lifestyle

Black flag: How to avoid working for a shady Japanese company

15 Comments
By Alfie Blincowe

Every year, people move to Japan to work or study because it has such an attractive culture. The art, philosophy and manners are often envied around the world. Japan, however, like all other countries, is not perfect and one area that really stands out in that regard is the work culture. This is usually one of the biggest challenges for foreigners trying to assimilate to life in Japan. I know that it was for me. I used to work at a job that seemed to suck the life out of me due to bad business practices. I was manipulated financially and emotionally into working under illegal circumstances. Once I looked up my rights, I realized that I didn’t have to put up with such abhorrent behavior. The language and visas might be difficult, but sometimes workplaces can be downright intolerable.

Of course, most Japanese workplaces are fine (if a little more intense than their Western counterparts) but a minority ruin the country’s reputation by not following labor laws and abusing workers. Japanese media have nicknamed these places of employment as burakku kigyou (ブラック企業) or “black corporations” or “black businesses.” These companies, rather than the manufacturing “sweatshops” that may come to mind, tend to revolve around office work.

These are categorized by abusive working conditions such as unpaid overtime, harassment by superiors, failure to pay salaries and other deplorable tactics.

What is a black company?

The term was coined by IT workers who were some of the first people to complain about their companies’ abusive policies online in the early 2000s. Because of the anonymity of forums, people were able to share how truly soul crushing their work was, sparking discussions of these issues in mainstream Japanese media. In fact, every year since 2012, companies have been nominated for “Most Evil Corporation” at the Black Company Awards (Japanese) by a team of anonymous journalists. While you might think the list of companies comprises lesser-known organizations (it does), it also includes some heavy hitters in the Japanese business world (for example, the 2017 list of nominees includes names such as Yamato Transport, Daiwa House, Taisei Construction, NHK, Niigata Municipal Hospital, Panasonic, Inazaya supermarket chain, as well as other various moving, pharmaceutical and manufacturing companies).

Often people find themselves working for these companies and don’t know how to escape. An uncomfortable truth is that for some — the only escape is death. In fact, workers in Japan routinely die from “overwork,” a phenomenon so unpleasantly common it has its own word in Japanese: karoshi. According to the health ministry, in fiscal 2016, there were 107 recognized cases of karoshi (deaths attributed to overwork) and 84 suicides and suicide attempts prompted by overwork. Some reports estimate the number of these types of deaths could be ten times higher.

Being trapped in a stressful, abusive situation is obviously not something anyone should wish on another person, so here is how to avoid horrible workplaces when job searching.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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. In fact, every year since 2012, companies have been nominated for “Most Evil Corporation” at the Black Company Awards (Japanese) by a team of anonymous journalists. While you might think the list of companies comprises lesser-known organizations (it does), it also includes some heavy hitters in the Japanese business world (for example, the 2017 list of nominees includes names such as Yamato Transport, Daiwa House, Taisei Construction, NHK, Niigata Municipal Hospital, Panasonic, Inazaya supermarket chain

Those Journalists save many new recruits lives from being overworked by Black Companies.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Check their overtime rules. Most companies have to say how much overtime staff have to do every month on top of the usual hours of work.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

How to avoid working for a shady Japanese company? Don't work for one...

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Black flag: How to avoid working for a shady Japanese company

Dont work in Japan!

9 ( +13 / -4 )

Terms like power harassment, black companies and rights abuses are only a very recent phenomenon and if you find yourself working for an abusive company it’s probably because you are in a company with a long ‘tradition’ of such practices. To many it’s simply the Japanese way no matter how outdated, unproductive and debilitating. Not known for rocking the boat there’s a simple “This is how it’s done, like it or leave it’ mentality.

True effective leadership takes a lot of skills such as high level communication abilities, patience, a clear vision forward, empathy, a firm but fair hand. Unfortunately to some stuck in a mindset of obey without question, no matter how absurd ( goes back to samurai times remember ) there is little room to move. Good luck when you bang heads with these types. It’s not pretty, logic and reason mean nothing to them. Choose your battles well though, many people in power here are just wired differently to anything you would ever see overseas. It’s a challenge to say the least. Humor helps! Having time off too!

2 ( +9 / -7 )

This is a very good and interesting article. I'm glad this is posted since I can imagine many employees, especially foreign ones are not so aware of their rights. As a result, companies could and I'm sure have taken advantage of them. I can remember one company that threatened foreign employees by threatening to revoke their visa, where it's immigration that issues visas, not companies.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

I worked for such a firm for 1 year run by a sole owner with about 200 staff total. He was a total tyrant and had a few lady assistants on tap. I had a honeymoon period of about 3 months then everything changed. I saw, for example, people suddenly fired for talking back at all. One man made a mistake and the next day came in with a shaved head to repent (55 yo guy mind you, not a newbie). Another case had 2 employees on their knees in front of his desk bowing for some transgression. In my case to cause me to quit, I started getting 3-4 times the usual work and my desk piled up about 3 feet with incoming files. I told them I cannot do all that work so I was able to ride out my remaining 6 months in my contract in peace by promising to leave and signing a release.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

'Minority of companies...' Yeah, right;) Very diplomatic, as is why it gets published. In the Eikaiwa business, let's say a plethora are shady or black. Things have changed I am sure, but only because the foreign led General Union hunted down these illegal business practices, not the Japanese out to protect workers. Japan typically gets forced into making changes.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Of course, most Japanese workplaces are fine (if a little more intense than their Western counterparts) but a minority ruin the country’s reputation by not following labor laws and abusing workers. 

I would like yo see this part of the article rephrased to reflect fact reality

2 ( +2 / -0 )

 if you find yourself working for an abusive company it’s probably because you are in a company with a long ‘tradition’ of such practices

There are plenty of new companies who inplement these practices from the very beginning, often using their startus status as an excuse, and then continuing to call themselves "startups" well into their second decade of existence.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Language teachers and other uncertified workers have no choice :)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I used to work at one of those now infamous language schools. Great at first, it slowly became very black, holding the teacher responsible for students canceling, etc. They were paying all of ¥600 per class. He government just turned a blind eye toward it. In those days English teachers weren’t as a needed as they are now.

Oh well, life goes on.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In those days English teachers weren’t as a needed as they are now.

The results are zero to none. End the contracts.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not too long ago I found myself working for a very large organization. Why did I join, then?

Promises regarding conditions, pay and prospects were made in the first interview and these seemed reasonable. They were never kept.

The previous place was not like that, meaning I had become too trusting.

Moral? Get independent assessments on a company before signing up.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@reckless, yes sometimes a sole owner of a small/medium company in here can do everything what he/she want in here. While in big companies at least they have HRD that employee can fill complain about abusive manager, although that's not 100% guarantee problem can be solved either.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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