Manufacturers in Japan Relocate Central Operations to Suburban Offices; Firms Seek to Improve Efficiency, Communication

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The head office of Toshiba Corp. located in Hamamatsucho, Tokyo. It will be relocated to Kawasaki by September.

An increasing number of manufacturers are moving central operations that are normally carried out in their main Tokyo offices to their suburban bases that usually focus on development and production.

The shift aims to strengthen collaboration in firms that have their own supply chain, enabling faster corporate decision-making and increasing the efficiency of operations. The spread of teleworking has also reduced the need for employees to work in a central office.

Toshiba Corp., whose head office is headquartered in Tokyo’s Hamamatsucho, announced a new medium-term business plan last month that includes a plan to move its head office functions to Kawasaki, its original base, by the end of September 2025. The company moved to its current location in 1984 at the same time it changed its name from “Tokyo Shibaura Denki.” The Kawasaki base is currently engaged in product planning and development, so the move will bring management operations closer to front line work while reducing rental costs as part of its corporate restructuring.

Koji Ikeya, who was appointed from outside the company to assume the post of vice president at the end of last year, said: “Toshiba has been in turmoil for many years, and the company has neglected an attitude of close cooperation between the head office and business units. This is the time for the company to rebuild.”

Olympus Corp. also moved its headquarters from Shinjuku, Tokyo, to a research and development base in Hachioji, western Tokyo, in April. The company said that the move will allow closer communication between sales staff and engineers working on medical equipment, such as endoscopes. The spread of teleworking has also seen a decline in the number of employees working in the office,

The relocation move has also been backed up by the fact that the spread of teleworking has led the ratio of employees coming to the office to decline, enabling companies to reduce office space.

Fujitsu Ltd. currently has their corporate management and business units base in headquarters located in the Shiodome area of Tokyo. The company is set to relocate to Kawasaki, where their artificial intelligence research and development teams are based, by the end of September. Fujitsu has continued to use teleworking since the COVID-19 pandemic, and the percentage of employees working in the office remains at around 20%.

In March 2023, The Yokohama Rubber Co. moved its headquarters from Shimbashi, Tokyo, to its production base in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. The company adopted an “office at home system” to subsidize telework expenses for items such as desks and printers for employees that live far from the office as a result of the relocation.

In the past, manufacturers would have their headquarters located in central Tokyo to make visiting corporate clients easier. However, as teleworking and online conferencing has become increasingly popular, the need for these offices has declined.

Atsushi Osanai, professor at Waseda University and scholar on economics, who is familiar with the corporate management of manufacturers, says: “The mentality that credibility is linked to having headquarters located in a prime location in central Tokyo has been changing. More companies have been relocating their headquarters away from the city center by comparing costs, such as rent, with the efficiency of operations.”