. The Tokyo Chapter is not only welcoming, it is irresistibly cool. Full of antique furniture, themed rooms such as the 60s room, a gym, a rooftop where events can be held, and anything else a great co-working space should offer.
5. Co-Edo – Kayabacho
Co-Edo is situated in an area that has exploded with co-working spaces in the recent year. Kayabacho is the home to Tokyo Stock Exchange and it’s vying to be a start-up and digital nomad hub too. So whatever Co-Edo lacks in looks, having a more conservative standard office design, it makes up for it in location and above all – price. It is the cheapest co-working space in Tokyo we have found and at the time of writing this article it has waived its initial sign-up fees too. Their standard plan is only 9000yen a month, and you can invite one guest per day for free. If you only want to come on weekdays, they have monthly membership of only 5000 yen.
6. Nagatacho GRID – Nagatacho
GRID has everything – offices, meeting rooms, event space, cafe, parking lot, rooftop, and everything is shareable. They host an enviable amount of eclectic events open to anyone, while the HOCUS POCUS cafe and doughnut shop on the first floor attract customers just by being incredibly good. A sleek design prevails from basement to rooftop, as it has come to be expected of SoCal inspired co-working spaces.
GRID is on the pricier side, especially if you want a big private office, but monthly plan prices drop significantly for ‘free address’ shared office spaces where you don’t need a dedicated desk (around 35.000 yen a month). They also welcome drop-ins, so you can work there the odd days you feel like it. Feel free to message them and inquire about the details. Non-members can also rent event spaces.
7. Yahoo LODGE – Kiocho, Chiyoda-ku
The best one for last, because it is absolutely free! Yahoo has a co-working space called LODGE open to both Yahoo employees and anyone dropping by. You need an ID to register the first time you come in, and because LODGE is free, be prepared it might be quite full. It also has limited working hours, usually 9 to 5 and only weekdays (unless they change, so be sure to check their website).
Those caveats aside, it’s a great start if you’re just flirting with the co-working space idea and don’t want to financially commit to it yet. Of course there’s free wi-fi, electrical outlets, water, photocopiers, whiteboards, and even 3D printers. Meeting and project rooms can be reserved in advance. The LODGE has a restaurant (cashless payment ONLY), and a cafe (PayPay payment ONLY), and also a kitchen where you can make your own food and coffee if you are so inclined.
These are just a few co-working spaces, we’ve included some brand new, some super popular, and some more affordable, for you to choose from. By all means, you can keep exploring your options as this is not a final list, but it’s a good one for starters.