Guides & Stories

Workationing in Japan’s National Parks

Japan’s national parks are well-suited to welcoming adventurers who need to stay connected with work.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit the world in 2020, Japan shifted from a work culture of commuting to an office every day to “teleworking” from home. Working from home quickly became the norm, with government encouragement.

Japan’s national parks took this idea a step further, creating special initiatives like installing Wi-Fi and portable workstations in a number of parks. With people’s appetite for getting outdoors soaring over the tumultuous months of the pandemic, it was a dream come true for remote workers who want to take a “workation” amid nature.

Nishibama Terrace in Keramashoto National Park

As opposed to teleworking, a workation means remote working from a location you want to visit, rather than from home. After you’ve finished your tasks for the day, you can simply close your laptop and explore the destination you’ve chosen. And in Japan’s national parks, that means stepping straight out into some of the country’s most enticing natural landscapes. What better way to take a break from your screen?

A room (or tent) with a view

One of the benefits working from a national park is the diversity of environments. Workers can set up a personal workspace amid a forest and work while listening to birdsong, or at a quiet beach resort with views of the ocean and the sound of the waves.

Stunning beach views in Keramashoto National Park

You may find that the quality of your work increases in your new surroundings, with the calming environment allowing you to focus and get into your flow. Just being in a new location can do wonders for your productivity—as the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest. What’s more, research conducted by technology company Lenovo showed that spending just half an hour out in nature each day led to a 45 percent increase in productivity.

With so many jobs now relying on heavy computer use, it’s more important than ever to take regular screen breaks. Doing so can help reduce your stress (not to mention eye strain), allowing you to bring your full attention to your next task. On a workation, you can not only take a full digital detox every weekend—getting out into nature, device free—but also make your smaller screen breaks more impactful. Leaving your desk to get a cup of coffee is great. Drinking that coffee while sitting on the lake shore, or watching birds flit through the foliage, is even better.

Workations and wellbeing

Oirase, in Towada-Hachimantai National Park

Being close to nature has many positive effects on your health and wellbeing. The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) is now popular worldwide, and known to reduce stress and even help to strengthen your immune system. For most of us, it’s not easy to access forests on an average workday—but we can pick a workation destination where it is easy. Where better to go for mindful walks amid trees than the rich forests of Japan’s national parks?

During the pandemic, many of us have had to move our exercise routines into our homes along with our work routines. From YouTube yoga sessions to online Zumba classes, we’ve tested the limits of what we can do without expensive equipment or an instructor on hand. When you move your office to a national park for awhile, your exercise opportunities become much more exciting and varied. You can pepper your workday with activities in nature: a refreshing morning swim in the ocean before your daily Zoom call with your team; a revitalizing lunchtime hike; or a relaxing bike ride to help you reset after a day focused on work.

Canoeing in Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Workations are also proving popular with parents. After all, when remote working is a possibility, it becomes much easier to travel with your children during the school holidays. While the parents are working, the kids can take part in special programs just for children. Then, the whole family can enjoy tours and activities after the workday is done, spending that all-important quality time together.

A perfect balance of work and play

It’s clear that workations have plenty of benefits. But where exactly can you go to get your nature fix and have a comfortable work set up at the same time?

An open-air bath in Nikko National Park

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has created initiatives in the national parks aimed at providing functional work spaces in the parks’ inspiring natural environments. Visitors can find hotels, ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), campgrounds, visitor centers and other facilities which are well-equipped for remote working.

In 2020, improvements to the parks’ Wi-Fi started getting rolled out. The project started in a few of the larger parks, including Setonaikai, on Honshu’s Japan Sea coast; Nikko, under two hours from Tokyo; and Aso-Kuju, on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. It’s now been implemented in many of the others, with Tohoku’s Bandai-Asahi National Park proving particularly popular.

There are plenty of hotels within the parks with extra facilities for remote workers. From necessities like power outlets to helpful options such as conference rooms and shared work spaces, they complement the increased parks’ Wi-Fi coverage. They also make for a relaxing place to stay while you’re on your workation; many offer daytime programs for children, plus restorative facilities like onsen (hot spring baths) and seaside terraces.

Marukoma Onsen in Shikotsu-Toya National Park

Some parks have several areas equipped for remote work. You could stay for a few days in each, giving you access to an even greater variety of landscapes and experiences without sacrificing your ability to work. Joshin’etsukogen National Park in mountainous central Japan has excellent workation facilities in the traditional hot-spring town of Kusatsu Onsen and ski resort of Manza Onsen, both in the north of the park, and the riverside hot-spring town of Minakami, in the park’s central area.

Kiyotsukyo in Joshin'etsukogen National Park

Several accommodation providers have made efforts to attract workationers to their properties in the parks. National Park Resorts of Japan Kyukamura Hotels are an excellent option, with resorts in 35 locations throughout the country. To help their remote-working guests, the hotels offer Wi-Fi, private workstations and portable power banks. Various Hoshino Resorts offer a “Perfect Workcation Set,” which includes a ring light and speakers for online meetings, a laptop stand, and more useful accessories.

Keep an eye out for long-stay plans, which are often workation-friendly; most Hoshino properties offer this sort of plan.

Working in nature

If you want to base yourself in one of Japan’s national parks for your workation, your accommodation options aren’t limited to hotels and resorts. You can also get even closer to nature by staying at a campground—many of which are now set up for remote workers.

Several of the campsites have pre-pitched tents and tables set up around them for working easily at your computer. In order to reduce the amount of luggage other than work gear, camping gear and foodstuff sets are provided, and some can even provide equipment rentals like pocket Wi-Fi, portable power banks, and even large monitors. You can check which sites have which facilities through the Ministry of the Environment’s ‘Working in the National Parks’ website (Japanese only).

Dewasanzan in Bandai-Asahi National Park

In Hokkaido’s majestic Akan-Mashu National Park, you can stay at Wakoto Campground to make use of free Wi-Fi, portable battery hire and nature experience programs for kids. The camping spaces also come fully equipped with tents, sleeping bags, BBQ grills and cooking utensils.

The Tohoku region’s Myoko-Togakushi renzan and Bandai-Asahi national parks also have workation-ready campgrounds. Togakushi Campground has Premium Tent Sites and Powered Log Cabins which are perfect for remote work. The Urabandai Kyukamura Campground offers a half-board Empty-Handed Camping Workation Set, with tents and comfortable workspaces already set up, and portable Wi-Fi and power banks available for rental.

A hot spring in Nikko National Park

Get connected with free National Park Wi-Fi

If you are in a pinch while on the road, one option is to stop by a visitor center. Most visitor centers within the parks have Wi-Fi access, and you’ll usually find a comfortable spot to set up your laptop for a little while too. Look up free Wi-Fi spots before you travel, or just keep an eye out for the National_Park_Wi-Fi SSID. Note that the Internet connection at visitor centers may be weak. Bear in mind that it not be reliable enough for working on important tasks.

While you’re at the visitor center, why not share a few photos of the landscapes, plants and animals you’ve encountered during your workation? They’re guaranteed to be more exciting pictures than you usually take in the office!

Lake Inawashiro in Bandai-Asahi National Park

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