TripAdvisor Japan

TripAdvisor Japan

*This article is based on the interview conducted in February 2016; some details may differ at present.

Creating a Leading-Edge Japanese Corporate Office that Meets the U.S. Head Office's Global Standards

TripAdvisor Japan is the Japanese entity of TripAdvisor, Inc., a company based in Massachusetts, U.S., which runs a travel site that posts real reviews from hundreds of millions of travelers ("users") worldwide along with a wide range of travel-related word-of-mouth information. It also ties up with hotel booking sites, helping travelers of all kinds to plan and book their ideal trip. In June 2015, the head office of TripAdvisor Japan relocated to a skyscraper in Ebisu, and we interviewed with one of the employees about the move.


Rika Hinata

TripAdvisor Japan
Office Manager


Break Area

Brief Memo
  1. A location to match the company's image and a building carefully chosen to ensure a work-friendly environment
  2. Designing an office that addresses employees' preferences while also meeting international standards
  3. An entrance that evokes the idea of travel and an interior that is both functional and playful
  4. Introducing facilities and measures aimed at keeping employees healthy by addressing a lack of exercise, etc.
  5. Establishing a welcoming office for customers that projects a positive image to people outside the company

A location to match the company's image and a building carefully chosen to ensure a work-friendly environment

TripAdvisor, Inc. was launched in 2000 in Massachusetts, U.S., to help travelers plan the perfect trip in accordance with their individual personality and preferences by running a site that publishes word-of-mouth information from travelers. The site is adapted to 48 different countries and regions and accommodates 28 languages. It is the largest travel site in the world, visited by 350 million unique users per month, and featuring over 320 million word-of-mouth information reviews of more than 6.2 million hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions. TripAdvisor Japan was established in 2008, and in June 2015, it relocated to a skyscraper in Ebisu, Shibuya Ward.

"At TripAdvisor, we refer to travelers as 'users' and to airlines, hotels and other accommodations, tourist facilities, online travel agents (OTAs), and government organizations as 'partners,'" explains Rika Hinata. "User submissions are screened based on our review guidelines, and as a rule, submitted reviews are posted without being edited at all, with the exception of content that contravenes the guidelines, such as malicious slander. At the Japan office, we have about 30 staff members, who are involved in managing and updating the website, developing advertising campaigns, checking the content of submitted reviews, etc."

The company's previous office was located on the west side of Ebisu Station. However, due to factors such as the cramping of space as the company expanded, it began searching for a new location in May 2014. Eventually, it moved to another building in the same area, but this was not necessarily because it was focused on Ebisu as a location.

"First and foremost, we searched for candidate buildings whose location would match the company's image, and our choice was the result of our focus on offering a work-friendly environment," says Hinata. "Originally, our preferred candidate was a building in front of Meguro Station, but unfortunately, it took too long to negotiate the lease, and we were unable to move into that office. That said, I think relocating to our current building turned out to be the ideal choice in the end."

Selecting a building and agreeing a lease took time because it was necessary to coordinate between the two countries, as the Global Product division located in the U.S. head office was also involved in the process. Timing-wise, the move happened to be during a period when the office rental market was heating up, vacancies were dwindling rapidly, and competition for famous buildings was becoming fierce. The company's current building is now (February 2016) operating at full occupancy. The company began by creating a list of dozens of candidate buildings based on property data, then narrowed down the list and made multiple visits to view the actual locations first-hand.

"We also considered buildings in the vicinity of Shimbashi, Shiodome, and Roppongi, but in the end, we concluded that they didn't really suit the nature of the company. Due to the time difference between the head office and overseas branches, we continued to hold regular late-night meetings every Tuesday for half a year. We settled on this building in November 2014 and signed the lease in December. Soon after that, we started renovating the interior. For the interior design, we worked with a local design firm. There were various problems right up until the move in June 2015, but thanks to the collaboration of our numerous partner companies, including the design firm, we somehow managed to finish on time," recalls Hinata.

Designing an office that addresses employees' preferences while meeting international standards

One of the requirements for designing the new office was aligning it with the global standards of TripAdvisor Inc. set by the head office in the U.S. The old office had not met those standards.

"It's certainly true that, even though we're an IT-related company, the old office did not have a dedicated server room, and it fell well short of the head office's standards when it came to security," explains Hinata. "With only around 80 tsubo of floor space, it was cramped, plus there were only three conference rooms. Employees were complaining about it every day."

Accordingly, the company surveyed the entire staff ahead of the move and asked them to indicate what they wanted and needed for the new office. Many employees raised the lack of conference rooms as an issue they wished to be addressed, and this was treated as a priority. Other specific preferences were reviewed one by one to determine what was possible and what was not possible in regard to the building's conditions for carrying out renovation work.

"We designed the office to have a large pantry, and there were some people who said they wanted to have a kitchen. If possible, we would have liked to actually do that, but unfortunately, we realized that it was impossible for reasons relating to the building's structure and reluctantly gave up on the idea," says Hinata.

A pantry normally means a room for storing food and tableware, but in the case of TripAdvisor Japan, it refers to a simple kitchen with no permanently-installed stove or similar equipment. The company's pantry also adjoins a break area that can hold up to about 50 people, and along with the entrance, it is a symbol of the new office. Every Monday, an all-hands meeting is held here, after which lunch is provided by a catering service.

"Since there aren't many cafes conveniently located nearby, it's important to provide sufficient food and beverages for employees, which is also one of the head office's policies. In the past, we held about one event a month at which food was provided, but since the move, we've begun offering a weekly catered lunch. We've also been holding regular small office events with a different theme each month, and we plan to continue these in the future. The pantry provides employees with new opportunities to communicate with each other and a place for them to relax, so I think it's a good system," remarks Hinata.

An entrance that evokes the idea of travel and an interior that is both functional and playful



The most striking visual feature of the new office is its entrance, which houses a Subaru 360 (a classic Japanese light car that was developed by Fuji Heavy Industries and produced from 1958 to 1970). Originally off-white, the body has been repainted yellow to match the company colors. A well-traveled trunk with a vintage design sits atop the roof. It was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's anime film The Castle of Cagliostro.

"It was a senior employee at the U.S. head office who came up with the idea of putting a car in the entrance! You can open and close the doors, and there are a lot of people who get into the driver's seat and have a souvenir photo taken. Many TripAdvisor offices in other countries place objects that evoke travel in their entrance. For example, at the London office, a replica of an airplane wing has been placed in the entrance. And at the Singapore office, the entrance is designed so that the face of Ollie the owl, the company mascot, is reflected in 3-D in a wall of glass," notes Hinata.

Three arrows, like those found on a highway, are painted on the floor of the entrance, with the words "WORKSPACE," "RECEPTION," and "MEETING" at the end of each. Straight ahead is the reception area, which is partitioned by a transparent glass wall with the company's logo on it. An antique gas pump has been placed beside the door, with an iPad-based reception system integrated into it.


Reception System

"The iPad-based reception system was introduced at the Japanese office ahead of other countries," explains Hinata. "You can search on the screen for the name of the person who made the appointment and call them directly. At first, we were planning for it to be used only with iPads, but since some customers are not familiar with using them, we later decided to install a telephone receiver as well."

iPad terminals have been included in all the conference rooms; in addition to responding to calls from reception, they can be used for other purposes such as checking a conference room's reservation status and making a reservation. There are conference rooms on the left and right of the entrance. The conference rooms along the right-hand side have been given names that evoke Japan: Fuji, Yuzu, Sakura, and Wasabi. Since they were designed before being given names, they were named according to the interior decor: the pale blue room was named Fuji, the pale orange room Yuzu, the pale pink room Sakura, and the pale green room Wasabi.

"These four conference rooms are equipped with video conferencing equipment," notes Hinata. "Other global offices in our company have conference rooms that are bigger than those in Japan, but they have no more than three rooms with video conferencing equipment. I think the fact that our office has 30 people and was given four rooms equipped with video conferencing equipment shows higher expectations for the Japanese market."


Large Conference Room


Small Conference Room


Meeting Room

Meanwhile, taking a somewhat different approach, the small conference rooms set up beside the work area to the left of the entrance have been named after characters of Japanese origin: Kitty and Pokemon. Again, these are familiar Japanese names that are well known overseas. These conference rooms feature designs that combine functionality and playfulness.

"The new office is equipped with seven conference rooms in total, including both large and small rooms," says Hinata. "There were three rooms in the old office, so the number has more than doubled. The floor space has more than tripled, from around 80 tsubo to around 250 tsubo. When it came to the conference rooms, we determined the minimum number and functions that we needed ahead of time, and made that our first priority; after that, we decided on the office flow based on the overall layout, and decided where to put the work area, pantry, etc."

One week before the new office opened, the employees were given a tour. Their initial reaction when laying eyes upon it for the first time was, "It's big!" followed by exclamations of delight such as "Amazing!" and "Wow!" Many employees also remarked that the view was great and went over to the window to take photos of it.

Introducing facilities and measures aimed at keeping employees healthy by addressing a lack of exercise, etc.


Bouldering Wall

The office windows offer the kind of impressive view that only a skyscraper can, and with the mood varying according to the turning of the seasons or the time of day (sunrise, sunset, night view, etc.), the viewer never tires of looking at it. Combined with the interior design, which has an open feel due to the extensive use of glass walls, the effect is to create a comfortable environment for employees to work in. In the old office, only one wall had windows, and, what's more, the air-conditioning was not very effective, so there were marked differences in temperature depending on where one was sitting. In the new office, the building is equipped with new facilities, and the air-conditioning has improved greatly.

"In order to create a work-friendly environment, it's also essential to consider employees' health," notes Hinata. "With that in mind, we installed a bouldering wall in one corner of the office and set aside an area for stretching, and we've introduced easy-to-use exercise equipment inside the office as well as facilities for relaxing, such as hammocks."


Stretch Area

Bouldering is a type of free-style rock climbing that involves clambering up a vertical wall using only your hands and feet. It was originally performed on natural rock surfaces, but in urban areas, artificial walls with numerous holds protruding from them are used instead. In recent years, more and more companies have been adopting them; some are little more than simple decorations included for design purposes, but in the case of TripAdvisor, it is an actual bouldering wall strong enough to support the weight of a full-grown man. There is both a vertical wall and a wall overhanging at an angle, with a mat laid down at the foot of the wall to prevent falling accidents.

"We're making an effort to implement safety measures for people who actually use the wall, like having beginners receive guidance from experienced boulderers at the company. When it comes to measures that address employees' lack of exercise, besides facilities like this, we've also organized activities such as inviting a yoga instructor to give workshops at the company," explains Hinata.


Adjustable-height Desk

During one's day-to-day work, long hours working in the same posture can result in back or shoulder pain. Therefore, at TripAdvisor Japan, employees are allowed to change location from their own (assigned) desk in the work area and work in another place of their choosing, such as the break area adjoining the pantry or an empty conference room. What's more, personal desks are adjustable-height desks whose desktops can be raised or lowered as desired using a single switch.

"If you're tired of sitting all the time, you can make the desktop higher and stand up to do your work," says Hinata. "Finding adjustable-height desks wasn't easy, but I think it was worth the trouble. We've also introduced exercise balls that people can sit on to relax and help improve their concentration."

Establishing a welcoming office for customers that projects a positive image to people outside the company

The break area with pantry is located in a position that is connected to the work area and conference room area. It was situated here in order to encourage diverse interactions between employees and people from outside the company. The pantry is fully stocked with coffee and other drinks as well as various snack foods, so the area is used to hold casual meetings while enjoying some refreshments.

"There are two kinds of coffee machines--an espresso maker and a machine that uses pods--as well as vending machines that provide tea, juice, etc. to employees free of charge. There's also a selection of sweets, dried fruits, and cut fruit, while cornflakes and the like are available for breakfast. What's more, one evening a month, we also hold what we call a 'happy hour,' where employees have the chance to drink alcohol in the office," explains Hinata.


Free Space

This kind of fully equipped office environment is standard at TripAdvisor locations around the world--there are some branches in other countries that even have beer and wine dispensers. The Boston head office, where there are 5,000 employees working, has a dedicated in-house chef who provides a proper cooked meal every day.

"The head office reviewed matters such as the rent per tsubo and location in detail, but when it came to the design, they basically left it up to us to do as we liked," comments Hinata. "The sales team has told us the new office is a more welcoming environment for customers. It's also easy to move around from place to place, and no matter who visits the office, we can be proud of the design. It has been well received, and the office projects a positive image to people outside the company."