At Tofugu, half the team works remotely. Our headquarter is located in Portland, OR (USA), but we have some staff working from different parts of the US, Canada, the Philippines, and France. Although we get to see each other's faces through video chat, we try to get together in-person once in a while. And that happened recently in Hokkaido, Japan. In July 2019, the team had a trip to spend some quality time together.
This was actually our second official company trip to Japan. The first trip was when we visited quirky places like Atagawa Banana Wani Park in Izu and Atami back in February 2018. Since then, we've flown our remote staff in to our home base in Portland for get-togethers every six months or so, so that we could see each other not through our screens.
Anyway, this time in Hokkaido, we did some (cool) things together, so I'd like to share what we did on the trip.
Farming, Brainstorming, Bananagraming at Ezura Farm
Ezura Farm is a farm/farm-stay-inn owned by a young family—a husband-and-wife (and-daughter) team. We stayed at their beautiful private cottage for five nights in the great wide-open of Hokkaido (right in front of their corn farm), and they let us help with actual farming half-days in the morning. We did very farm-y things like pulling weeds, thinning out cornstalks, taking tea breaks on milk crates, and riding in the backs of trucks.
After we spent the morning doing some farm work, we spent the afternoon discussing and brainstorming for our actual computer jobs related to the Tofugu Blog (which you're now reading) and WaniKani (our kanji-learning application).
The farm was in the middle of nowhere (thirty minutes' drive from the closest grocery store). And this isolation was our intention. While we were not working, we spent time eating delicious food, chatting together, coming up with more inside jokes, playing Bananagrams® (during which we invented a collaborative method called "Pair-Bananagramming" for team-building), and a bunch of other things—basically, enjoying each others' company under the same roof.
Day Trip To Prison And Crab Claw
While we stayed at the farm, we took a day trip to the Abashiri and Monbetsu areas. We went to the Abashiri Prison museum and learned the history of the development of Hokkaido and the huge contribution of its prisoners.
We also visited a crab statue that's just randomly there, right in front of the ocean in Monbetsu. Since it's so on-brand for us, we had to visit for the sake of The Crabigator.
Retreat to Furano and Tomamu
The last three days of our seven-day trip was a fun "retreat" portion. We went to a lavender farm in Furano, which is what Hokkaido is known for during summer, and went all the way down south to Tomamu to stay at the Hoshino Resort hotel. While there, we did some fun activities like a safari cart tour, cloud ocean viewing, and white water rafting.
These are just the highlights of what we did on the trip. Throughout the very condensed week together, each of us talked one-on-one or in small groups (like, a lot) about random life things to nerdy linguistic or programming (work-related) things. When we left Hokkaido, we felt more bonded, motivated, and inspired than ever.
Also, this last retreat was special for us—almost half of the employees were newly-hired, so it was our first time meeting in-person. It was like our first date on an international trip! However, by the end of the retreat, we felt like we'd known each other so long and couldn't wait to meet again (even through our screens) in the near future.
…Looks like fun being a part of Team Tofugu, right? Check out our Jobs page to keep an eye out for job post updates. Maybe we'll see you at our next retreat as a new team member… 😉👋