TOKYO • Railway companies in Japan are expanding their businesses by installing individual-use offices available to anyone in the commercial areas within stations.
As reform in work style - in this case, aiming to establish the practice of working anytime, anywhere - is being promoted, railway companies expect this new type of offices will generate a certain level of demand.
Called "ekinaka" in Japanese, these offices have become more diversified in their purposes.
Four box-shaped offices, which look like phone booths, were installed last Wednesday inside the ticket gate at JR Shinagawa Station by East Japan Railway (JR East) as a demonstration experiment.
Each booth has a desk, sofa, power outlet, free Wi-Fi connection and heating. The booths are also soundproof.
Reservations are made via a designated website and users are allowed to stay in the space for up to 30 minutes.
The area around JR Shinagawa Station is one of the busiest business districts in Tokyo. People are commonly seen working outdoors, sitting on benches or in cafes.
Consulting firm employee Yuto Katsubayashi, 23, welcomed the new service, saying: "I feel comfortable using my PC without worrying about drawing people's attention. I can work effectively while waiting for a train during a transfer."
JR East has also set up four such booths each at Tokyo and Shinjuku stations. They are free of charge during the experiment period, which continues until February.
About 3,000 people have registered to use the new service.
A spokesman for JR East said: "It will be unnecessary to go back to their offices if they use the booths upon returning from a business trip. We want to support more flexible ways of working."
Based on the experiment results, JR East may introduce another type of booth for group use.
In June, Tokyo Metro started installing box-shaped private offices on a trial basis at three stations known to have a lot of office workers and others passing through.
There are 1,700 registered users, and the company has extended the experiment period to this month, from end-September.
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK