Tony second homes in ‘Japan’s Hamptons’ become hub for telework

UTSUNOMIYA/SHIZUOKA, Japan — Every year around May, waterworks companies in the Japanese resort town of Karuizawa start receiving calls from homeowners to come reopen their taps. They are turned off for the winter, because without doing so, the biting cold temperature freezes the water inside, resulting in burst pipes.

This year, plumbers are busy answering calls a month earlier than usual, as a large number of second-home owners move their bases from the Greater Tokyo area to Karuizawa to avoid the novel coronavirus, which has brought the capital to a stand still.

Japan’s most famous holiday home hub typically sees homeowners flow in from the Golden Week holidays next month. This year, already 20% to 30% of homes are occupied, says a representative of a home management company.

Demand for brooms, mops and household goods have kept the local home center buzzing from March.

A similar trend has been seen in other popular holiday-home areas, such as Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture and Ito in Shizuoka Prefecture — the equivalent to the Hamptons in New York.

In Nasu, famous for mountain climbing, farms, zoos and galleries, Towa Nasu Resort, a company that manages 550 holiday homes, has received 230 calls in the past five weeks from homeowners wanting to move in, a 13% increase from the year before.

“Some are coming to avoid the coronavirus. Some are newly buying the homes as a place for teleworking,” said Goshi Yazawa, the company’s managing director.

The company has added catering services to its list of businesses, on top of its amusement park and restaurant operations. “With everybody thinking of BCP (business continuity planning), the demand for second homes in rural areas is destined to go up,” said Yazawa. “It will help revitalize areas across Japan.”

In Ito, famous for its onsen hot springs, guests started to grow in March. The hills surrounding Mount Omuro, the inverted rice-bowl shaped mountain, usually sees an influx of visitors from Golden Week through the summer, but this year the flow has clearly begun, local tourism industry sources say.

Holiday homes in the Amagi Kogen area, famous for its 360-degree views, are already in use, despite still chilly temperatures.

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