Photo/Illutration Poet Makoto Ooka in July 2007 (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

People whose careers are in writing, such as authors, are pioneers in teleworking. A long time ago, all they needed for their work was a "fude" traditional writing brush.

But over the years, the tools of their trade have continued to evolve.

Poet Makoto Ooka (1931-2017) recalled that when he used a fax machine for the first time, it was so nifty that he "shouted for joy."

If you were a writer on deadline and cutting it close, a fax saved you the hassle of taking your finished copy to the postbox and sending it by express mail.

With the fax, all you had to do was to feed the pages into the machine at 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. or whenever, so your copy would be waiting for your editor to pick up the moment they got into the office in the morning.

Imagining these things "makes you feel as if you are doing something wonderful," wrote Ooka in "Shosai no Uchu" (A study-universe), a book edited by Terutsugu Takahashi.

When I recall the time when fax machines became popular for home use, I can totally relate to Ooka's observations.

Today, working from home is unthinkable without a personal computer and the internet.

But even with these conveniences, many people apparently feel working from home is not as easy as working in the office.

According to a survey by Recruit Sumai Co. on what people don't like about teleworking, many respondents cited facilities-related complaints, such as "the absence of dedicated workspace" and "inadequate computer monitor, printer and other equipment."

Especially among people living in big cities, dedicated workspace--or even just a desk of their own--is hard to come by.

The above-mentioned "Shosai no Uchu" contains remarks by novelist Sakae Tsuboi (1899-1967), who recalled the inconvenience of sharing a desk with her poet husband, Shigeji (1897-1975).

She explained that she used the desk during the day, and "vacated" it in the evening for her husband. She made sure she tidied it up, but her husband, who tended to be a bit of a neatnik, was not always satisfied.

"It was as if the desk suddenly looked messy when the owner changed," she griped.

Perhaps this is exactly how it is with some people working from home. The world appears to have evolved, but maybe it hasn't.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 26

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.