Photo/IllutrationThe Asahi Shimbun

  • Photo/Illustraion

NAGAREYAMA, Chiba Prefecture--Eriko Ozaki always felt a pang of guilt, not only for her employer but also for her son, when she had to leave work early because the lad was unwell.

Working in central Tokyo, it took her 90 minutes to pick him up from nursery school and return to her home in Chiba.

The 33-year-old Ozaki soon came to realize that working closer to home would make her life easier, but accomplishing that goal would not be a cake walk.

That led her to open Trist here in May last year. The rental property, with just 100 square meters of floor space, allows working mothers to telecommute, thereby enabling them to pursue their professional careers near their homes without the hassle of venturing into central Tokyo most weekdays.

Aside from giving the women more options on how they organize their finances, it has proved popular with working mothers who want to restart their professional careers closer to their homes.


Trist is located in front of JR Minami-Nagareyama Station here, just 40 minutes by train from central Tokyo.

Seven Tokyo-based companies use the rented space as a branch office that is shared by 27 women, mainly those in their 30s to 40s with small children. Not only are the types of work diverse, the employment status of the women is varied. Some hold permanent positions, while others work part time or on limited-term contracts.

One 39-year-old mother of four, whose children range in age from 3 to 11, worked as a personal assistant to an executive at a leading electronics maker and held other positions for seven years after she graduated from junior college. But she quit the company in 2008 after she became pregnant with her second child.

Although she was fully occupied as a stay-at-home mother with four children, the woman's thoughts eventually turned to working again.

Struggling to find employment, she began to think she might have no choice but to accept any type of job rather than one she really wanted.

It was while other friends, also working mothers, scoured job vacant ads and found employment that the woman was tipped off about Trist.

She visited the office last year as it also provides career consultation services. The woman was told that based on her job aptitude evaluation she is a "natural" for a secretarial position or one that would require her to play a supportive role.

Although the woman enjoys secretarial work, she assumed her long absence from the workplace would hinder her chances of landing a position.

“I doubt I will be able to land a job as I have lived as a full-time homemaker for more years than I spent as a company employee,” she told a staff member at Trist, who promptly recommended that she join the company's training program to learn telecommuting.

The woman felt out of place at first, but soon got into the swing of things as sessions were also attended by other homemakers in similar circumstances.

She gained confidence after hearing other mothers say they no longer believed they had to abandon their careers to raise children or had come to the realization that taking the first step was essential if they wanted to nurture their dreams of returning to the workplace.

It was at that point that she realized she was “not the only person who feels isolated from society.”

The program encouraged her to examine her past work skills and become computer literate, which would allow her to telecommute.

When the month-long course finished, she was emboldened by the idea of teleworking, and in April this year started working for a company that arranges overseas business trips.

She works from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., two to three days a week.

Her motivation to join stemmed primarily from her ability to cash in on her experience working as a secretary for a big-name company. After she started working, her husband took on the role of house husband, diligently washing dishes and folding laundry while his wife was at work.

Yoko Masuda, 43, who commutes to Trist from neighboring Kashiwa city, works for a business that rents unused spaces to the organizers of photo shoots and other events.

“I am able to help our customers make full use of vacant spaces simply by talking to them,” Masuda said. “I find the job very rewarding.”

Until she turned 35, Masuda worked at an advertising agency as a sales assistant or in other positions. She initially sought employment near her home to avoid commuting to Tokyo and leaving her two children, aged 5 and 8, behind.

However, Masuda was unable to find a position that made full use of her experience, so she visited Trist, where she came across other women who also wanted to return to work and had a passion for what they are doing.

“I have found my own identity as an individual, not just as a mother,” said Masuda. “Through my current job, I want to find out what I can do as well as what I want to do.”


Ozaki, the brains behind Trist, said her priority is on “the work, family and bonding with local communities, all at the same time.”

When she worked in central Tokyo, her eldest son frequently fell sick. Every time the day nursery called her to pick him up, Ozaki had to leave work early.

“I was torn between feeling that I was causing trouble for the company and a sense of guilt that I was forcing my son to tough it out,” Ozaki said. “It was also exhausting spending 90 minutes commuting to the day-care center and my workplace.”

The experience made her take stock of her life, and finally Ozaki decided her best course of action was to help other working mothers find jobs near their homes.

As a first step, Ozaki found a space that allowed business operators and working mothers to meet for explanatory sessions and in-depth discussions. She took advantage of a Nagareyama city subsidy to promote the use of unoccupied commercial buildings to generate employment.

Trist's operation costs are covered by companies that use the facility as their satellite office.

With the assistance of Microsoft Japan Co., Trist also offers free training programs on the latest computers.

“I want all working women to earn as high an income as they can,” said Ozaki. “I believe training is fundamental to achieving that goal.”

To date, officials from 20 or so local governments from across Japan have visited Trist to observe how it does things.


Although the number of homemakers holding down jobs has risen, salary levels remain on a plateau.

According to the labor ministry, the number of job vacancies for permanent part-timers who work fewer hours than full-time employees totaled 910,000 in September.

The category includes homemakers who work part-time and contract employees who work shorter hours.

The monthly job vacancy figure dropped to around 400,000 in 2009 following the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers the year before. But the figure has since risen.

Despite the favorable employment situation, hourly wages have not risen significantly.

Data from job information provider Aidem Inc. shows that the average daytime hourly wage for part-timers in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures in 2017 was 1,014 yen ($9), up only 41 yen from five years ago, while the minimum wage had risen about 107 yen during the period.

Staff agency Bstyle Inc., in a survey in October last year, found that the stagnant wage growth was mainly due to a tendency on the part of homemakers to try to work near their homes.

The study asked 823 homemakers what factors they prioritized when choosing a workplace.

Most respondents cited working hours as important.

While 70 percent said they wanted to work at offices or elsewhere “within 30 minutes of their homes,” 40 percent were keen to work “three times a week.”

“There is still a deep-rooted tendency among Japanese companies to determine wage rates based on how long employees work daily, while women deal with the bulk of housework and child-rearing in households across Japan,” said Keitaro Kawakami, director of Bstyle’s Shufu Job Soken research institute.

“The fact that homemakers themselves prioritize other work conditions over wage rates also explains why salary growth is sluggish.”