Name: Roland Austria

Location: Saitama, Japan

Occupation: Government employee

Room size: 13 m² (140 ft²) — living space & home office

Cost of the setup: $2,7K including all the tech (¥300,000)

Social media: Instagram, GuruShots

Hey, Roland! Tell us a bit about yourself

Konnichiwa, I’m Roland. Born in the Philippines in the late 80s, a kid of the 90s, and in my teens by the early 2000s.

I am of a generation that witnessed the transition of everything going from analogue to digital. The change fascinated me constantly and ultimately sent me to pursue a degree in software engineering.

After college, I found an opportunity to work in Japan. It had been both a struggle and an adventure to leave everything and everyone I knew behind back home.

Rain in Tokyo, Japan
Roland arrived in Japan in June on a cold rainy day. “It was my first time to be in a country with four seasons and seeing my breath turning to mist out in the street was exciting,” he says. ”Everything was just so pristine and polite, even the rain here felt as if it was being considerate compared to the almost daily downpours back home”. Photo by Finan Akbar

I only brought stuff you’d take for a 2-week trip overseas. A suitcase of clothes, some toiletries, and foodstuffs from back home. My parents told me that what I could bring to Japan is most probably available here anyway and at much better quality and variety.

I was also fortunate the company provided furnished accommodation. The first couple of years of my life here, I was living out of my suitcase. I didn’t have anything to my name except for a few eating utensils and a giant bowl.

When I got hired, they gave me a 3-month intensive language training while they processed my documents. When they flew me in and started working, they gave me a private tutor after work as well.

That took care of getting my business-level Japanese up to standard, but the actual fluency came from talking in Japanese every day.

Learning a new language is certainly difficult, but it can be made easier by how passionate you are to learn it.

I was already interested in Japan, to begin with, so I took the initiative to take basic Nihongo classes during college.

A Japanese street signs at night
Roland has an aunt who used to tell him stories about her life in Japan. She painted vivid pictures of a typical daily life here, sharing the truth and inconveniences of being a foreigner. ”I remember watching so many documentaries like Japan Video Topics about various aspects of Japanese culture. It didn’t take long before the dream of going here took root and I made a conscious effort to make it come true. It was that same aunt who told me of that job opportunity — she had a friend who was hiring and my aunt referred me to her — which eventually paved the way for me to achieve my dream”. Photo by Alex Knight

I worked on creating test modules for an IT company right in the heart of Tokyo. I’ve been a coder dispatched to update legacy systems (COBOL to be exact) for a government agency sometime after that.

I thought a 9-to-5 career in a cubicle was how I’ll be spending my days in Japan.

Ultimately though, life had more surprises for me to come.

I’m sure the change of countries has changed me and my priorities. So it wasn’t long when I found myself wanting to have a better work-life balance.

A decade later and I’m now in a government job here in Saitama that finally affords me a comfy lifestyle.

Cherry blossom season in Saitama, Japan
“I thought Tokyo was already quiet for a megalopolis, but the suburbs of Saitama is just completely silent. If I stand out there in the street off the main road, the only thing I can hear is nature and it still humbles me,” says Roland

It may not pay as much as a corporate position in the private sector, but I get some stability and lots of free time to pursue hobbies and build a home we don’t need to take a vacation away from.

Moving to a town with a small train station, surrounded by mountains and rivers, felt like home. Living in a tropical country is living with nature, and I missed that.

The city life had been exciting and an everyday adult playground. But the constant stimulation and how it permeates into your life can be tiring after a couple of years.

Upon arrival, Roland was surprised by how cooperative and meticulous the Japanese can be and how convenient it made everything for everyone. ”The first time I experienced Japanese hospitality and service, I felt like I was carefully catered to as a VIP,” he says

As a frustrated artist, I’ve been meaning to create more digital art again. I was able to pursue a new hobby as an amateur photographer and even made some decent money doing food photography on the side.

My wife and I also started travelling abroad; if not for the pandemic, we’d probably be out there again right now actually.

Can you describe your home setup?

My workspaces have always paralleled my lifestyle.

The last one I had before this was during an RGB phase, which had bouts of juvenile bright chaos, and I loved it. Although, it seems that as I matured with age, the look of my setup matured along with me.

I think the first item that started it all was my Edifier R1280T bookshelf speakers. All of my gear used to be colourful and futuristic, then here comes this handsome stereo pair with its wood veneer panelling.

I remember I was supposed to get a set of “gaming” speakers, but something about the retro-looking Edifiers called out to me.

I recently bought the Logitech G Pro X headphones, and it’s something I use when gaming. It has simulated surround sound that makes it almost a necessity when playing games where you need both audio and visual clues.

For any other times, the Edifiers do a great job whenever we listen to music or watch any kind of show on my computer.

Roland Austria’s cosy industrial home office in Japan
Colour, texture, and variety are important for Roland. “It’s not the brand, nor is it the price of an item that makes your workspace, but the cohesiveness and personality it brings to your station as a whole,” he says

When I switched out my 8-year-old computer some years ago — budget had been my main concern as we had recently moved houses — I prioritised function over form and for it to be as cost-effective as possible.

So I ditched aesthetics and opted for this solid black box hiding a 1080Ti, a powerful beast back then.

An industrial aesthetic with metallic accents combined with hints of nature is one of the ways to describe Roland’s setup
An industrial aesthetic with metallic accents combined with hints of nature is one of the ways to describe Roland’s setup. Download his wallpaper on Google Drive

I house my PC on this metal shelf running up the wall beside my desk along with other devices like the router, our PS4, and an external hard drive for the files of my photography hobby.

All equally nondescript and solid black; there was a pattern emerging even then.

The monitor is the DELL 27″ SE2717H which I purchased more than four years ago. When we moved to our current place, my previous 21-inch monitor didn’t survive the move and wouldn’t turn on anymore. It was too old and I felt it was already too small anyway.

Someone invited me to join a mechanical keyboard enthusiasts group and down the rabbit hole, I went. I got the RK71 mechanical keyboard and switched it with carbon PBT keycaps, both from Royal Kludge.

I share the living space with my wife and hers is something of a minimalistic boho and white.

It works great since the room is bathed in the sunlight coming in from the balcony doors and our large bay window.

To separate our work area though, I embraced the now growing all-black theme of my setup.

I ditched my old white desk for a solid wooden table and this, along with the Edifiers, added a touch of nature to the industrial aesthetic of my area.

Everything else I purchased since then was in keeping with the natural elements of wood and the ubiquitous black.

The desk is 120cm x 60cm (47,2in x 23,6in) and cost around $100. The top isn’t solid wood; it’s a P2-grade medium-density fiberboard engineered wood with a melamine veneer to make it resistant to spills and scratches
The desk is 120×60 cm (47,2″ × 23,6″) and costs around $100. The top isn’t solid wood; it’s a P2-grade medium-density fiberboard engineered wood with a melamine veneer to make it resistant to spills and scratches. “It’s actually so tough now that I wasn't able to drill holes underneath for cabling at all,” says Roland

My recent purchases included:

  • a Logicool G Pro X (in Japan, the Logitech brand is called Logicool) and its wooden headstand,
  • an Anker charging stand,
  • a handcrafted wooden dish made from my home country the Philippines,
  • a wireless Razer Ultimate Basilisk mouse and its dock,
  • some decor pieces I got from IKEA like the wooden hand,
  • small plants in brass pots,
  • and a framed poster that I hung above everything.

I’m nearing my mid-30s. I feel I will continue to evolve and my work area too along with me.

I’ve finally stopped sorting by the cheapest item first when browsing online. Instead, I base my purchases on reviews and their reputation.

Now, instead of skimping out on quality for a later headache, I’d rather pay for peace of mind.

45+ real shared home offices
Including side-by-side, face-to-face, and open-plan arrаngements.

What’s your favourite item on your desk?

When you glance at my work area, your eyes would probably be drawn to the bright warm glow of the Himalayan salt lamp. Albeit, it’s not on my desk itself but on the shelf beside it.

I remember searching for a light source to fit that dark corner of the room. Naturally, what came to mind was a typical RGB lamp or maybe a naked Edison bulb. But one of my friends posted about getting a new salt lamp and I saw how cosy it looked.

It was literally one of the most naturally sourced objects I could add to my area. Imagine my joy when I did a quick search online and found this chunky 5-kilo piece for just ¥2,500 (or around $20).

It came with a couple of replacement bulbs too, which was perfect because we have to keep it turned on the entire time to prevent it from “sweating”.

It’s like purposefully bringing in a perpetual glow of the golden magic hour indoors.

I don’t really believe what they say about a salt lamp’s homoeopathic properties. But if it’s true then that’s just a bonus!

Roland uses the salt lamp as an anchor for the rest of the lighting. He set the LED light strip behind the desk and the Quntis lightbar on top of his monitor “to bask the area in a warm neutral hue”. The screen bar has a sensor on its top part. It measures the ambient light of the area and automatically dims or brightens itself

What does your typical day look like?

The day starts with my wife getting up earlier than me.

Her morning routine — she meditates and does yoga or catches up on some work on her laptop — became my natural alarm clock. I’ve half a mind to remove the alarm I’ve set on my phone and smartwatch by now actually.

Using smart watches is a vital part of Roland‘s WFH routine
“We initially bought these [smart watches] for health reasons. My wife especially wanted its health and fitness tracking capabilities. She uses the Apple ecosystem and this was one of the final pieces she needed. I got one alongside her and never regretted the decision,” says Roland

A smart home system helps us begin our mornings, and these small automatic conveniences make us feel like we truly live in the modern age. I make our coffee while she prepares something to eat, usually some toasted bread and cheese.

Work starts half-past eight and so I leave the house sometime before 8:00 am.

I walk when the weather is bad but I usually ride my bike to work.

My route takes me through some narrow back paths behind our house. I pass by vegetable community plots tended by the retired locals, across a small river, but mostly I enjoy my ride through the neighbourhood.

Roland‘s cycling route goes along a typical danchi — the public state housing by the government that people who need support can rent for cheap
“The building you see along my cycling route is a typical danchi — the public state housing by the government that people who need support can rent for cheap. It’s so cheap that they have a sort of lottery to choose applicants,” says Roland

We made the wise move of living closer to work a few years ago; I only need around fifteen minutes from the door to the desk and even less if I ride my bike instead of walking.

I’m back home a little bit after four o’clock. A quick shower later, I’m in front of the computer enjoying some music while I browse social media before I dive into my games.

A dark and stylish WFH setup in Japan
There’s an Xbox controller hung alongside the metal shelf. “I play with a controller when I’m on the PC especially when I'm playing an action RPG like The Witcher or like the one I’m currently playing now, Days Gone,” says Roland. “I’ve never owned an Xbox. My brother and I have always been solid Playstation fans. But I’ve heard good reviews for the controller so I gave it a try. Sometimes I still get confused by button-timed events as I'm not 100% familiar with the icons yet”

My wife is a gamer too. And while I’m more of a single-player-offline-game kind of guy, she prefers to play multiplayer games online.

But we never felt the need to get another gaming setup. I can just do my online browsing on my phone or iPad while she plays, and vice versa.

It’s only during Friday nights that we find ourselves both in front of the computer side by side.

We have this weekly tradition of having a movie night to end the week and recently it’s always with discounted pizzas, fried chicken, and beer.

With all our lights turned off, the monitor can feel larger than 27 inches. Sitting close to the speakers is enough to give us the full audio experience as if we’re in a theatre again.

Your tips for working from home?

I seldom bring any work home, as privacy is a major concern in my job. (We need to ask permission to use flash drives!)

Even during the height of the pandemic, we had been required to go to work as usual.

On the days that Roland got some work to do at home though, he structures his schedule based on the nature of projects he needs to accomplish
On the days that Roland got some work to do at home though, he structures his schedule based on the nature of projects he needs to accomplish. “I’m very much productive at certain hours of the day for specific types of tasks”

I find that starting a new task is much better to do in the mornings since it’s the time we have a fresh state of mind.

In the afternoons, it’s where I try to pick up and finish anything that needs to be done, the bulk of the work so to speak.

Any focus-intensive work that is less menial and more mental I delegate in the evenings.

It’s when I can concentrate more properly as the world sleeps and I can be alone with my thoughts.

Speaking of menial tasks, slapping on a headset with my playlist of favourite music is best to fill the void as I do something that doesn’t need much thinking. The rhythm sets the pace of my fingers as I type away.

Home office with plants and Himalayan salt lamp in Japan
Roland has monthly playlists with a wide range of genres including country, pop, rock, RnB, jazz, classical, EDM, and many others. “I guess if I were to say which ones that I don’t prefer though I’d say anything metal”

But when I need to come up with something, either for a more creative-oriented task or some writing in general, I only play something instrumental at low volumes or total silence to help with concentration.

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