Kyoto (Kyoto Prefecture and Kyoto City)

About the appeal of starting a business in Kyoto

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= We interviewed Mr. Wallin from Canada about the appeal of starting a business in Kyoto. Wallin launched the co-working space "Garden Lab," which utilizes traditional Japanese buildings called Kyomachiya.

- Mr. Wallin, please tell us how you came to establish Garden Lab.

In 2009, I majored in Japanese at the University of British Columbia in Canada. It was a program that allowed me to study abroad, so I decided to study at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto for a year. For my research topic, I was thinking of narrowing it down to a more specific theme rather than researching Japanese culture in general. That’s when I came across Kyomachiya through a home party hosted in Kyoto. It struck me and I began researching Kyomachiya.

After that I went back to Canada and started a software company, and set up a subsidiary in Japan. Since many of our customers were in Tokyo, we initially thought of looking for an office in Tokyo. However, offices in Tokyo were expensive and did not fit our budget. In 2014, remote work was already popular in the IT industry. Thinking that it wasn’t necessary to have an office in Tokyo, I returned to Kyoto and moved into a Kyomachiya-style office. 

In my Kyomachiya-style office, it was possible to have a more humanlike work environment such as being closer to nature by feeling the changing of the seasons through the garden. This was a significant experience for me. 

Through this experience of working in a humanistic environment, I decided to provide more people with a Kyomachiya-style office and founded the co-working space "Garden Lab." 

― Please tell us about the appeal of Kyoto in terms of both business and living environments.

Kyoto is said to be "full of talent" and I believe this is true. The fact that it is easy to hire necessary personnel for business is very attractive. 

In addition, the connections within a community are strong in Kyoto. Once you enter a community, you can build a relationship of trust and collaborate smoothly with other people. This is a great business advantage. I also like that Kyoto is a city that retains a human scale (the size of spaces and things that suit people's senses and movements), and that despite being in the center of the city, you can live calmly without feeling overwhelmed.

You can always find great places to stroll around the back streets of Garden Lab. I think that foreigners will find it particularly adventurous and attractive to be able to walk around freely. Please think about starting your business in Kyoto.