《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko》

From the town of Niseko in the Shiribeshi sub-prefecture, where many migrants gather, we introduce stories surrounding the ‘choices’ of people who decided to relocate.

Feb. 19

Special feature

《Hokkaido: the migrants’ choice – from Niseko 》⑧ Sato Tetsuji and Yoshie aimed to quit the rat race and relocate to a regional town, and received unexpected encouragement from the company

Sato Tetsuji and his wife Yoshie, who relocated to the town of Rankoshi, inside the ‘Kelapilika’ café, which opened in the center of the town. February 5, 2021.

‘Kelapilika’ is a café that opened in August 2020 in a renovated empty property in the center of the town of Rankoshi, which is adjacent to the Niseko region. The establishment is managed by Yoshie, who at lunchtime serves dishes made from local ingredients.

Her husband, Tetsuji works for one of Japan’s leading electronics manufacturers. “We always wanted to relocate to the regions as a couple, at some time.” That was a conversation the couple often had until several years ago. Relocating to the regions is a vague conversation had by most company employees that live in the metropolitan area, but in most cases it’s just a ‘dream’.

 The Satos both originate from Tokyo. Until they relocated, Tetsuji commuted from their home in Yokohama to the company plant in Kawasaki, every day on a crowded train for about an hour. Leaving home in the early morning and returning home on the last train was a common occurrence.
 The busy lifestyle was supported by Yoshie. The couple are blessed with three children. “In the 10 years after our eldest daughter was born, every day was spent looking after the kids.” Tetsuji also did his share of housework despite being out at work during the week.

 Moves to relocate began in the spring of 2016, when Tetsuji was transferred to Sapporo at the age of 51. As an enthusiastic skier, it didn’t take long for him to be captivated by Hokkaido. “Let’s quit the rat race and relocate.” Yoshie, who had stayed in Yokohama, was also determined to spend life after raising her children, in Hokkaido.
 In autumn 2017, they visited Rankoshi and discovered “a world like that in a drama”. It was love at first sight. Rural relationships were a worry, but these worries were dispelled upon meeting other migrants.

 As Tetsuji approached 55, retirement age, he informed the company of his wish to retire in 2020.
However, the response from the company was unexpected. He was told his retirement would be a loss to the company and was asked to remain in his post.
The company wanted to prevent the loss of an experienced engineer, but as the Satos had already purchased their new home, the request also caused problems.
 Tetsuji negotiated with the company to allow him to continue working from Rankoshi, and the company agreed to a role based on remote working – a condition that would have been unimaginable at a major company in the past.

In April 2020, Tetsuji again moved to Sapporo. At almost the same time, Coronavirus infections began to spread. Tetsuji’s wish for remote working unexpectedly became the new standard. Apart from traveling to Sapporo for a system check approximately once a week, almost all of his duties are performed remotely.

 He continues to work for a major company while living in a regional town. The dream lifestyle of remote working has now become a reality. The Satos’ new lifestyle may well become a model for those in the city dreaming of life in the regions.

Location

Kelapilika

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