[15.3] Coworking Cities: Kyoto

Kyoto is known worldwide for its Cherry trees and its magnificent Shrine but that is not it. Kyoto also has an amazingly diverse coworking scene. Our co-writers are opening the doors of their beautiful spaces. Get ready to be surprised, in Kyoto, coworking spaces are NEVER just coworking spaces.

Kyoto Coworking scene in facts and figures

Going from Kyoto to Osaka, we did not expect to see a big difference between the two cities when it comes to their coworking scenes but here, we were wrong. Being so close they are yet so different. Kyoto being a very touristic city, there is a wave of digital nomads we did not necessarily encountered in Osaka that are also populating coworking spaces. But that’s not it! We’ve gathered below some key facts allowing you to have a more visual overview on what the city is all about when it comes to coworking.

Meet the locals

Are you up for a good coworking conversation about Kyoto’s coworking scene? Great, scroll down below and discover what our contributors have to say about their space, their city and the future of coworking there!

andwork, Kyoto

A conversation with Aya, Manager.

© andwork
© Aya Murakami

When and why did you start your coworking space? andwork opened in July 2017, together with “The Millennials” hotel. It offers a luxury atmosphere and great possibilities to meet for people from all around the globe.

We believe that the concept of “work” has been shifting dramatically for the past few years.

The way people work has now more flexibility, and for many of us “work” constantly overlaps with “life”. There is a clear increase of people working remotely or while travelling, along with freelancers and entrepreneurs who work differently than the traditional working style we used to know so far. We, as a company who seeks to create a new culture, and as an hotel at the same time, wanted to create a space that encourages interaction and exchange. It’s our hope that this will be a great place for the traveler and the local to interact, giving birth to new collaborations and insights.

Who are your members? As the concept of our hotel is targeted towards Millennials, the members also fits in the same category. Although the occupation and background of the members are diverse, we have a good number of engineers and web related workers, which is probably similar to a lot of other co-working spaces.

What might be different is that we also have a quite a lot of design related members at andwork, including photographers and videographers. Also, I would say that, compared to other co-working spaces in Kyoto, our workspace has a truly international atmosphere. As our staff are good in communicating with people from different countries in various languages, it might make it more comfortable for people coming from abroad to use the space.

What surprised you the most since you opened?

I would say that the most surprising moment was when the combination of coworking space and hotel worked out perfectly. There were several times when a group of people, from a same company or organization, came together from different parts of the world to stay at The Millennials hotel and used andwork for their training at the same time, to do some workshops and presentations. It was very interesting to see and we saw a possibility to expand those kind of collaboration with various parties even more, and broaden the connections to enhance communication among co-workers and travelers.
© andwork

How was the coworking scene when you started? I would say that that it is a very recent phenomenon in Japan. It only became popular recently..

As it has been just a little bit more more than a year since andwork started, there has been no major change since then. However, we realise that remote workers and freelancers, or those who are interested in working as such has been expanding greatly!

How would you describe the coworking scene in Kyoto today? Kyoto is very different from, let’s say, Tokyo or Osaka. Kyoto is not really a business city per say, but rather more of a tourist spot. However, as there are some of the top universities in Kyoto, there is certain need for entrepreneurs and start-ups to be supported in various ways, and in many cases, co-working spaces have played a great support role for those people.

We also saw a big increase in the amount of foreigners staying in Kyoto for few months and working from andwork. Most of those people are in love with traditional Japanese culture and that’s why they choose this city. I think it is fascinating!

Besides, I find Kyoto very unique in terms of how communication and communities are formed and carried out. Each community is small, yet, very strongly connected. And as a person who is new to the city, I found it very interesting.

How do you see it growing? We believe that the idea of “coworking space” or “remote work” has been gradually accepted and spread throughout the country, and there will be more need for co-working space in the near future.

Talking particularly about Kyoto, its tourism industry will most likely continue growing, and we believe that there will be more mobility of co-workers/travellers domestically and internationally, and we hope to be the hub for such people. We also hope to see more flexibility and freedom of work style in Japan.

Coworking Space Oinai Karasuma, Kyoto

A conversation with Kaori, Staff of the space.

© Oinai Coworking
© Oinai Karasuma

When and why did you start your coworking space? It all started when we were researching how we could use the extra space in our new architectural office more effectively. (Our parent company is an architectural design office.) We had learnt about a co-working space in Kobe where it was the first one in Japan and we were interested in the idea. We started the preparations in 2011 for about 1 year and we finally opened in July 2012.

Who are your members?Our members are very versatile. There are architects, designers, real estate agents, travel agents, writers, consultants and more.

What surprised you the most since you opened? Since we started we have held many events and met many people from different fields. We were surprised and pleased to see that our architectural office was receiving many projects such as renovations of buildings from owners who happened to participate in these events and liked our space.

How was the coworking scene when you started? When we started, the idea of a “coworking space” was still new in Kyoto (back in 2011) and we weren’t sure if people would welcome it or not. We also happened to open almost at the same time with 5 other different coworking spaces so we had to face a lot of competition from the beginning.

(Reference : Kowaki, MACHIYA Studio, oinai karasuma, Coto, Share Karasuma (now: FVC Mesh KYOTO)

How would you describe the coworking scene in Kyoto today? With the support from the entire Kyoto Prefecture, we see new coworking spaces open one after another since 2015. There are many new ones especially in the center of the city with different styles and atmosphere so users are now able to choose better the place that best suit them.

(Reference source : H27(2015) “Coworking space Kaisetsutou Shien Hojyokin” )

© Oinai Coworking

How do you see it growing? Thanks to the growth of recognition, we see a rapid increase in the number of our members since 2015.

With 6 years of experience, we continue our work with the same enthusiasm as when we started in order to offer a community-like space where people can meet up and work together. In 2016, we set ourselves a new challenge. We opened two guest houses(Whole house rent) in Kyoto and have been introducing them to our members and guests from abroad.

Coworking Goodness

While in Kyoto, we’ve had the chance to discover many different coworking spaces, some of which you’ve read about already. To close our Kyoto chapter, we’ve gathered below 3 coworking spaces from Kyoto who are bringing a different type of content to the city.

1/ MTRL, experiment, make, create!

© MTRL Kyoto

opened in December 2015. Part of the FabCafe Tokyo Family, the coworking space occupies a large, 3-story building in Kyoto. Formerly a print factory, and a furniture shop, it became MTRL (material) Kyoto thanks to architect Fumihiko Sano, who’s primary goal was to keep the original charm of the building while adding modernity to it. MTRL is one of the most active maker spaces in town, supporting anyone interested building things to actually do it. The space organizes a lot of events to allow people to learn and share knowledge related to making things.

© MTRL Kyoto

We loved…the space! Big crush on the modernity combined with the Japanese traditional homes. We also really loved the amount and diversity of projects that are done in the space, from wood carving to more tech products, MTRL has (almost) mo limits!

2/ Kyoto Makers Garage, learn how to make

© Kyoto Makers Garage

Kyoto Makers Garage has been an amazing discovery. Located in a small street near the central market, the space offers makers everything they need to learn and create: access to workshops to understand how to use a 3D printer, a CNC machine or any other big making tools, events (many events) to bring together the local community of makers and allow people to share and collaborate on project and lastly, a workspace where one can get things done while making.

© Kyoto Makers Garage

We loved….the modularity of the space, allowing several work scenarios to happen at the same time. We also really loved discovering the Radio Tower (see picture above) the community has built together. It actually functions and has quite a good spread, meaning you can listen to it if you are around the neighborhood.

3/ coandco, coworking and language school

© coandco

Language school, you read it right! CoandCo is located in the heart of Kyoto and offers a beautiful workspace where one can learn English or Japanese with professional teachers. During our visit, the space was buzzing with people doing so many different things: working on their startup, learning Japanese, enjoying a fresh and delicious coffee from the coffee shop or simply reading a good book. Having so many uses cases also means the age range was very diverse and the type of people mingling with each other too. A great way to close our Kyoto Chapter!

© coandco

We loved… everything. Literally. The interior design, the concept to the team running it.

Interested to read more about Japan? Check out our piece about Tokyo and Osaka for more coworking discoveries.