Lifestyle Changes Allow People to Leave Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Masato Onodera and his wife, Mizuho, seen Friday during a visit to Misaki fishing port in Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, moved from Tokyo to Miura in December.

The recent government report showing an increase in the number of people leaving Tokyo apparently reflects lifestyle changes as more people are allowed to telecommute during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Should the government aim to seriously rectify the concentration of people in Tokyo, however, steady efforts are needed to disperse the population to regional areas given that the majority of people leaving Tokyo are moving to the capital’s suburbs.

■ Rarely visiting the office

Masato Onodera and his wife, Mizuho, both 28, moved to Miura, Kanagawa Prefecture, on the southern tip of the Miura Peninsula on Dec. 21.

They had been living in an apartment in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, as he works for an advertising firm in Tokyo, and she is an editor of an information magazine.

After they started telecommuting more often from around March last year, they no longer felt the need to stay in Tokyo.

The rent for their new two-bedroom apartment in Miura is ¥65,000 per month, which is about one-third the price of the one-bedroom apartment they had rented in Tokyo.

It takes about two hours to get to Tokyo by bus and train, but they don’t mind as they only have to visit the office a few times a month.

“I can see the ocean from the windows of my home,” Onodera said. “And the fish is delicious here. I can relax and make progress with my work.”

Since last spring, the city of Miura has been receiving an increasing number of inquiries about moving there.

“With the increase in telecommuting, people moving to regional areas or dividing their time between two areas are gaining attention,” said Miura Mayor Hideo Yoshida. “I would like people to settle in the city even after the infection of the virus is contained.”

A 34-year-old man who works for a foreign tech company in Tokyo decided to move from Ota Ward, Tokyo, to Minakami, Gunma Prefecture, with his family of four at the end of last year.

“Since last April, I’ve only been telecommuting, so I decided to live in an area rich in nature,” he said.

He also took into account whether he would be able to commute if he changed jobs in the future, as Minakami is also directly linked to Tokyo through Jomo-Kogen Station on the Joetsu Shinkansen.

A five-minute drive from the station is a telework center that was established in cooperation with the public and private sectors. He uses the center as a base from which to work.

“I want to enjoy the time I have with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old sons in this place with plenty of nature,” he said.

■ Remaining in metro area

Although the number of people moving out of Tokyo has started to increase, the areas people are moving to are not many, meaning the capital’s population has not been dispersed to as many regional areas as hoped.

“The trend of net inflows to Tokyo has changed since April last year, when the first state of emergency was declared,” said Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Ryota Takeda. “However, the data shows that Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures received a significantly high proportion of the people leaving Tokyo. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Although Tokyo residents have also moved to Gunma, Shizuoka and other nearby prefectures with good access to Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures were the only areas where the number of people moving in from Tokyo exceeded the number moving out to the capital last year.

While avoiding the so-called Three Cs of closed spaces, crowded places and close-contact settings with the spread of telecommuting, many people seem to be moving to neighboring prefectures where they can commute to work when necessary.