by H.C.
ICC Student Staff Leader

What is “Third Space”?  

Have you heard of the term “third space”? Well, we have to first get to know what the “first” and “second” spaces are. First and second spaces are two different and sometimes conflicting spatial groupings that people interact within; first space is commonly known as our home where we perform private daily routines whereas second space is the public space, like our workplace. Third spaces are the in-between, where the first and second spaces work together to generate a new third space. Third space is usually a place for us to escape from both, where we want to be, and a place that provides us a sense of self. A couple common examples of third spaces are coffeehouses, museums, and nightclubs, where people can run away from their duties for a while. 

Japan’s third space 

According to OECD data, in Japan the percentage of employees that work long hours is 17.9%, which is higher than the average of 11%. Furthermore, in Japan full-time workers devote themselves mostly to their work and spend less time on personal care or leisure activities. Japan is ranked as the country with the 5th worst work-life balance (out of 40), so its people need a third place from time to time to relax and escape from reality. Therefore, Japanese coffeehouses, unlike other countries’, serve a unique purpose for the people in the hustle and bustle of the city. People go to the café mainly to be left undisturbed rather than having business connections like in the West. In other words, Japanese cafés offer a novel space for the urban taste and a time away with no characters attached, for both city people and those coming from the suburban areas. 

After COVID-19 

With the increasing cases of COVID-19, the government requires people to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary, and most companies ask their employees to work from home. However, I realize that the coffeehouses are still busy or even busier than before. It makes me wonder if coffeehouses, serving as a third space for people to release stress, actually may become a social problem because its existence encourages people to go out instead of staying at home. I, personally, also like to go to coffeehouses a lot to try out different hand-brewed coffees and enjoy some time alone. It seems that I can no longer enjoy what I perceived as an escape under this circumstance. What could be our third space if we no longer can mobilize freely? How can we reduce our stress when our home becomes our workplace?

Where is your third space…?